A fun-filled birthday celebration at Grille 29 honoring my bonus sister Theresa was already on level 10 before the exceptionally friendly server came out to announce the night’s features. Before even arriving at the restaurant I’d decided I was ordering the small grilled chicken Caesar salad, their addictive sweet tea with water on the side, and a warm sour cream cake to share so I wasn’t listening to what he was saying until he said gumbo. I’d experienced their gumbo before and quickly blurted out, “Oh, is this the chef’s special four meat gumbo?” To which he replied, “Nawwww, girl. This is his SPECIAL duck and bacon gumbo!” What the duck?!?!? Duck and bacon in gumbo? Duck and bacon in gumbo that I can actually eat because I didn’t run the shellfish “make my face swell” risk? Oh my goodness. I was immediately transported to a Donald and Porky wonderland in my mind and salivating mouth.
I ordered the gumbo. As the teens of today say, “It gave me life”! Well, not literally, but the meat, sweet, and tender pieces of fowl mixed perfectly as the clear starring feature along with the pork was everything I could have imagined if I had the culinary courage to imagine duck and bacon together in a bowl with plump rice, strongly-flavored stock and all the Cajun accompaniments required to call a stew in a bowl an actual gumbo.
That dish, worth every bite, caused me to completely change my order from salad to braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and sweetly sautéed green beans. (Don’t ask me why because I have no answer.) Others ate ginormous barbecue shrimp, perfectly prepared calamari with hidden treats of fried red peppers nestled among the squid, a delightfully fancy cured meat and cheese board, and lobster quesadillas as appetizers which we all sampled.
The entrees ranged from more quesadillas, their famous Salad 29, Scottish salmon brulee’ with a caramelized onion almost as good as the seafood, more short ribs and other tasty treats.
Regardless of what we eventually ate the clear star of the show was the duck and bacon gumbo, of which I had to reluctantly share with my sister who ate it off of a saucer with a fork and of which made us all break out into random acts of celebration include hands swinging in the air, hips wiggling in the seat, lip smacking and across-the-table high fiving. It was THAT good!