Pie Junkie’s Cheat Day is brought to you by...Pie Junkie! Once a month this summer, Pie Junkie owners Leslie Coale-Mossman and Darcy Schein join me for a cheat day meal in the metro. If you’re looking for a great cheat day treat, check out Pie Junkie in the Plaza District.
I cannot tell you how excited I was when the ladies of Pie Junkie said they wanted to do this feature with me. Pie Junkie is the location of so many cheat days in Oklahoma City, so the chance to help them do a little cheating sounded like good fun. Plus, Darcy and Leslie are legitimately two of the nicest, funniest folks around.
When it came time to choose a spot, we needed a restaurant with big portions, real ingredients and flavors so good you can’t stop eating. In short, we needed Cajun King.
Open 11 years, this buffet’s built some long-term buzz with a non-stop deluge of catfish almondine, steamer trays full of gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffee and some mighty fine fried chicken.
There are a few peculiarities to make note of. Cajun King asks customers to pay upfront, so there can sometimes be a line waiting to get in around lunch as patrons run their credit cards. The price for the buffet varies from $9.99 for lunch and $10.99 for dinner, Mon-Thurs, and $12.99 all day Fri-Sun, with drinks for $1.99. What you get out of it is up to you, but $12.99 is a bargain.
As this was our cheat day, we were going to eat our fill and then some. Thank goodness Cajun King has food so enticing, you’ll never be able to stop at a single plate.
There wasn’t a single dish we tried that we wouldn’t get again, but the winner among them all was so unexpected I hesitate to write it here for fear of alienating all of you. I mean, who among you will believe me when I say it was the green beans that stopped us dead in our tracks.
“These taste like my grandma’s house,” Leslie said. Growing up, her grandmother was forever cooking green beans long and slow in a bath of bacon grease. The entire house smelled of bacon and onions and, I would assume, love.
I waited until my last plate to get green beans and once I took a bite, I just froze.
“Right?” asked Leslie. Right. 100% right. These are not crisp green beans, shocked into an emerald tone. They are dark green-gray with so much bacon and onion flavor that the beans have become just a delivery system. Good. God. Almighty.
There are plates on the buffet, but be sure to grab a crock for some of the more liquid dishes. Gumbo, red beans, etouffee, shrimp, corn and potato chowder and jambalaya are all best with a base of rice and walls to keep them from flowing all over the place. For the biggest burst of taste, I’d go for the etouffee or the gumbo, which had the darkest roux and layers and layers of flavor. And while none of it is so spicy as to burn you out, it does pack a surprising kick.
The shrimp, corn and potato chowder especially sprung up on us, as it’s creamy texture and very light color was hiding a tickle of spice that caught me coughing.
“Everything has heat,” Leslie said. And it was almost true. A few of the dishes — ultra creamy macaroni and cheese and candied yams were flavorful, but not spicy. Still, it was like playing Cajun roulette with every chamber but one filled with cayenne. Most of the dishes had at least a strong spicy undertone.
As much as I usually love red beans and rice, I was more taken with the black-eyed peas, which had both heat and meat. I know they’re not universally beloved, but these had a lovely texture and a dark, savory earthiness that couldn’t be beat.
The greens were another favorite, completely robbed of bitterness and instead bathed in bacon-y goodness. It’s not vegetarian, but these vegetables were all very carnivore friendly.
Darcy didn’t dislike the catfish almondine so much as she preferred the blackened version. The almondine has a mild sweetness from the almond flour breading. You might be more familiar with cornmeal-crusted catfish, which I also love, but these delicate, firm little strips of fried catfish are impossible for me to resist. If you eat all the way through the first helping, don’t worry — more is on the way.
The blackened catfish had a ton of flavor, but, surprisingly, very little heat. If you’re worried about getting burnt up, this is a perfect choice. Ditto the fried chicken, which has just a touch of heat and a nice sweet spice mix seasoning the batter. The chicken was crisp and not at all greasy, with one of the best flavored crusts I’ve had round these parts.
If you get gumbo, which you should, please be aware there are crab shells in there. That’s how real gumbo is made. Eat around them. You’ll be fine.
At the end of the meal, the server will drop off a basket of beignets covered in powdered sugar. One reason I loved these was, despite the pile of sugar, they weren’t overly sweet. The powder melts into the crust, but the majority of the sweetness comes from the fried dough. It’s a softer, less abrasive sweetness and one I quite enjoy.
Well, that’s it for our first Pie Junkie Cheat Day. We’ll be back with another next month, but in the meantime, if you’re looking to treat yourself, get over to Pie Junkie, 1711 NW 16th St. and tell them Greg sent you. It won’t get you anything free. They might actually charge you more. But it’ll make me giggle, anyway.