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

In the Other Corner: Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen
2119 E. Camelback Rd. in East Phoenix

This baby's got the holy trinity!
​Baby Kay's also tries for the New Orleans vibe -- think brick walls, candlelit tables, and live jazz and folk music. The black-and-white parquet floor's a little retro, but hey, I'll suspend disbelief and imagine the place used to be a diner or something. They've got a great location in the Town & Country shopping center, shaded by lovely trees with a lovely brick patio wrapping around the side of the restaurant. The only downside is the view of the parking lot you'll get from most indoor tables.

Is retro flooring common in Louisiana?
​The grub at Baby Kay's is typical Cajun: crawfish etouffee, po' boy sammies and several types of gumbo served by the cup or bowl. My dining companion and I elected the chicken and sausage gumbo, which came highly recommended by a Louisiana transplant friend. Plus, I figured this one wouldn't come with any creepy-looking sea critters.

In less than ten minutes, we received our order of shrimp etoufee, crispy hush puppies and gumbo. Baby Kay's version is closer to a bayou-style gumbo, with a thicker soup base and the traditional holy "trinity" of bell pepper, onion and celery. The dish had a muddier taste -- not quite tomato, but more like watered-down beef gravy. The andouille sausage bites were thick and meaty, with a smoky flavor and a slight heat that crept up a few minutes after eating them.

​"This is closer to what I think of as real gumbo," said my friend, who hails from the South. "It's pretty tasty, but not as spicy as what you'd get back home. I don't even need the hush puppies to cut the burn!"

Personally, I didn't mind. We get enough heat from the Southwest/Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine that's so popular here that it was nice to let my mouth -- and stomach -- take a rest. The rice was tender and added texture to the dish, and the white and dark meat chicken chunks soaked up the moisture of the gravy-like sauce. My only complaint was that the vegetables were mushy and too plentiful.

The Winner: This one's a tough call. Faux fetus aside, the gumbo at Pappadeaux had a lovely, pungent tomato broth. But Baby Kay's take on this Cajun classic was closer to the real thing. Drum roll please....

Baby Kay's wins by a smidgen, though I'll be back to try the shrimp gumbo at Pappadeaux.

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