C'est Si Bon translates simply to "it is good", but as sometimes happens, things get lost in translation.
Chicory & Chives is a bit better than just good.
Once upon a time a guy named Jim Loggin, who, after 10 years in the military and 20 years in private industry, made what might be described as an impetuous decision, and took a leap of faith that many don't survive -- and lived to tell about it, which so many don't: He opened a restaurant because people told him he should.
Recently re-located from West Tulsa, Chicory & Chives is now in the London Square Center, 5800 S. Lewis Ave. You won't have any trouble finding it; the giant, bright red sign announces its location even as you drive by. The Cranky Cajun Bar occupies the back part of the building, but Chicory & Chives is largely a restaurant.
Light and airy, the restaurant has a comfortable feel with booths lining a large expanse of storefront windows. The restaurant has really cool, retro coat and hat racks attached to each one. The rest of the room is filled with tables, booths and some Louisiana artifacts, and is well spaced for a bit of privacy.
Brunch and breakfast are the building blocks to any good day, and Chicory & Chives fits that bill very well.
The restaurant is the self-proclaimed home of the "best breakfast in Tulsa," and is the home of the B.O.B., the Big Ole Biscuit, a plate-sized breakfast biscuit filled with bacon, sausage, eggs, cheese and a side of gravy.
I opted for the Cajun breakfast skillet, chunky brown home-fried potatoes, andouille sausage, jalapenos, onion, tomato and bell pepper, all fried up together and topped with melted cheddar and three over easy eggs. The egg style was my choice -- you can have them cooked however you like --and I enjoy having the runny, warm yolks mix with everything else. You also get your choice of toast or biscuit and gravy. The biscuit was flaky and good, the gravy was hearty but a bit too thick for my taste. The flavor was excellent, however.
Andouille sausage, originally a French import some 100-plus years ago, is most closely associated in this country with the Louisiana area, and the most common is Cajun andouille -- made with pork, wine and spices and smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane for a nutty, sweet flavor. Watch out! If you've never tasted andouille, it can bite you back. As with most things Cajun, it's spicy.
The service at Chicory & Chives good and there was a steady but unhurried trickle of customers. With the exception of myself, everyone who visited the place seemed to be a regular.
The lunch/dinner menu carries a variety of entrees, salads, burgers, and of course po' boy sandwiches. While étouffée, gumbo and jambalaya may be the notable entrees of the region, the po' boy is the down-in-the-trenches, everyday staple that feeds New Orleans and its surrounding parishes. The sandwich is essentially a grinder or sub -- depending on what part of the country you hail from -- the exception being that it's served on baguette-type bread.
On another occasion I tried the Bourbon Street Hoagie, a 'po boy consisting of a pile of slow-roasted beef on a crusty baguette, smothered in beef gravy with mayo, lettuce and tomato. This is a drip-down-your-arm sandwich, so be sure and wear a short-sleeved shirt. It was paired with a huge pile of fresh, hand-cut fries that were great.
A baguette is bread in one of its most base forms -- flour, yeast, water and salt; crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. Louisiana cooks turn it into many other things: pain perdu, bread pudding and use it for simple bread crumbs, but the bread must be eaten in its original form the day it is baked since it becomes stale within hours of leaving the oven.
Break the Scales.
The largest section on Chicory & Chives' menu is Cajun, with items like Jambalaya, gumbo and étouffée -- more of a Creole version of gumbo, the bayou pasta plate (served at dinner only and a house creation) with spicy grilled shrimp, andouille sausage, red and green bell pepper, onions and mushrooms topping a bed of penne pasta in a creamy white sauce, blackened catfish, and shrimp and grits.
Shrimp and grits is truly southern in tradition and arguably more native of Charleston, S.C., which all makes sense when you realize that the Acadians who left Canada some 250 years ago traveled down the U.S. coast and deposited a group of folks in the area around Charleston. If you have ever been there, you probably noted the visual similarity between Charleston and New Orleans is remarkable. Acadian evolved into 'Cajun' and the rest is history.
I had the crayfish étouffée on another visit. It was rich and buttery with a nice, brothy base and thickened with a traditional roux. I asked my server to spice it up -- don't' expect it that way -- and it was delicious.
I've heard people complain about the food being bland or under-seasoned here. It's like anything folks: if you didn't get it the way you like it, it may be cause you didn't ask. The étouffée was served with rice, cheese bread, salad and a vegetable.
A word or two on the difference between Cajun and Creole: The Cajuns were originally the workingman. Populating the bayous and outlying areas, they tended to live off the land more than the Creoles, who were the more elite and sophisticated residents of the original settlements around New Orleans and the actual natives of the area. It would not be uncommon for a Cajun to be the cook, gardener or housekeeper of a Creole household.
Creole cooking tends to be more sophisticated, using better cuts of meat and fish, more tomatoes -- an expensive and elusive vegetable of the time -- and more intricate recipes as a general rule.
Chicory & Chives' burgers -- a decidedly American food -- are hand-pressed at from fresh ground beef, the fries are hand cut, and good, I can attest.
Weekday specials include hand-breaded chicken fried steak, smoky pork chops, chicken and dumplings and meatloaf. Each entrée has its own featured day of the week, so check the restaurant's website, chicoryandchives.com, to find out exactly what is going to be served and when.
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