Those who didn’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year have a chance year-round to sample Cajun food and a southern Louisiana party atmosphere. Fred Delawalla, owner of Louisiana Bistreaux in East Point, recently opened a second location in Decatur’s Suburban Plaza.
With a décor that features Mardi Gras masks, beads and the festival’s signature colors—purple, green and yellow—Louisiana Bistreaux offers a menu inspired by the bayou country of Louisiana.
“There’s a lot of seafood on the menu and all the dishes people associate with Cajun cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. We also have dishes we have created that have a Cajun flair. Not everyone eats seafood so there also are chicken, steak and pork dishes,” Delawalla said.
The red beans and rice with Andouille sausage is made with beans shipped from Louisiana, the restaurateur said. “People in Louisiana are particular about ingredients. We not only are careful to use the authentic spices, but we order the beans that are used in Louisiana.”
Delawalla is especially proud of “crawtator crusted grouper,” a dish he created personally that’s only available at his restaurants. He describes it as grouper crusted with crawfish flavored chips in a Cajun crawfish cream sauce, served with sautéed spinach and jalapeno grits.
Delawalla’s more than three decades in the restaurant business are a departure from his original career path. As a chemical engineering student at Georgia Tech, he took a part-time job in a restaurant, where he learned various aspects of the business from managing a kitchen to food preparation. “Also, as a student, I cooked for myself a lot. Even when I made a mistake in my cooking I ate it because I couldn’t afford to throw it out and start over. In that situation, you quickly learn to be careful and do it right the first time.”
When Delawalla graduated from Georgia Tech in the 1970s, the nation was in an energy crisis and companies that use chemical engineers weren’t hiring. He decided to stay in the restaurant business. After working for several chains and helping one get started in Atlanta before going nationwide, Delawalla decided it was time to go out on his own.
He opened two restaurants near the Atlanta airport. In 1984, he met Paul Prudhomme, a celebrity chef whose specialties were Creole and Cajun cuisines, as Prudhomme was promoting his first cookbook, Louisiana Kitchen. The two struck up a relationship that led to Prudhomme inviting Delawalla to visit K-Paul’s, Prudhomme’s restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
“Over the next year I made numerous trips to New Orleans from three days to a week at a time,” Delawalla recalled. “I learned volumes about Cajun cooking. Chef Paul was a master. He taught me that each bite should be an explosion of flavor in the mouth. He also said you have to keep tasting to be sure the flavor is where you want it. It’s not an accident—you make it happen.”
Delawalla said he was immediately drawn to Cajun cuisine because the spices remind him of the food in his native Pakistan. “The first time I tried Cajun barbecued shrimp it started a love fest with Cajun food. I knew this was a cuisine I wanted to feature,” he said.
He introduced Cajun menu items over the years at both his restaurants before opening one with a full Cajun concept. Delawalla said he’s pleased with his decision to open the second Louisiana Bistreaux in the newly revitalized Suburban Plaza. “We are excited about our new location,” he said. “There is such community support here in Decatur.”
“Food is what distinguishes a restaurant,” Delawalla commented. “The bar, for example, is going to offer basically the same drinks everywhere. There might be a specialty drink, but that’s not enough to make a restaurant stand out. The food has to be really good.”
While he’s not a chef, Delawalla said he enjoys playing around in the kitchen. “It’s how I relax. I’m not the type of person who gets really stressed, but there are times when I have a lot going on and I just need to take my mind off things. The kitchen is where I go,” he said.
I’m not the type of person who gets really stressed, but there are times when I have a lot going on and I just need to take my mind off things. The kitchen is where I go,” he said.
The name Louisiana Bistreaux (pronounced bistro) was chosen to suggest French Louisiana. “It isn’t really strictly speaking French. It’s actually Cajun.” he acknowledged, adding that he hopes people will come ready to laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll).
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