Finding The Lost Cajun takes a little work. It is located on the northeast end of Wolflin Square. Usually, I can tell people where a Joint is by telling what used to occupy the space, but for the life of me, I don’t remember anything being there. The best I can do is “It is in the building at the opposite end of Eat-Rite.”
When you arrive at The Lost Cajun, you are greeted with a “Thanks for joining us. Is this your first time coming here?” With an affirmative answer, a small paddle appears with spots for a sampling of gumbos, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and their lobster bisque. What a brilliant concept to overcome the lack of knowledge of their visitors. You get a taste and an education before pulling the trigger on your order. More Joints, and wannabes, should follow this example. It will stave off order regret and take the responsibility off of the wait staff to explain the dishes. I cannot commend The Lost Cajun enough on this.
The choices for the day were Voodoo Pasta and Cat-Toufee for lunch. The portions are large and you will get your money’s worth. The pasta was full of perfectly done shrimp and spot-on andouille sausage. The sauce is delicious and compliments everything perfectly. The Cat-Toufee is spectacular. Three large filets of catfish are served on a bed of rice with etoufee slathered on top. What an outstanding method of incorporating both entrees into one dish. The rice offers a nice base to catch all of the etoufee and clean your plate.
On every visit to The Lost Cajun, make room for a Beignet and Chicory Coffee to end the meal. It seems that every culture has their version of a sopapilla and the Beignet fill the Cajun niche. These sweet little dough pillows are a perfect end to a spicy meal and the Chicory Coffee is a wonderful compliment to their sweetness. (Sweet Little Dough Pillows would be an awesome band name, by the way.)
The Lost Cajun should be around for a long time, if the crowds since opening are any indication. It is usually full at lunch time, and I have seen lines form at times. Go take advantage of the Cajun Resurgence in Amarillo and find your way to The Lost Cajun.
by Jason Burr
As the Eat Out Amarillo journey has progressed, I have begun to crystallize some thoughts; an assemblage of beliefs about Amarillo, her people, her food and her culture. Some of these notions are particular to our great town, some of them are just broad theories you can apply anywhere. As these thoughts have appeared, I have jotted them down so that I could begin to codify them into organized collections.
The first entry into the EOA Manifesto is “How To Find A Joint.” This is by no means an all inclusive list and will be updated as I see fit; my mantra is “Have Adamant Beliefs Until They Change.” Some of these points have been rooted in me for years; some have been discovered as I make my way through Amarillo’s Joints.
1. Where There Are Three Police Cars, There Is Good Food
While they spend many hours patrolling our great city, interacting with its citizens and derelicts, our police get hungry. They have to eat and enjoy a tasty morsel just like civilians do. The first time I visited La Campana, there were a half dozen officers partaking in breakfast. I knew we were in for a treat. This rule is closely followed by the pickups and/or vans with ladders. If you spot a horde of painter’s, roofer’s, of framer’s vehicles, Yahtzee.
Side Note: When you encounter law enforcement officers in a Joint, thank them for what they do and pick up their check; they work long, hard hours for little pay. It’s the least you can do.
2. An Outside Grill
Whether is an expensive Barbecue Rig in a dedicated cooking shed or a $70 Weber out back in the parking lot, someone cooking outside is a tip-off of a Joint.
3. Yelp – Yes Yelp
Yelp catches Hell from a lot of people, but it can steer you in the right direction. I use Yelp constantly when I travel and it very seldom steers me wrong. It seems to be heavily weighted to local restaurants over chains, so it is helpful in finding a Joint. If a search for “Restaurants” in Amarillo yields local standouts Coyote Bluff, Tyler’s Barbecue, El Manantial, 575 Pizza, OHMS, Ichiban and Yellow City Street Food as the top results, imagine the nuggets you could find while travelling.
4. Misspelled Menus Foreshadow Authenticity
I am a grammar and spelling snob. I really hate it when I am the offender, which I have just now opened myself up for. It drives me insane when someone confuses Your with You’re and Sell and Sale. If I go to a chain restaurant and there are misspelled words on the menu, I am apoplectic. But, if I visit a mom & pop Thai Joint on Amarillo Boulevard and one of the ingredients in a dish is “Shrimps,” I know I am in for a delight. If the Mexican Food Truck has “Breakfask Tacos,” do yourself a favor and order 2. Bonus: If the menu contains no English, prepare your taste buds. If you have to point at the menu to place your order, you have increased your chances of success.
5. A Dirt Parking Lot Packed With Pickups
When you see a full parking lot, you have found gold; if it is a dirt parking lot full of pickups, you have found a goldmine. No Joint exemplifies this rule more than Coyote Bluff.
6. A Small Menu Means Everything Is Good
When a Joint has a niche and focuses all their attention on perfecting a few dishes, it is a gem. These places are few are far between, but do exist. Mostly they are Barbecue Joints, food trucks with limited space, or the Treasure that is Pollo Sinaloa. They offer 3 meats in a choice of taco, burrito or quesadilla along with the magnificent Mexican Hot Dog, all executed perfectly.
7. A Joint In The Correct Neighborhood
With a few possible exceptions, Joints are seldom on the main thoroughfare. I-40 has a speckling of anything resembling Joints, and I-27 has fewer. A Mexican Food Joint in a predominantly Hispanic part of town puts a checkbox in the win column. An Asian Joint in Eastridge points to a good chance of success. An address on E. Amarillo Blvd. tilts the scale in your favor.
8. A Community Table Is Great For The Community
There are very few examples of a community table in Amarillo, but I see them occasionally when I travel. My favorite is Pasqual’s in Santa Fe. I will always choose the community table if given the choice. This is followed closely by a spot at the bar. Talk to your fellow patrons, expand your experiences, share a dish. More restaurants need a community table.
9. Eclectic Patrons
If you see your banker eating next to your yard guy, you are in the right place. The best joints are places for people from all walks of life to enjoy a meal.
10. Find The Hipsters
If your server or cook is a Hipster, you will have a good meal. In their natural habitat these creatures seek out the best ingredients and mix them in new, fun, never-thought-of ways and introduce us to the best experiences. A Kimchi Burrito, Chicken Fried Steak Sushi, and Carnitas Fried Rice are all products of their weird minds. I find Hipsters to be the most polite restaurant people you will encounter anywhere. They want you to enjoy your experience to the fullest and will do their part in helping you achieve that. Bonus: Ask the Hipster where they eat when they are not at their Joint. They will turn you on to something they liked, before, ya know, it was cool.
I have a few favorites in town. Among them are My Thai, Taste of Thai, and Thai Taste. The one I frequent mostly is Thai Arawan. First opened in a Georgia Street strip mall, they moved to their current location on Wolflin a few years later. The menu includes all the expected staples. There is the ubiquitous Pick Two Lunch Special featuring the conventional Sweet & Sour Pork and Broccoli Beef. Their Pad Thai and Fried Rice are solid, delicious examples of the regular Thai offerings. But if you look a little closer, you will see some unique items varying from the Vaguely Asian theme. The list of curries is distinctive as are the soups. The Arawan Pad Thai is a variant on traditional Pad Thai with the entire dish put into an omelet. One of my favorite items is something not listed on the menu: the Atkins Bowl. It is a pile of your choice of meat with a slew of vegetables that would make any diet proud. I get mine with Chicken and ask for Spicy Thai Style. Give it a try. It’s amazing.
Today’s order was an appetizer of Beef Jerky and Sticky Rice, Arawan Pad Thai, Mongolian Beef, and the Lunch Special with Pepper Steak and Lemon Chicken for the non-adventurous traitor in the group. Side Note, eat what you like, but when you are with self-described Joint Snobs, prepare to catch Hell for it. Jerky and Sticky Rice were so good it was 2/3rds gone before I could snap a pic. This was my first time for the Arawan Pad Thai and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was good, but because eggs are not my favorite thing, I prefer the Traditional Pad Thai. The Mongolian Beef was spicy and delightful. I am sure the Lunch Special was good, because the plate was clean.
I think the Amarillo Chop Suey Joints are mostly gone, replaced with Vaguely Asian Joints and we are all better because of it. We can still get our Sesame Chicken fix, while branching out to Massaman Curry. And mom can still get Fried Rice, too.