Battle of the Gumbo: Hey, Waiter, There's an Embryo in My Soup

A decade ago, just before I moved to Phoenix, I considered heading to New Orleans instead. My then-boyfriend and I called around checking on graduate schools and apartments but practically needed a Creole-to-English translator to figure out what the heck everyone was saying. Needless to say, it was Phoenix or bust. Ya tink? 

Since then, I've been looking for good Cajun grub here in the desert. Or as they would say on the bayou, I got an ahnvee for some gumbo.

In One Corner: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
11051 N. Black Canyon Hwy. in Phoenix

Wah dat in mah gumbo?

An oasis in the desert.
​Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen may be plunked down on the gritty frontage road of the I-17, but once you walk into the gorgeous vine-covered brick courtyard it's almost like you're not in Phoenix anymore. There's a gorgeous fountain, plus delicate black wrought iron patio sets tucked in ivy-coated niches.

At 5 p.m. on a weeknight, the place was packed. One glance at the menu and you'll know why. Happy hour is from 4-6:30 p.m. daily, and the specials are ass-cheap. We're talking margaritas for around a five-spot and appetizers for as little as $1.95. While there, I sampled their signature crispy orange shrimp, which set off a mouthgasm that lasted through the meal. *shudder* Delish!

On to the gumbo. My cuppa andouille sausage and seafood gumbo arrived in a small white china bowl atop an equally white saucer, both splattered with castoff gumbo juice. Ugh. Clearly the staff hasn't been influenced by the perfect plating on Iron Chef. Of course, that's what I get for going to Pappadeaux at happy hour, before they dim the lights to the "Cavelike" setting. 

I dug into the dish, which was more like a brothy soup with rice and meat chunks than the thick paste I expected. The dark, rich tomato-based broth was delicious. It reminded me of Campbell's vegetable soup, done upscale and peppered with ocean critters. The andouille was salty and moist, with a spicy finish that crept up in my throat and did a little happy dance while I dug into a nearby shrimp. Then I came across a big grey blob that looked remarkably embryo.

Yes, I knew the unfortunate looking kidney shaped critter with a bulbous "head" and trailing "limbs" was just a distorted oyster, but eeeeeeew. (I would've taken a picture and included it here, but I'm hell-bent on avoiding death threats from pro-lifers too lazy to actually read this part.) I pushed the critter aside and contented myself with bits of shrimp and crawfish and rice, gobbling down the comforting mixture and leaving just enough broth to cover the offending mollusk meat.

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