For reasons that have mostly to do with a flurry of restaurant openings when it made its debut last summer, it took me awhile to get to Zydeco Po-Boys in downtown Las Vegas. Take my advice: Don’t make the same mistake.
I’ll give you a number of reasons why you shouldn’t. One, we don’t exactly have a lot of restaurants serving New Orleans specialties in Las Vegas these days, and Zydeco chef Brandon Trahan, a Louisiana native, is the real deal. Two, the menu is much more varied than the restaurant’s name would indicate.
And three, an experience at the place is just easy, and bigger than we expected. It’s counter service, and the woman on the other side was patient, helpful and able to multitask, which seems to be a waning skill these days.
The place is bigger than we expected, with a large dining room next to the main room with the counter and some tables. The decor is charming, the glass-topped tables made from paneled doors, with purse hooks, a nice touch. Edison-style bulbs dangle from an authentically New Orleans-style tangle of wires, and the air is filled with Zydeco music, those accordions wheezing away.
The food’s big, too, as we realized while contemplating the size of a po-boy and a “small” portion of red beans, sausage and rice ($5.50, $8.50 for large). The latter, we thought, could have been heavier on the trinity but was very nice overall, with the complex flavors that come with long simmering, piled atop long-grained basmati rice.
For our po-boy we chose the Zydeco Special ($9.50). It was served on crisp-crusted Leidenheimer bread from New Orleans, and it would be really hard to miss the meat in this one, since there was a pile of shredded brisket and thick slices of ham and turkey. Like Zydeco’s other po-boys it comes with a really good pickle, plus lettuce, tomato, cheese, spicy mustard and jalapeno mayo, the latter of which had us frequently digging into the comparatively neutral Cajun potato salad we’d chosen as a side (Cajun fries and onion strings were other options). Don’t get us wrong; the potato salad had plenty of flavor, in part because of some of those chopped-up really good pickles, but it was relatively mild, as potato salad should be.
A small serving of Dirty Cajun Fries ($5.50, or $8.50 for large) also was much larger than we expected, and absolutely delicious. The fries remained relatively crisp, even though they’d been heaped with a flood of melted provolone, golden tangles of caramelized onions, lots of chunks of the house-made Cajun sausage and enough diced pepperoncini that our sinuses knew they were there.
And, sure, we could’ve had dessert, but we already were piling up the takeout boxes.
That the crowd was light during our early lunch hour tells me Zydeco Po-Boys has yet to be discovered by a lot of people, and they don’t know what they’re missing. That used to be us, but thankfully we’ve heard the Zydeco muse.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com, and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
Zydeco Po-Boys, 616 E. Carson Ave.; 702-982-1889
The essence: Excellent Cajun-style food in a charming atmosphere with good service