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The Cajun Experience, Leesburg - Traditional Cajun Restaurant Closes East Dupont Location


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After seeing some of our friends in a show in Leesburg on Friday night, we decide to return the next day to stroll around in the sun. Opting not to grab dinner at American Flatbread on the way home (since I was making pizza the following night), we wandered around town for a place to eat. Everything was either too expensive or just "meh." Honestly, I'd hoped for much more.

What sealed the deal was that, as we were browsing the menu for the Cajun Experience, the chef came out to talk to us and he pronounced "etouffee" the way I imagined Paul Prudhomme would have pronounced etouffee. We were in. The meal averaged out to "okay": this was definitely a "book end" meal (i.e. apps and dessert were the highlight):

At the beginning, the boudin balls: bits of sausage, onions, rice, and cajon spices deep fried with a spicy dipping sauce. Addicting.

At the end, beignets with cafe au lait: the beignets were heaped with powdered sugar and were the perfect match for the cafe au lait. Addictive. The cafe au lait, however, was a little cold - not sure if that's traditional or not.

And then the books in the middle:

Had the crawfish etouffee and the seafood gumbo. Both were served with a scoop of decent potato salad and some toasted bread. The crawfish were cooked great, but the gumbo was a little lacking in actual bits of seafood. All in all, neither dish had the "wow" factor I was hoping for.

Service was a little odd. No spoon for the gumbo. Had the apps within five minutes of ordering and the entrees five minutes after that, but the beignets didn't come out for another fifteen to twenty minutes. The chef, however, who initially brought us in continued stopping by to chat - so definitely an A for friendly.

The decor is a work in progress. Mostly white walls. Where are the mardi gras masks and the beads (definitely need more beads)?

Final question: how can you have a New Orleansian restaurant but not serve Abita beer???

Final thought: $40 after tax and tip for an app, two entrees, dessert, and coffee was about what I would have expected to pay for what I got: an okay meal with a few great standouts.

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Had the crawfish etouffee and the seafood gumbo. Both were served with a scoop of decent potato salad and some toasted bread.

I've never been to this restaurant, nor have I even heard of it, but I'll tell you this - if they served the gumbo with potato salad, they *do* know what they're talking about - at least a little. Cajuns (generally speaking, those from the area around Lafayette, in the southwestern part of the state) always eat their gumbo with potato salad. New Orleanians eat theirs with white rice.

ETA: My point, which may be lost in the back-and-forth below, was merely that I give this restaurant credit for knowing that potato salad is an appropriate Cajun accompaniment to gumbo. This is more than the average Louisiana-style restaurant located outside of Louisiana would know. They've done at least a touch of research.

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I've never been to this restaurant, nor have I even heard of it, but I'll tell you this - if they served the gumbo with potato salad, they *do* know what they're talking about - at least a little. Cajuns (generally speaking, those from the area around Lafayette, in the southwestern part of the state) always eat their gumbo with potato salad. New Orleanians eat theirs with white rice.

speaking as a cajun, this statement isn't quite accurate. while it's not uncommon to see the 2 mixed, most people eat their gumbo with rice.

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speaking as a cajun, this statement isn't quite accurate. while it's not uncommon to see the 2 mixed, most people eat their gumbo with rice.

I'm a Cajun too... guess it varies from town to town, family to family.

As far as I'm concerned, though, it's far tastier with potato salad!

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After seeing some of our friends in a show in Leesburg on Friday night, we decide to return the next day to stroll around in the sun. Opting not to grab dinner at American Flatbread on the way home (since I was making pizza the following night), we wandered around town for a place to eat. Everything was either too expensive or just "meh." Honestly, I'd hoped for much more.

What sealed the deal was that, as we were browsing the menu for the Cajun Experience, the chef came out to talk to us and he pronounced "etouffee" the way I imagined Paul Prudhomme would have pronounced etouffee. We were in. The meal averaged out to "okay": this was definitely a "book end" meal (i.e. apps and dessert were the highlight):

At the beginning, the boudin balls: bits of sausage, onions, rice, and cajon spices deep fried with a spicy dipping sauce. Addicting.

At the end, beignets with cafe au lait: the beignets were heaped with powdered sugar and were the perfect match for the cafe au lait. Addictive. The cafe au lait, however, was a little cold - not sure if that's traditional or not.

And then the books in the middle:

Had the crawfish etouffee and the seafood gumbo. Both were served with a scoop of decent potato salad and some toasted bread. The crawfish were cooked great, but the gumbo was a little lacking in actual bits of seafood. All in all, neither dish had the "wow" factor I was hoping for.

Service was a little odd. No spoon for the gumbo. Had the apps within five minutes of ordering and the entrees five minutes after that, but the beignets didn't come out for another fifteen to twenty minutes. The chef, however, who initially brought us in continued stopping by to chat - so definitely an A for friendly.

The decor is a work in progress. Mostly white walls. Where are the mardi gras masks and the beads (definitely need more beads)?

Final question: how can you have a New Orleansian restaurant but not serve Abita beer???

Final thought: $40 after tax and tip for an app, two entrees, dessert, and coffee was about what I would have expected to pay for what I got: an okay meal with a few great standouts.

boudin actually is the sausage, it's made from rice, pork and pork liver(hopefully more pork than rice), green onions and spice. it's put into a casing. boudin balls are just the same thing minus the casing and deep fried.

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I'm a Cajun too... guess it varies from town to town, family to family.

As far as I'm concerned, though, it's far tastier with potato salad!

I make regular trips back to acadia parish and I've only ever seen in people's home, along with rice, never in restuarants.

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I was there at 3pm on a September Saturday afternoon and expected the place to be empty. However there were in fact other diners having a late lunch and the servers were friendly and quick and there was lively Cajun music in the background. Looking around, it looked like the po' boy sandwiches were very popular. Its a comfortable place to eat just a block down from the Old Town shopping area. Plenty of Abita beer varieties are available but I went with the house merlot which was surprisingly good and served at just the right temperature. The fried oyster bowl appetizer was well prepared and came with a tasty dipping sauce though oysters are presumably small this time of year. I thought about the red beans and rice but wanted to avoid sausage so went with the seafood gumbo which was a full portion and had all the right ingredients but was alittle salty for my taste. Unless its somehow unavoidable, I can't understand why a chef would choose to go heavy on the salt given that diners can always add salt if needed. It came with fresh bread and bland potato salad. The beignets are the real deal -- just like the ones you'd get at Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square except with less powdered sugar. Next time I go I'll just ask that they go heavy on the powdered sugar and it will be perfect.

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Cajun Experience is now open on 18th St NW in DC in the old Inti Peruvian space.

I was there a few nights ago and they are certainly still working out the new restaurant kinks, but the food was definitely good. I had a pot roast poor boy ($11) that was like a roast beef without the gravy. Packed full of spice, tender, and overstuffed to near comical proportions. It was slightly confusing to see that they 'dress' their sandwiches with lettuce (ok), tomato (yes), ketchup (hmm), and "spicy chipotle sauce" (uh). While it isn't the standard new orleans lettuce-tomato-pickle-mayo, the spicy chipotle sauce worked well with the pot roast (I went ahead and held the ketchup). They're using the awesome par-baked Leidenheimer rolls from New Orleans for their sandwiches, and the bread really is fantastic. The outside shatters and crumbs everywhere while the inside remains fluffy as hell. Sandwich was served with a side of addictive thick cut potato chips.

The gf had a special of fried pork chops with red beans and rice with sausage, potato salad, and garlic bread ($25) and I ended up helping her with half the plate because it was so much food. Although, at $25 for fried pork chops, it was kind of to be expected. The chops were in a well seasoned and crispy batter that left the meat just slightly overdone. Red beans and rice were solid and classic, although the promised sausage turned out to be only 2 slices. Maybe just an unlucky scoop? Potato salad was... plate filler. The special also included a complimentary serving of beignets that were perfectly fried and traditionally piled with powdered sugar. These were so good that we were questioning the need to cross the river for Bayou Bakery like we'd planned to do next week.

It's unfair to cast judgment on a restaurant that has only been open 2 days, but what I had here was positive enough that I decided to post here. The restaurant is doing right by their area of inspiration - they have every Abita beer available, including the 22 oz special brews and are sourcing at least some of their shellfish from their as well. I can absolutely recommend anything coming out of the fryer or going on that Leidenheimer roll right now.

They are also planning on starting brunch in a few weeks and are in the planning stages of some all you can eat/all you can drink crawfish boil events on their back patio in the spring.

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I leveraged my day off work for the president's day holiday into a chance to swing by the new location of The Cajun Experience at 18th & Swann Streets NW for lunch before heading out to VA to run some errands. Parking isn't possible on 18th Street but one block over on New Hampshire was fine. Upon arriving to the old victorian building there was plenty of evidence of the restaurant from the street (two banners, a sandwich board on the sidewalk, and a menu box on a pole) but it was a tad unusual that you could not see the front door from the street as it is tucked behind a large staircase. Upon entering I beared left to take a seat at the bar as I was dining alone. It was too early in the day for me to sample a hurricane or grenade. I was just stopping in to sample the food. Perhaps another time closer to Mardi Gras for the drinks.

I entered this dining experience with high hopes. I had heard that the restaurant was an import from Leesburg. So expansion suggested that the food was tasty enough to be a rousing success elsewhere. Plus I'm always on the lookout for good Nawlins/Cajun food. For starters I ordered the hushpuppies and a dish of red beans, rice and sausage. I followed that up with a "fully loaded" fried oyster po' boy.

To my disappointment none of the 3 dishes won me over. I really didn't detect much in the way of flavor. The two fried items simply tasted like fried batter. The corn was overpowered by deep fried exterior of the hush puppy. The fried oysters could have been fried anything as I detected no oyster taste - just batter. I was disappointed the po' boy lacked a pickle and the chipotle mayo accompanying both items had zero kick. My red beans, rice and sausage dish was the best of the trio but still underseasoned.

I'm normally not the one to even write a review after just one visit. If the issues had been service related I wouldn't bother to report them since the place is so new. But weak flavor on Cajun food is a large disappointment and suggests fundamentally the recipes aren't that great. I don't think I have impossible standards. I tried the po' boy sliders from Bayou at 25th and Penn last Tuesday and will fully endorse those and their tasty remoulade sauce. The hushpuppies at Tackle Box have earned my seal of approval.

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This is interesting, because I am 99% sure that Bayou and The Cajun Experience are owned by the same folks...

The Bayou folks are connected to Surfside, Jetties and Smith Point. I hadn't heard of any connection to The Cajun Experience. IIRC the people behind the Cajun Experience weren't even in the restaurant business 3 years ago. I think the owner was in the software consulting business.

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The Bayou folks are connected to Surfside, Jetties and Smith Point. I hadn't heard of any connection to The Cajun Experience. IIRC the people behind the Cajun Experience weren't even in the restaurant business 3 years ago. I think the owner was in the software consulting business.

Yeah, I thought that the two were connected., and knew about the bayou, surfside, jetties, smith point (and don't forget something sweet) conglomerate. I stand corrected.

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Hit the dupont location tnight. Sat outside on the small but cute (covered) patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Jambalaya and hush puppies were great, less enthused about the shrimp n grits. Eager to go back and try more fried delights. Also, staff was pleasant and warm. Glad to have a new spot nearby!

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Hit the dupont location tnight. Sat outside on the small but cute (covered) patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Jambalaya and hush puppies were great, less enthused about the shrimp n grits. Eager to go back and try more fried delights. Also, staff was pleasant and warm. Glad to have a new spot nearby!

Really? I'm not questioning you but when I ate at the dupont location I was literally Ill from a salt overdose that afternoon. Neither the gumbo nor jambalaya resembled any i have had in Louisiana. The base was soup for both with no discernible roux. I say Louisiana because when I complained the explanation I was given was that the owner wasn't from New Orleans but another part of Cajun country. Um? Okay.

What I perceived that day was the place is really a bar that serves food to soak up alcohol.

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Perhaps a bit salty, yes. I took a food-induced nap after eating and indeed did wake up rather parched. I didn't notice the over salting while actually eating however and I thought the jambalaya was very deep and intense in flavor. That said, I am a midwesterner by birth and certainly no expert. I also thought the prices were a bit high ($17/entree) but in reality the portions are so huge two ppl could absolutely split one. I think in the future we will order from the appetizer size menu.

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We tried it a few nights ago and I was impressed. I lived in N.O for several years, so I'm fairly well-versed in the cuisine, and this was very acceptable on a neighborhood joint level. I hadn't had authentic tastking Beignets in many years. It's very good value for money too. Most of the dinner entrees were 16-17, a plate of three beignets was 4 and a very nice bottle of Pinot Grigio was 21.

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We tried it a few nights ago and I was impressed. I lived in N.O for several years, so I'm fairly well-versed in the cuisine, and this was very acceptable on a neighborhood joint level. I hadn't had authentic tastking Beignets in many years. It's very good value for money too. Most of the dinner entrees were 16-17, a plate of three beignets was 4 and a very nice bottle of Pinot Grigio was 21.

I've not lived in New Orleans but spent a ton of time in the city, and have a ton of family roots in New Orleans. What did you have?

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Saturday night with a Saints game going on, and they were out of Abita jumbo bottles, crawfish (!), oysters (!!!), and steak (!!!!!!!!!) at 5pm. Service was indifferent to surly, and when the check for $50 was handed back with $40 cash and one credit card, the server took the initiative to not ask, run the card for the entire tab, and assume he was left a $40 tip. Sure we probably should have specified, but it was pretty presumptious on his part.

Food wise, we had some awesome roasted (grilled?) wings. Honestly, some of the best I've had in DC. The shrimp po boys were laughable though. It was a dozen 31-40s on a foot long roll, which meant you ended up with multiple bites of Leidenheimer roll that had zero protein. Oh, and grilled shrimp, not fried - but that isn't specified on the menu.

The deservedly lauded boudin is no longer on the menu.

I don't know what is going on here, but it is not good.

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The Cajun Experience played host to some friends & me several times this past Summer, and it was always a great experience. Particularly on a Friday or Saturday night when the live blues band is playing- it's a great escape from DC life. The food was always on point, and even if it wasn't- I couldn't tell by the time I was halfway through my second hurricane.

I came back for dinner this past Sunday night, and it seems to now be a completely different restaurant. I wonder if there was a change in management or ownership? With a dining room a third full, there was only one server working- and she has only been working there for a week. Drinks took 10 minutes, and the wait times for food were lengthy.

Speaking of the food- we were told when greeted that the kitchen was out of the following items: Anything with gator as an ingredient, jambalaya, mac & cheese, all oysters, and everything on the dessert menu. I understand when a restaurant sells-out of a featured special, or a limited-supply item (like Prime Rib). But for a kitchen to be out of half the menu (which is seems like a consistent problem after reading the above post) is either a case of a chef who 1) Doesn't know or understand how to order and prep a restaurant kitchen, or 2) Doesn't give a "F".

Either way, it's unacceptable and frankly embarrassing. Hopefully they'll shape-up, because this is a fun restaurant when it's on it's A-game.

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Having been to the Dupont and Leesburg outposts...the restaurants are completely different cajun experiences.

I found the DC branch to be rather souless. That basement location, which has been numerous restaurants that never seem to take, just wasn't doing much for me...and the food, it was fine, but nothing to make me run back for more.

Yesterday, we stopped into the Leesburg branch after a long afternoon of Outlet shopping. Located in a little townhouse in historic Leesburg, the place actually looks and feels like a little divy neighborhood joint one might find in New Orleans or any number of towns in Cajun country. The andouille Po-Boy ($9) was a tasty sandwich, although not reaching the Po-Boy heights of say Mahony's on Magazine Street. But then again, Cajun Experience is only a short 5 minute drive from the Leesburg Outlets, and well worth the detour to refuel after a day of shopping.

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I'll go ahead and report the DC branch of The Cajun Experience as closed.

The phones haven't been answered in days, the website is down and the open table account has been removed. I called over to the Leesburg location, who explained that it's different management- but heard the Dupont location closed as well.

I've never seen a restaurant go downhill as quickly as this one did. An amazing difference one year made. My last visit (which would have been my last, even if they hadn't closed) was so horrific, my +1 and I took one bite of the food, and spit it into the napkin. Everything was sour (gumbo, etouffee) and borderline rancid. The hush-puppies were liquid batter in the center. The restaurant smelled of sewage and the service was non-existant.

After complaining to the "manager", I explained the food wasn't edible, and was still presented with a full-price check.

So, good riddance to the restaurant it became, but I'll truly miss the restaurant it was a year ago.

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I do *not* want this to turn into a gun-control argument, but thought I'd put this bit of news out there for people deciding to go (or not to go) to The Cajun Experience.

"Va. Restaurant Gives Discount To Gun-Toting Customers" by Jim Rosenfield on NBCNEWS.com tells about The Cajun Experience's "Open Carry Wednesday," where customers who bring a gun into the restaurant get a 10% discount.

There's no point in saying "Well, I know where *I* won't be going from now on" because that's just going to bring out the "Hell, I'm going to be going there every *day*" posts, and it will continue, ad nauseum.

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