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Chateau Orleans serves up quality Cajun cuisine

Of all the culinary styles developed in this vast country, the Cajun Creole cuisine created in New Orleans is the most distinctive, and the most downright delicious.

It’s hard to find good Cajun cooking in this neck of the woods, because you don’t find many Louisiana chefs in California. However, Chateau Orleans, a delightful bastion of Cajun food located on Turquoise Street, fills the bill for La Jollans with a taste for the flavors of New Orleans.

In fact, this cozy restaurant has been around for 25 years, which would be a fantastic feat for any eatery, let alone one with such unusual fare. The reason is simple: Everything on the menu is true to its Cajun roots, and the quality of the food is outstanding.

The restaurant offers all the signature dishes of New Orleans, but since the food is cooked to order, you can request it seasoned according to your taste. Nothing is ever too mild or too spicy when you have it your way.

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The menu is chock full of exciting culinary offerings, and everything is reasonably priced. The starter section of the menu features traditional favorites like gator bites, catfish nuggets, fried dill pickles, Louisiana crabcakes and Cajun popcorn.

As anyone with a taste for Cajun food knows, “popcorn” in Cajun cookery is sweet crawfish tails lightly fried and served with a mild horseradish sauce for dipping. You must try the Cajun popcorn ($9.95) at Chateau Orleans. It’s finger-lickin’ good.

The blackened sea scallops wrapped with hickory bacon and brushed with a wonderful home-made barbeque sauce ($12.95) is another great appetizer. Fortunately, it also appears on the entree menu for $29.95 if you just can’t get enough of a good thing.

When you dine with a group, the “Granny’s Goodies” platter is the way to go. It features a big bowl of all the traditional appetizers. By the way, if you never tried gator bites (available separately for $11.95) or fried dill pickles ($6.95), this is the way to sample them all, and the entire bowl sells for $15.95.

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The meal-in-one soups of Louisiana are in a class by themselves. Among the specialties are crawfish bisque, gumbo ya ya, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. At Chateau Orleans, you can order a cup of your favorite with a hunk of home-made cornbread for $6.95. Of course, they’re all available as full-sized entrees as well.

If you’re hooked on jambalaya, which is zesty Creole rice with blackened chicken and Andoille sausage, order it as a Southern Blue Plate Special for $12.99. There are six Blue Plate Specials on the menu served with Southern slaw, Texas cornbread, and red beans and rice. These bargain dinners are all $12.99.

As the menu notes, you can’t think of New Orleans without gumbo coming to mind, and the menu at Chateau Orleans hasn’t forgotten that fact. Try the gumbo ya ya with sausage and chicken ($18.95) or Mardi Gras-style ($22.95).

Acadian Etouffee is the famous crawfish stew made from an award-winning recipe ($18.95 with crawfish and $22.95 for the Mardi Gras version).

You can mix and match with “The Holy Trinity.” For $23.95, it includes Etouffee, gumbo and jambalaya.

Granny’s catfish has my vote as the best cornmeal battered catfish filet in town. The fish is lightly fried, and it is delicious. Shrimp Creole is another Blue Plate Special offering, as are the Cajun pork chops and Orleans chicken prepared in a zesty Cajun Andouille cream sauce.

There are several great dinner salads on the menu, served with Creole rice pastry and those marvelous popovers with honey butter. Among the salads are fried chicken salad with tangy honey mustard dressing, crawfish over a bed of mixed greens and topped with horseradish dressing, and eggplant salad. They run from $9.99 to $12.99.

The large menu features chicken, pork, steaks, seafood, pastas and more, so take your time and be adventuresome. In addition to the many regular menu selections, the restaurant also features several daily specials.

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The desserts of New Orleans are as unique as the other dishes. Beignets, a classic French donut covered with confectioner’s sugar and served with raspberry preserves, is a wonderful way to end your meal.

It costs $4.95 and comes with several warm beignets.

Pecan pie is a real Southern-style dessert ($5.95), and the New Orleans bread pudding, a moist mixture of French bread, raisins and walnuts, covered with a praline whiskey sauce ($6.95) is the signature sweet from the region. Ditto for creme brulee ($5.50), a New Orleans favorite that is popular throughout the country. Along with the traditional desserts, the restaurant serves key lime torte ($6.95).

The atmosphere at Chateau Orleans is as traditional as the food, with a mauve and plum color scheme, Mardi Gras masks and memorabilia, and sparkles on the tables. The outdoor patio is a great place for alfresco dining, and the restaurant features live jazz and blues Thursday through Saturday. Check out this hot spot for dinner, and enjoy the flavor and spirit of New Orleans right in your own backyard.

Chateau Orleans is at 926 Turquoise Street. Call (858) 488-6744.