Friday, April 10, 2009

And we all sighed "Finally"

It was the most anticipated opening in the Heights that I can remember. People waited with bated breath, trolled message boards, spread rumors. You would hear them ask about it at the coffee shop or speculate over sandwiches. Every time there was any sign of movement at the building, it was talked about! But, no, it wasn’t Glasswall or Bedford. It wasn’t Textile. It wasn’t the renovated Vietnam Restaurant. It was:

That’s right. The Big Mamou. After more than 2 years of seeing the “Future Home of” hanging on the side of this former daycare, the newest Cajun spot in the loop is open and doing business. We packed up the kid and met some friends for dinner. This was our overall impression:


I anticipated a full service restaurant going in to that spot, so it was a bit of a surprise to find counter service. However, counter service does very well in The Heights (Berryhill and DaCapo’s, for example) and is definitely a family and group friendly way to eat. Like Berryhill, you order at the counter, but a server brings your food to you. The servers were all extremely helpful and willing to refill your drinks or bring you more of whatever you needed. Hopefully, this exceptional level of attention will last and isn’t just an enthusiastic push while they are a baby business.

I have to say, the patio is something of a disappointment. This is Houston, and we Houstonians LOVE to eat outside. Even on the hottest summer days patios are full come dusk. The patio at Big Mamou only has 6 tables and only 2 of these are actually dining tables. The others are cocktail tables. Sure, you can eat at a cocktail table, and people were, but it’s not fun and not convenient for the very short (kids) or very tall (my husband). This is easily remedied and I hope the owners, who have already built a reputation as “listeners” by answering calls for Abita Beer, see how many people would like to enjoy a PoBoy while watching the cars zoom down Studewood.

The inside is cute, casual and inviting. I’m impressed with how much of the bungalow feel they were able to maintain. Beautifully finished hard wood floors make it warm but without making you feel like there’s trouble if you drop your remoulade. The open kitchen keeps your eyes on the action and, I believe, fosters a sense of trust- you always know what you’re getting because it’s right there. In addition to the main room, there is a little side room which I can easily see used for a small group.

The main dining area with small tables that can be reconfigured for your party size; the side room which could accommodate 10-15 diners (but is also the way to the restrooms).


I say the food is solid. Solidly good, but not exceptional- which is what I expect for such a casual atmosphere anyway. They are still operating on a limited/soft opening menu and, therefore, I can only assume there will be several tweaks before they finalize anything.

Here is what we had and what we thought:

Shrimp PoBoy- Very tasty. Shrimp was good sized and there was definitely enough to make a sandwich, plus dip a couple on their own. They use Gulf Coast shrimp, which we can all appreciate. The breading was good, and the tomatoes were ripe. I will say it was a little dry for me- just not enough sauce. I like my PoBoys soggy with yummy sauce. I know this is a personal preference and it was easily remedied. I asked for some remoulade and some of their house Mamou Sauce (which is what PoBoys come with). The Mamou sauce didn’t have as much flavor as I like, but the remoulade was excellent! My husband says the bread was "perfect." It’s not good PoBoy bread unless it makes a mess when you eat it. It should be perfect since it's shipped daily from Gambino's Bakery in Kenner, LA. The hubby also loved the shrimp breading and didn’t feel the need to douse his with more sauce…

Shrimp PoBoy, avilable in full size or 1/2 size with soup combo

Gumbo- My husband said the gumbo was solid but not exceptional. He wished it was spicier, but a few dashes of hot sauce took care of that. I like it when restaurants tone down the heat and appeal to more people anyway. At 36 weeks pregnant, I just can't eat the spicy stuff the way I used to, so it was perfect for me. If you want it hotter, that’s what hot sauce is for. Generally, the gumbo was enjoyed by everyone.

Yummy, good sized chunks of sausage in their mild but flavorful gumbo.

Dinner salad- Eh. I know this isn’t a salad restaurant, but the Hubby and I like to have a little green with dinner. We got a large to share with our main meals. It was romaine rather than iceberg, which was nice, but all it had on top was sliced carrots and celery with a sprinkle of parmesan. The dressing is pre-packaged, which is a disappointment. If they could add some tomatoes and sliced onion, perhaps cucumber, it would be an excellent dinner salad and more worth the money.

The green salad left us saying "Eh."

Fried Green Tomato Salad- Again, it's much a matter of personal preference, but this salad was a huge disappointment to my friend Shannon. The tomatoes were on the soggy side and she thought the dressing was too sweet. There were 3 good sized tomato slices on top, which was nice. I tried the dressing and had to agree it was a tad on the sweet side. Since the salad came already dressed, it’s hard to know if this dressing was something house made or a packet dressing like the dinner salad. She said she wouldn't order it again, but it wasn't bad. Just a little off.

Fried green tomato salad

Fries- The PoBoys came with great fries! Seasoned and (probably) double fried, they were crisp and flavorful and didn’t need ketchup. Just right. The toddlers were very happy with them as well.

Definitely try it out and leave comments here if you agree or disagree. A lot of eating out comes down to personal likes and dislikes. I think it was solid and tasty; I am glad to finally see them open and doing a swift business. I wish Rufus and Brenda much success. They will certainly see me again!

Your proprietors, Rufus and Brenda. Any given day, you can find them hard at work in their restaurant wearing every hat necessary- from slinging hash to brandishing brooms. Be sure to say "Hello" as they are about the friendliest people you'll find!


  1. Thank you for writing about this lovely addition to the Heights family. As a vegetarian there is nothing to eat other than the fried appetizers and maybe a salad. Though vegetarianism is counter to Cajun food traditions, I do hope that they adopt a similar food philosophy to a staple restaurant back home in Indiana,

  2. Having just moved from Louisiana (and being a native Louisianan) I was really excited that a Cajun restaurant was opening. I was excited about the Abita, but was overall not impressed by the cuisine. The po'boy bread was delish and the flavor of the shrimp and oysters were great, however, the size of the shrimp were too big and the remoulade sauce was spread on too think (I actually prefer po'boys without the sauce). The gumbo-- very disappointing. The sauce too thin and flavorless, the 'trinity' was not prevalent (onions, celery, bell peppers), okra and tomatoes were absent and sausage not good. Needs some work. The jambalaya was also a big disappointment. Instead of the Cajun style, 'brown jambalaya', the owners decided to serve the creole tomato-based version. Honestly, I don't know too many people who would choose the creole style over the cajun style. I believe they also served chicken and sausage in their creole dish (it should be more seafood based). They have work to do before they make a name with Louisianans

  3. Haven't been there yet but Rebecca, I'm surprised you wanted tomatoes in your gumbo but not your jambalaya. IMO, true cajun gumbo is like true cajun jambalaya--no tomatoes!! I hate to see tomatoes in either.

    Glad to hear the bread is good as that is my first requirement, and thanks to the post for letting me know that they come with a sauce. I am a bit of a purist...lettuce tomato and pickles only (although my dad would argue that butter and pickles are the only thing you should dress them with). No cocktail sauce, remoulade or anything like that for me!

  4. I stopped by for the third time last Sunday at 11.00am and it was closed. They said that they would be open on Easter Sunday and again I was disappointed. If the BM does not open more regularly and with more extended hours then people will stop trying to go there....we are trying to support local but local businesses need to do their part too...

  5. I think it will improve over time as they get feedback from customers and as they hit their stride. So, make sure you let them know what you liked and disliked! Local establishments always respond positively to local customers.

  6. Opps-- I did say tomatoes in my gumbo-- my mistake-- sans tomatoes-- but okra is a must!

  7. We strolled down Studewood a few weekends ago for dinner. I tend to like my gumbo a little thicker and okra-laden as well, but it wasn't bad. Shipping in bread from Gambinos for the po-boys was a nice touch, and mine was pretty good. I think that once they hit their stride things will improve, and I look forward to the rollout of their full menu.

    All in all, a decent neighborhood spot. We'll be back.

    Oh, and thanks for making me homesick, Matt Bradford. I always get homesick for Indy as May rolls around. I can almost here those open-wheel racecar engines firing up now...

  8. Please sort on the batter on the oysters and fired green tomatoes!! Ugh!!! Too heavy!!!! Catfish was fab.