True confessions: I went into the Lost Cajun earlier this week without ever having stepped foot in New Orleans. I don’t think I’ve even been to Louisiana.
Although I’m always up for a culinary adventure (and I have attended a crawfish boil, thankyouverymuch), if you’re also unfamiliar and feel a little trepidation, local owners Joe and Theresa Peplinski are here to make you feel at home.
“We’re so excited to bring Cajun food to Rochester,” says Theresa. “We have people here from all over the country and all over the world, and offering something unique reflects our vibrant city. We feel like it fits with the plan of where Rochester is going.”
Don’t know your gumbos from your po-boys? Feel intimidated by the French-sounding menu items? Give a few of them a try before you order.
“Everyone walking in gets a sampler platter,” says Theresa. “People may have a preconceived notion that they don’t like Cajun food, or they don’t like seafood, or that it’s too spicy. By giving everyone a free sample, we can curb some of that anxiety, and next time they come in, they might just have trouble deciding what to order next.”
I got to taste the seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, lobster bisque, red beans and chicken and sausage gumbo. Some of the gumbos and sauces are used in other dishes on the menu, so you can peruse while you taste and figure out what else to try today.
One of my favorites was the VooDoo pasta, which combines (Louisiana) andouille sausage, shrimp, and red, yellow and orange bell peppers with pasta in a creamy white wine tomato sauce. A close second was the shrimp po-boy, which is a simple sandwich with some big flavors. I probably could put their creamy, rich lobster bisque on everything, and don’t get me started on the red beans and rice. New Orleans-sourced beer and wine is available, as well as fountain drinks and Louisiana sweet and un-sweet tea.
Joe kept reminding me not to forget the beignets (warm, powdered sugar-covered pastries) for dessert, so I gave in and ordered one at the very end, thinking I’d have to pack it for home, but it went down real easy. Take my advice, and order the triple.
It doesn’t happen often anymore — that thing where you open your bill, and you’re pleasantly surprised. In short, the prices are pretty good.
“When we looked around Rochester, we saw a need for more independent restaurants in the middle, family-friendly price range,” says Theresa.
A cup of gumbo will run you only about $6 to $8, while the VooDoo pasta is an average-priced entree at $16. Sides (including hush puppies, naturally) range from $3 to $6, and to-go family sized portions are in the $20s for a quart and in the $30s to $40s for a half-gallon.
I’m always excited to see what a creative restaurateur can do with a repurposed building, and the Peplinskis didn’t disappoint. The warm red walls and whimsical decor compliment the fun, party atmosphere, where your server will yell your order to the chef working in the open kitchen, the festive music puts you in a good mood, and there are Mardi Gras beads hanging from wall pegs.
The Lost Cajun, at 2025 S. Broadway, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.