Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, August 17, 2005
We guar-ahn-tee heat at Cajun Corner Seafood Kitchen.
Cajun Corner Seafood Kitchen
Fried pickles $1.99
Crawfish étouffée $5.50
Grilled red snapper dinner $8.50

Something wicked-tasty this way comes — from Cajun country.


Cajun Corner Seafood Kitchen

1115 E Pioneer Pkwy, Ste 101, Arlington.

817-801-7188. 11am-10pm Mon-Sun.

All major credit cards accepted.

Resting discreetly on the front counter of the newest location of Houston-based chain Cajun Corner Seafood Kitchen, in Arlington, is a small desk bell — and you darn well better ring it. My guests and I stood by the deserted counter for several minutes before we realized that we’d better tap that thing — the resulting zing-zing ushered in an associate, who turned out to be a one-woman show: taking orders, serving entrées, busing tables, keeping drinks fresh. She seems to be enough for now, but once word gets out about Cajun Corner’s no-frills Loozianan cuisine, she may need some help.

The food had better be good, because the place itself is somewhere between scary and severely plain. If you want a cup with ice, you’ll be directed to a large chest on the counter filled with cubes and a metal scoop. On the night of our visit, the utensil was buried handle-down. (Nice.) Other touches of elegance included the roll of paper towels on each table and the spectacle of a persistent flickering in the overhead fluorescent lights, creating a horrific Exorcist-like ambiance.

But who knew that hell fire would arrive here in another form — fried pickles. And we’re talking about stove-heat, not spice. Every one of the breaded, deep-fried appetizers was fine to the touch, but a single bite into one of those molten mothers caused one of my guests to spit out the searing hot stuffing onto his plate. Word of advice: patience.

Once cooled, the pickles were actually tasty — crusty on the outside, tart inside. Too bad there was no accompanying ranch dressing. (A squeeze bottle filled with a whitish substance sat unrefrigerated on the counter. No one at my table was brave enough to go near the stuff.)

Another starter, a basket of golden brown hushpuppies, did much less damage to our mouths and was enjoyable to boot. The crusty sticks had plenty of spice and were mashed potato-y tender.

Of course, Cajun dining means crawfish étouffée. Unlike the rather solid étouffée found at other Cajun eateries, Cajun Corner’s version was stew-like, with plenty of seafood and peppers poured over white rice. Less remarkable was the unmistakable presence of McCormick’s Old Bay seasoning. On one hand, this seems like cheating. On the other, everyone loves Old Bay, and at least one chef has confided to me that a large number of commercial kitchens depend on the over-the-counter spice mixture for extra kick. As long as it tastes good, a body can’t rightfully complain.

A definite step up from the étouffée was the grilled red snapper dinner. The fillets were thick, moist, and hot, with the blackened and seasoned skin left on, and they tasted spicy, even a bit buttery. The added touch of sprinkled parsley on top was great.

Beneath the fish was dirty Cajun rice. Loaded with plenty of sausage, seasoning, and bits of onion and other veggies, it’s some of the best around.

Compared to the snapper, the courtesy side salad of iceberg lettuce, a single tomato wedge, and milky ranch dressing from a bottle was insulting.

Cajun Corner does offer some rather fancy fare, including alligator, frog legs, and seafood gumbo, but while no menu item threatens the thickness of your wallet, you still may wanna stick with the basics. They’re done well enough. Just remember to bring your own ranch dressing, skip the community icebox, and wear a crucifix.

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