As I ascended the steps to the front porch of The Cabin for dinner recently, I felt something overwhelmingly familiar. Then it hit me: This was very much like my great-grandfather's house. All that was missing was a screen surrounding the porch, my cousins lying on the floor giggling and the voice of one of my aunts telling us bébés to “hush now and go to sleep.” I hadn't thought of that house in many moons. I rushed inside expecting wonderful things.
Inside I found a quaint, country-style decor. My date liked the differently and uniquely decorated dining rooms. The attention to detail featured reclaimed wood planks, antique farm and kitchen equipment and a wood-burning fireplace. The bathrooms were also some of the coolest I've seen. Hidden inside what looked like two ancient cisterns were tiled floors, sinks, commodes and walls that reminded me of a bygone era. Though not my favorite, the twangy country music in the background added to the down-home atmosphere. My one complaint about the atmosphere was the indecently dim lighting in our dining room. I could barely read the menu. Luckily we were sitting by a window where, if I held the menu just right, I could read it by the light of the porch fixtures.
Soon after we were seated, our server brought warm cornbread and butter to the table. The cornbread had a pleasant sweetness and a crispy top, although my date found it overly sweet. We both determined it was a little dry. But the butter helped.
Parched, we each ordered a mint julep from The Cabin's drink menu. The drinks seemed to contain no bourbon, no mint, no sugar and no flavor. When we told the waitress that we found them undrinkable, without hesitation, she said she would remove them from our bill. Now that's service.
For starters, we ordered the crabmeat au gratin and a gumbo. The huge, piping hot au gratin was extraordinarily buttery with loads of crab, topped with tons of melted cheddar cheese and served with fantastically crisp French bread. The chicken andouille gumbo was served with potato salad on the side, a “tradition” I was unfamiliar with but a favorite combination for my date. The gumbo had copious amounts of andouille and chicken, but the gravy had heavy pepper notes. Not bad, but not great.
Our grilled tilapia and seafood-stuffed pork chop entrees each came with a salad. The coleslaw was bland and uninteresting, but the house salad with cucumber, red onion, tomato and Parmesan cheese on top of iceberg lettuce was refreshing and really delightful, served with a piquant house dressing they called Caesar.
My grilled tilapia was ordered with étouffée and dirty rice but arrived with mushrooms atop my fish. When shown the mistake, our waitress quickly brought a side of étouffée. The fish was incredibly moist and well prepared. After we'd both sampled the étouffée, I asked my date for an opinion. After hesitation, the response was, “Not awful.” I concurred. Seldom found outside of home kitchens, the dirty rice was chock-full of ground meat, though, sadly, it didn't seem to be made with the traditional offal. It was still reminiscent of my mom's best dish, with a gratifying rice-to-meat ratio.
The seafood-stuffed pork chop with red beans and rice was a thin but juicy chop brimming with a nicely textured stuffing that featured an abundance of crabmeat. An added bonus: The crisp crust of the meat reminded us of cracklin. The red beans were creamy but not noteworthy.
Being two who always save room for dessert, we ordered the buttermilk pie and bread pudding, both house made. The buttermilk pie was served warm, and it was delectably, though not cloyingly, sweet, with a hint of cinnamon. It was more flavorful than is usual, and we both enjoyed it but wished it had been served at room temperature, if not cold. The bread pudding had raisins in the mix, but there were other flavors that had us baffled. When pressed, the waitress told us there were three fruits: raisins, pineapples and bananas. Very unique with a pleasing texture and a complementary sauce, it was an interesting but quite successful marriage of the fruits with the custardy bread.
The food service was astonishingly fast. Though we could have used a break between courses, we both agreed this outcome was far better than the alternative. Upon leaving, my date remarked, “I thought it would be just another fried seafood joint. But there's plenty of that around. It was a pleasant surprise.” Surprise, indeed! Overall, a tasty dish.
Grilled tilapia with mushrooms and red beans and rice.
Crabmeat Au Gratin loaded with cheese and served with French bread.
Buttermilk Pie with whipped cream and a hint of cinnamon.
5405 La. 44, Gonzales
Open at 11 a.m. every day.
Closes Monday at 3 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday at 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.
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