(Not So) Cajun Maggie's
What is bourbon chicken anyway? Not any kind of authentic Cajun food, that seems to be certain. It’s much more like American Chinese food, pretty similar in a lot of ways to teriyaki, which I realize is Japanese rather than Chinese, but that’s beside the point as the predominating influence here is clearly American. If you’ve got a craving for bourbon chicken and want to make it at home you can go to my new favorite website bourbonchickenspices.com whose secret sauces and techniques will allow you to make bourbon chicken “the same or even better than the malls.”
That has got to be the most questionable endorsement of a food product I’ve ever seen, but I’ve had bourbon chicken at malls, airports, and a few other places, and given the context, it’s pretty damn good. Nothing to chase to the ends of the earth, but a safe bet when you’re trapped in a culinary wasteland like an airport or the financial district.
And the bourbon chicken at Cajun Maggies on John St. between Broadway and Nassau is no exception and may be — dare I say? — “even better than the malls.”
If it’s not abundantly clear already, let me assure you that Cajun Maggie’s is not really all that Cajun. They have some food that is Cajun-y like “jambalaya rice,” but it’s much more of an American Chinese restaurant than anything Justin Wilson would recognize, I gar-on-tee. No crawfish here, étouffée or otherwise.
But once you get past that, I would argue that there is good eatin’ to be had. A meat, rice and two sides are $5.95 and the portions are very generous, probably enough for two meals for some folks. I find it a nice break when I want a chicken and rice sort of thing but am tired of street meat.
(I take that back. I am never tired of street meat. That kind of crazy talk will get me fired for sure. But variety is the spice of life and this is a good street meat variation.)
The otherwise very nice people who served me my food were VERY displeased by my picture-taking, so after a confusing exchange I would up having them dump my freshly served plate of food into a take-out container. They were quite gracious about the whole thing ultimately, and I really only tell you this in order to point out that there is a lot more chicken here than meets the eye as a lot of it wound up buried under rice. Don’t be deceived.
On the meat side of things, there are 5 or 6 options, but I’ve only tried two so far. The sweet and sour chicken is very standard, but a good rendition of a generally pretty lackluster dish. You might be able to do better at one of the straight-up Chinese restaurants in the area, but it won’t come with sides for this price. The bourbon chicken is better, in my opinion. Soy sauce-based and sweet, but more interesting than your typical teriyaki. There’s also a BBQ chicken and a couple of others that I’ll get around to trying one of these days.
There are three kinds of rice — white, dirty, and “jambalaya.” I have to say that under these circumstances I almost always go for white. I don’t know if this makes me unadventurous or just a rube, but it’s just the way I am. I did order jambalaya one time, which turned out to be a mistake for two reasons: It cost a dollar extra and it had tiny shrimp in it. The former was clearly marked, but the latter was a real surprise when I opened my box of food. I love me some shrimps, ya’ll, but they’re not exactly what I want in my rice with my bourbon chicken. I’ve not tried the dirty rice, but if you want to go for it, just make sure you’re clear on its crustacean content before ordering.
The sides are the big selling point to me here. Not that they’re spectacular, but eating a green vegetable of any kind with my heaping pile of rice and meat makes me feel very wholesome. I got green beans and corn, both of which were good. They were pretty clearly both frozen, but these two happen to be vegetables that freeze very well, so I was perfectly happy. There’s also carrots, beans, and potatoes. I’m pretty sure these have been the choices every time I’ve stepped in, but they may switch things up from time to time.
Finally, there’s a bin full of lettuce, though I’m not sure whether this is a side or a rice-replacement option. I think it’s the latter, though I bet they would serve it to you as a side. Maybe it’s just a decoration. Who knows? I’ve never seen it served to anyone. I guess nobody realizes what a classic Cajun specialty it is.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Nice break from standard halal street meat.
- Real veggies instead of limp lettuce.
- Very large serving sizes.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Sacre bleu! In Louisiana, they throw people in jail for serving food like this and calling it Cajun.
- There may be corn and green beans, but they came straight out of the deep freeze and belong in a middle school cafeteria.
- The “bourbon” sauce is cloyingly sweet and doesn’t have a hint of heat.
- “NO PICTURES!” seems to be their catchphrase, and I desperately need to photograph everything I eat.
Cajun Maggie’s ,12 John St. (btw. B’way and Nassau)