Qualifier: I come from a restaurant family, worked in NY and FL in 3-4 star places and worked front and back of house for many yrs. so I know food and service.
I have to say I am really mad at myself. we have lived in the area for over 10 yrs and have thought to go there a few times and did not. kicking myself now as I think about how many wonderful (and close to home) meals I have missed. Living in Alexandria usually means a 25-50 minute drive for good food. with that said.
This place is busy if you don't have reservations on a weekend forget it. (call ahead to be sure)
we were sat within less than 10 minutes of our reservation time (party of 2).
promptly greeted and drinks received, in fact service was very good throughout (thanks Zack!). they actually have busboys/girls something nearly non existent anymore.
for an App we tried the crab cakes and Etouffee. the 2 crab cakes was perfectly done with a "blackened" but not overly spicy pan sear. good mixture of crab and stuffing (perhaps a tad more crab or left a bit chunky would be better) and the roulade served with it was perfect.
the Etouffee was one of the best I have had and well worth the $7.95 a cup. no one spice was over powering a well blended flavor explosion with lots of crab/mud bugs (crawfish). my wife who is not the slightest bit adventurist loved it.
We both had salads, sadly missing was tomatoes but the mixed greens were good and the inclusion of radish a pleasant surprise. I got the blue cheese and was happy to see the large amount of real blue cheese chunks.
My wife ordered blackened Halibut (we asked for light blackening and received exactly that). it was the largest piece of a high end fish ($15-20 a lb) I have ever seen served at a restaurant (about 2x what you get at Chart House), of course that put a smile upon my face as I knew I would get 1/2. She had the boiled potatoes and green beans, both excellent. the fish flaked apart as it should yet still moist.
I ordered the Cajun sampler as I really wanted to see what this place could do with various items.
I was not disappointed. chicken, shrimp and Filet, each with their own seasonings each very good. the chicken could have used a little more "heat" but that's personal preference. I am a big eater and there was a large amount of food, add to that it comes with red beans and rice and gumbo both were awesome and each flavored differently with some heat but not over bearing at all. again no one spice stood out but had a balance of flavors.
as if that wasn't enough food already they make their desserts in house so we had to try.
we got the Key Lime Pie, this is REAL key lime (not that gross green stuff you might find some places, right Zack?) it had a perfect blend of sweet and tangy with that little "bite" at the end from the limes.
we also had the chocolate opera cake. I am not a big fan of opera crème but those of you who are this is for you. the raspberry drizzle made it. the cake was very moist. its so sweet I think a scoop if vanilla ice cream would help.
the only downside to the place is its very loud. its not a good first few dates place. been married awhile? go!
they have an outdoor patio not sure if they serve out there or not.. if so that would be much quieter and an ok look at the Licking river.
we now have added a place to our top 10 and it makes into the top 5, I don't think we will be going to Pappadeaux's nearly as much now. and to think this little gem was right down the road the whole time.. ARGHHH..