Jess and I are both fans of Cajun and Creole food, but there just aren’t a lot of places outside of south Louisiana that can make the cuisine in a form worth eating. In the mood for a po’ boy and some gumbo, though, we headed up to Riverdale to try Maddie’s Place, a restaurant that boasts a chef who is not only a graduate of the CIA but also worked a decade for Emeril Lagasse. The restaurant was bustling for lunch, which is always a good sign, especially in an area of town that’s known for good eateries. The menu was full of tasty-looking dishes, but we settled on a couple of lunch specials – all a bargain at only $10.00 for the meal and a tall glass of tea.
Jess had come with gumbo on her mind, so she ordered a lunch special that came with a good-sized bowl along with half a fried catfish po’ boy, served with kettle-cooked potato chips and a crisp pickle spear. The gumbo was thick and flavorful, with just enough white rice in it to give it some bulk. A lot of gumbo you find around here is too thin and closer to a chunky tomato soup, but this was spicy and just the right texture. On a cold day, a bowl of Maddie’s gumbo would be a great meal by itself with a few pieces of buttered French bread for dipping.
Inspired by Jess’ sandwich I went for a full version of the fried oyster po’ boy. Both sandwiches were overloaded with crispy-fried seafood, lettuce, tomato, and topped with a savory remoulade sauce. The bread was toasted and had a nice crunch to it that gave way to a good, chewy center. My oysters were large and succulent, and the flavor was not strong like happens sometimes ordering oysters. In fact, our only complaint about the po’ boys was the complete lack of salt or spice in the batter. The batter’s texture was spot-on, light and crispy, and it didn’t flake off the fish or oysters – but there was very little taste to it. We both had to salt our sandwiches quite a bit and pour on the Crystal hot sauce just to coax a bit of flavor from the batter; there definitely should have been more spice at play here. Oversalted food is a crime in any restaurant; undersalted food is nearly as bad.
Overall, we were pleased with the quality of the food and service we had at Maddie’s Place, although I don’t think their po’ boys are as good as others I’ve had. I’d like to make it back to sample some of their dinner entrees, and it’s definitely a good, solid lunch stop if you find yourself in the neighborhood. Maddie’s Place is located at 1615 Rebsamen Park Road in Little Rock. They’re open Tuesday-Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm. Enjoy!