Authentic New Orleans food is hard to come by in Tallahassee. I have always enjoyed eating the spicy crab and chicken-filled jambalaya made by my family friend, Shawn Stokes, a native of New Orleans. She brings a feel of the “Big Easy” into her kitchen.
Two New Orleans-themed local restaurants I have gotten to try are Harrys: Seafood Bar and Grille in downtown Tallahassee Coosh’s, located in College Town (it also has a place in Killearn in northeast Tallahassee). Both pride themselves on providing top-quality New Orleans cuisine, but Coosh’s is the only one that could compare to Ms. Stokes’ authentic jambalaya.
As I walked into Coosh’s for the first time, I noticed that the atmosphere was totally different from Harry’s. There were daiquiri machines, college girls in crop tops and shorts and guys chugging down beers and making bets on the game. (Being that the location was in College Town, it made sense.) I sat down and looked through the menu. Of course, I had to get my hands on that jambalaya.
While my waiter returned with a steaming plate in her hand, I could smell and feel the love in the dish. I was too excited to take my first bite. As I devoured the food, I got flash backs of the same tastes that Ms. Stokes’ jambalaya gave me. The meat was well seasoned, the hints of old bay and bay leaves, and that very slight soup texture is what had me sold.
Harry’s is about class with a little touch of the South. There were no girls walking around in shorts and surely no guys chugging beers, but I was greeted with a rather fancy décor and very soft music playing in the background.
As my waiter seated me, I was instantly met with warm bread and this garlicky butter— something I was not offered at Coosh’s.
I immediately ran through the menu and knew specifically what I wanted— the jambalaya. I asked the waiter if I could opt out of having shrimp in my jambalaya because I wasn’t craving it that day. She declined, saying “Their food is already pre-mixed.” I couldn’t help but think Coosh’s would not do this to me.
This time around when my plate came there was no steam, I really didn’t smell anything and quite frankly I wanted to send the plate back. But I took a stab at it anyway. I didn’t get that authentic New Orleans feel. The rice was almost too mushy and the meat was bland. I did not get that taste of authenticity.
In the end, Coosh’s definitely won me over. There were no “pre-mixed” dishes and everything was just more fresh and to my liking. Coosh’s took me back to Stokes’ kitchen, where everything was fresh, raw and straight from New Orleans. Harry’s just gave me typical chain-style restaurant fare. Although Harry’s won me over in the atmosphere category, I still don’t mind the casual vibe at Coosh’s.
This all proves that authenticity always wins in the end.