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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Cedarburg is Cajun Country

Roux Brothers ranks among the best

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In 2005 John Smurawa opened Roux Brothers, a small place in Shorewood geared to the carryout trade but stocked with a large selection of bottled hot sauces. Smurawa had more ambitious plans, however, and in 2007 moved to larger quarters in Cedarburg.

Roux Brothers now operates from a 19th-century wooden house, a thoroughly charming place that has been given the “painted lady” treatment. Diners can enjoy a bar area with a communal table, a small dining room and upstairs dining on busier nights. The outdoor tables are also popular at this time of year, with tall shade trees and flowering plants that muffle the sound of traffic. A flowering hibiscus adds to the New Orleans flavor.

Restaurants featuring the foods of Louisiana have not fared well during the last decade in this area. Zydeco, New Orleans and Nola’s have all vanished. It’s hard to find a good gumbo in Wisconsin these days, but Roux offers a tasty option made with chicken and andouille ($4.75- $8.25). A proper gumbo is thickened with the addition of okra or a flour roux (this one uses the latter). Celery, onion and mild green pepper accompany the meats, and the seasoning includes bold spices. A bowl of white rice is served on the side.

For a starter, you won’t go wrong with the fried green tomatoes ($6.75). Though the slices are thicker than normal, they are perfectly prepared, with a thin cornmeal crust and a pleasantly tart flavor. You’ll also find a Creole tomato sauce enhanced with onions and a few chopped scallions. The sauce may seem a distraction, but it’s very good on its own.

Don’t expect a large menu, as the small kitchen handles sandwiches, burgers and just four entrees. Do, however, expect large servings. Louisiana BBQ pork ($8.75) is a sandwich of pork shoulder smoked with bourbon-soaked wood chips. The menu says that the meat is pulled, but these slivers have been sliced. It hardly matters, though, because the barbe cue sauce is sweet and has just enough heat to make Tabasco sauce unnecessary. The chick en Creole melt ($8.50) is a breaded breast with that same Creole tomato sauce, which seems perfectly at home here. Add a slice of melted cheese and a good bun and you have anoth er winner. All sandwiches include a choice of Zapp’s potato chips made in New Orleans.

The four entrees are Louisiana classics: Shrimp etouffee, shrimp Creole, red beans and rice and jambalaya. The jambalaya ($12.95) is the Creole version, often called “red jambalaya” thanks to the use of tomato. The meats are made up of chicken, andouille and ham, and the sauce offers celery, green pepper and onion. This is probably the best jambalaya I have found in this area, even including the failed restaurants of the past. The seasoning makes the difference, with just enough cayenne pepper.

All of the ingredients’ flavors serve a purpose, even the andouille. The red beans and rice with meats ($10.95) comes with a large amount of beans, but the meats are very welcome, and include Arkansas ham, some very good smoked pork and andouille. The spicing is a bit bolder than the jambalaya.

Roux Brothers also has an impressive beer list. Naturally there are a few Abita selections, brewed in Louisiana, along with many U.S. micro brews and some imports, most notably Belgian ales. Prices are moderate, and Roux Brothers abounds in Cedarburg charm, so sit back and relax. The cheerful servers will take care of everything else.

ROUX BROTHERS W61 N497 Washington Ave., Cedarburg (262) 377-8800 $$ Credit Cards: All major Smoking: Outdoors

Roux Brothers | Photo by Tate Bunker

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