When I get together with the guys from one of my dealers in St. Louis, we usually go to Llewelyn's for some appetizers and beer along with some business discussion. Before a recent trip to St. Louis, I contacted one of the guys at the store and let him know I would be coming down. He said, "Oh, man! We have to take you to a new place. It's a Cajun-slash-barbecue place not far from our store." The place he was talking about is called Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen.
Actually, it's not a new place - it's been in business since 2006. Bill Kunz and Dave Freese (not the St. Louis Cardinals third baseman) started the restaurant in what had originally been an old Streetside Records shop in the Old Orchard entertainment area of Webster Groves. Previous to Highway 61 Roadhouse's opening, it housed a couple three restaurants in the building. So while it isn't new to the general public, the guys from my dealer in St. Louis didn't know about the place until earlier this year.
After doing a couple demos for the guys, then listening to a couple audio systems they had set up in the store, we made our way to Highway 61 Roadhouse just south of Big Bend Boulevard on Old Orchard Ave. (see map) We made our way inside and found a table near the bar. The table was not very large, even though there was only three of us, and it was very wobbly. One of the guys reached under the table to put a folded wad of napkins under one of the legs. The chairs weren't very comfortable, either. One of the guys said, "The only thing bad about this place are the tables and chairs. The tables are too small and they're not very stable." If that's the only thing bad about Highway 61 Roadhouse, then that was fine with me.
The interior of the Roadhouse was sort of kitschy, but in a good way. They have live music at Highway 61 Roadhouse - primarily blues with some jazz on Thursday nights. I understand they'll have a zydeco band come to play in the place from time to time. The main dining area had a stage on one end with a number of tables on the floor and booths along the wall. There was an upstairs dining area that can be used for private functions and overflow dining. The Roadhouse also has a expansive outside dining area on the south side of the building that wraps around to the front side. The patio is open when the weather turns nice. Since we had a pretty mild spring in the Midwest, the patio opened in March of this year.
The bar area had a number of lighted old beer signs, as well as some kitschy items that were actually pretty interesting to see. A couple flat screen televisions had a baseball game on the screen. The back bar featured a lot of ornate wood and a chalk board that listed their draft beers.
Prior to going to the Roadhouse, I was told that they had Magic Hat 9 beer on tap. Since I was first exposed to the beer at The Standard in Elmhurst, IL, I've found a number of places that offer the beer in the Midwest. It's not available in Iowa as of yet, but I'm guessing that it will be soon. All three of us signed up for a Magic Hat 9.
Another waitress brought us over some menus and I took a look through the one I had. The Roadhouse not only featured Cajun and barbecue specialties, but they also had soups and salads, a number of delectable appetizers, specialty pizzas, and a couple three pasta dishes including barbecued spaghetti. They take a plate of pasta and top it with chunks of pulled pork and their homemade barbecue sauce. I've seen barbecued spaghetti on menus before, but have never had it.
The first thing one of the guys ordered was a couple baskets of Highway 61's smoked chicken wings. They smoke the wings and then toss them in a container of the house "Voodoo" sauce. And he also ordered some of their Louisiana barbecued shrimp - they take peeled shrimp and bake them in a pot that has a Worcestershire/butter sauce infused with herbs and spices.
I was a little leery of the smoked wings, but when they were brought to the table I could smell the smoke on the meat and the wonderful sweet and spicy voodoo sauce that glazed the outside of the wings. The sweetness of the sauce helped keep the spicy taste in check. I'm not big on smoked chicken, but I have to say that the smoked chicken wings at Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen were delicious. The smoked chicken wing platters are pictured below left. I couldn't get a picture taken quick enough before one of the guys already had gnawed on a couple of wings.
But the highlight was the barbecue shrimp (above right). It was served in a small crock and had an ample amount of shrimp swimming in the Worcestershire/butter herb sauce. French bread was served with the barbecue shrimp and dipping the bread in the sauce was just as good as eating the shrimp out of the crock. It was heavenly in many ways.
I wanted to try a cup of the gumbo before we ordered any more food. The menu described the gumbo at the Roadhouse as a chicken and andouille sausage in dark spicy broth served with rice. When she brought out the "cup" of gumbo, I immediately said, "Wait a minute. I wanted a cup, not a bowl."
She said, "This is a cup." I told her that if that was a cup, I'd hate to see how big their bowls were.
One of the guys said, "The portions are huge here. We generally can't eat everything on the plate."
The gumbo was also outstanding. I think I make pretty damned good gumbo at home and I have to say that Highway 61's gumbo was one of the best I've had at a Cajun restaurant - or any restaurant, for that matter. The gumbo featured large chunks of flavorful andouille sausage and tender chicken chunks. I especially liked the roux-based broth. It was thick and had a little spicy kick to the taste. I jacked it up even more with ample amounts of Tabasco.
We decided to order up a couple things for each of us to try "family style." I was told the voodoo shrimp sandwich was absolutely one of the things to order. They take peeled shrimp, roll them in flour with Cajun spices added to it, deep fried to a golden brown color, then shaken in a container with their voodoo sauce. I sort of try to stay away from deep fried shrimp, but I was assured these things were to die for. They then take the voodoo shrimp and put it on a hoagie bun, then top it with mozzarella cheese and applewood smoked bacon. "The bacon is unbelievable," one of the guys told me. "I don't know how they make their bacon, but the taste is unbelievable."
For the other entree, we decided upon the smothered catfish - a farm-raised, lightly breaded and pan-fried catfish filet served on a bed of rice and then topped with ample amounts of Highway 61's shrimp and crawfish etoufee. You also got to choose one side from a list that included red rice and beans, green beans, fried okra, sweet potato pie (Yep! As a side!), and even the barbecue spaghetti. We ended up choosing the mac and cheese.
Once the food hit the table, we weren't too certain we were hungry. But the wonderful smells of the voodoo shrimp and the catfish smothered in the etoufee were overwhelming. It's amazing how something that smells so good can make your full stomach suddenly find room for more food. The voodoo shrimp was everything I was told it would be. We picked the off some of the shrimp that hadn't been covered with the cheese and bacon. Oh, my God, were they great! I love that sweet and spicy voodoo sauce at Highway 61 Roadhouse! But the killer taste sensation was the mozzarella cheese coated applewood smoked bacon slices. I pulled one off the top of the shrimp and took a bite. It was so sinfully great that I almost cried. I did pull some of the cheese off the bacon and had a bite of the bacon on its own. Just like it was described to me, the bacon was so flavorful and delectable. One of the guys said, "They have a Sunday brunch here that I want to come to at some point. I know they have the bacon on the menu for their brunch. I could just gorge myself on the bacon."
The smothered catfish was also declared excellent by the guys. I especially liked the crawfish and shrimp etoufee sauce. It was a nice dark sauce - darker than most etoufee I've seen in the past. It had a little kick to it. I'm not big on catfish, so I focused on bites of the etoufee and rice. On it's own, the etoufee and rice were worth getting the smothered catfish.
And surprisingly, the mac and cheese side was also very good. It featured a lot of cheese with ample amounts of bread crumbs mixed in. One of the guys basically took the mac and cheese and finished it off when myself and the other guy decided we were full. We still had food on the table - about half of the smothered catfish was eaten, but most of the etoufee was gone. And all the voodoo shrimp and bacon were gone off the sandwich, but only the tomatoes, lettuce and hoagie bun were left.
I have to say that everything that I had at Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen was very good to excellent. The service was good, as well. I liked the ambiance and the decor was fun and interesting. But the food was the winner at the Roadhouse. The voodoo shrimp, the applewood smoked bacon, the smoked chicken wings, the barbecued shrimp - all top notch. I get worried when restaurants have such an extensive menu, generally because I quickly find out that they don't do varied types of cuisine well. But Highway 61 Roadhouse did everything all right in my book.