16137 Silverhill Ave.
Silverhill, AL 36576
Baldwin County has been my daily destination for 18 years. I’ve commuted through those tunnels and across the Bayway and Causeway more times than I’d like to admit, but save a couple and a half years of living in Gulf Shores, I managed to stay on the western shore. Hurricane Ivan scared me away from our southern coastlines and I bought a midtown house just in time to have a portion of the roof jacked up by Hurricane Katrina.
It’s obvious Mobile has some sort of grip on me, but I’m excited about stretching my legs and trying more Baldwin County restaurants. I’ve always done a few every year, but with Lagniappe reaching farther to the east and southeast, I’m certain to up the Baldwin restaurant percentage. I’ve been looking for small-town favorites, and one of the most talked about is Café Acadiana.
This Silverhill hotspot is on Silverhill Avenue, also known as 104. Known for a packed lunch crowd Monday through Saturday, this taste of Louisiana also feeds the famished their favorite dinners Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Despite my hearing about it from students and clients, I’d never made the time before this week. My lunch date was a bust, so I flew solo from downtown Stapleton, promising my employees I would bring back a few samples.
I was late for lunch, arriving maybe a little after 1 p.m., but the parking lot was packed. After squeezing into a parking space, I entered to find two separate dining rooms, one with a salad bar, one without. I was quickly seated in the one without and a waitress was taking my order immediately. Everyone was buzzing around like bees, and I could tell this place excels at efficiency.
I explained I was only partially dining in, with a to-go order I’d take back to work. I then ordered a fairly alarming amount of food for one person, and soon my table was covered in dishes, the first of which was a cup of gumbo ($4.50). This “Acadiana-style” gumbo was offered in a couple of different ways, but I chose the shrimp and okra version.
I was almost happy to reach for the salt and the hot sauce, as some people are a bit sensitive to sodium (for me that depends on the day of the week), but the gumbo was pretty good on its own.
The salad bar (included with my entrée) provided me with a base of fresh greens and veggies in a basic bowl of what I needed. The blue cheese dressing was exceptional, and this no-frills bar had the essentials plus a little pasta salad.
You have to try the fried boudin balls ($5). The menu says they are “made from Dad’s 1950s recipe.” I thought they were exceptional. I’ve had plenty over the years, but these stood out as really good. There seemed to be a hint of parsley that caught my attention. The crab cake ($8) may have been even better with a creamy, crawfish sauce and green onions.
I couldn’t help but order the fried shrimp and crawfish étouffée ($11). The flaky shrimp batter was nice and light, but the étouffée wasn’t my favorite. I’m not saying it was all that bad, it just didn’t have a lot of seasoning. The Cajun seasoning on the table helped. The sides were supposed to be loaded mashed potatoes and peas and carrots. I believe the mashed potatoes were just plain potatoes as I couldn’t detect anything that would make them loaded such as cheese or bacon, and the peas and carrots came out as green beans. That was fine by me, as I prefer green beans. I also enjoyed the couple of hush puppies that accompanied the shrimp.
For the ride back to the shop, I was bringing a good bit of leftovers (not a bit of crab cake) and a separate entrée. Mahi Opelousas ($11) came with the same sides mentioned above. The fish was blackened and topped with Café Acadiana’s shrimp Opelousas. What’s that, you ask? It’s fried shrimp tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce served on top of the mahi. With the savory flavor of the blackened fish contrasting with the sweetness of the shrimp, I could see this working for some of you. I have to admit it was a little overbearing for me, but not all bad.
Despite my mild complaints, I can say there are some impressive things about Café Acadiana. The first of which is the chef is turning out a lot of food from a rather large menu, and he is doing it quickly. The second is how cheap it is for what you’re getting. I’ve spent more on lunch at Chick-fil-A. The staff is also friendly and can move a lot of product with ease.
Is this place what you would call a hidden gem? I guess that depends on which part of the county you are standing in. It’s certainly a gem, as I don’t recall the Silverhill area ever having anything like this since I’ve been around. The popularity may disqualify it from being hidden. It is proof, however, of a thriving restaurant community in Baldwin County that isn’t in the obvious locales of Fairhope, Spanish Fort or Orange Beach.
It is nice to have a taste of Louisiana in the middle of Baldwin County, but it isn’t entirely a new idea. Loxley used to have Lil G’s Cajun Market near Burris. We loved that place, so let’s hope Café Acadiana keeps a strong foothold to the south of there. I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon.
Small-town spots just off the highway are fun to discover. Let me know of any of your favorites in Baldwin and Mobile counties. I’m still hungry on both sides of the bay!
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