Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Shrimp and Grits at Beaux Coo Daiquiris and Cajun Eats - One Year Anniversary

Beaux Coo's Sangria Daiquiri

"My Shrimp and Grits story reaches back to 1974, when as a college student in south Louisiana..."

Beaux Coo's Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits at Beaux Coo Daiquiris and Cajun Eats - One Year Anniversary

My Shrimp and Grits story reaches back to 1974, when as a college student in south Louisiana, I worked as a cocktail waitress, and became casually acquainted with the “regulars” who drank in the establishment. It was natural for them to want to have chatty conversations with the young women who served them.

They tipped well, so of course I acted interested while they told me how important they were, how rich they were, how annoying their wives were, how worthless their children were, “mah children don’t have a bit-a-sense.”

One evening as I was serving Mr. Manny his standard cocktail-hour lineup, four Dewars with a splash of soda and a lemon twist, and a small plate of cheese, sausage and fried catfish bits with tartar sauce on the side, I realized something had changed. Instead of the routine chit-chat, Mr. Manny described the Shrimp and Grits casserole loaded with butter his wife had prepared for him to eat while she was away visiting her sister. Mr. Manny was ecstatic, practically panting, over the thought of going home to his Shrimp and Grits casserole, and to his quiet house, after he finished knocking back his four Dewars with a splash of soda and a lemon twist.

Unfortunately his wife wasn’t there to heat up the casserole. While removing it from the oven, the drunk fool splattered grits over the top of his feet. We didn’t see Mr. Manny in the bar for a few days.

The history of Shrimp and Grits has been extensively recorded. Some food historians assert the dish originated in Africa, but most believe corn-harvesting Native Americans invented grits, and industrious fishermen in Southern coastal regions added shrimp to grits for a healthy breakfast. A nineteenth century Louisiana publication documents the recipe, so does an early-century Charleston cookbook. In more recent times, food writer Nathalie Dupree dedicated an entire cookbook to Shrimp and Grits recipes. Illustrious food writer Rob Walsh, whom I admire and who split for Ireland, chimed in on the topic in the Houston Press in 2008.

Food writers credit Chef Bill Neal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for starting the trend of ramping up Shrimp and Grits with cheese, mushrooms, bacon and other rich ingredients, in 1982. Once Neal set this trajectory in motion, decadent variations of the dish began to appear as entrée items in expensive restaurants around the South. When New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne published Neal’s recipe in 1985, Shrimp and Grits became widely known beyond the South.

One can find high-priced, elaborate versions of Shrimp and Grits in swanky Houston restaurants. Brennan’s in downtown Houston, for instance, adds goat cheese, marinated sweet peppers, parsnip chips and brandy to their Shrimp and Grits. I’m not suggesting Brennan’s concoction isn’t worth the price. To the contrary, I’ve never had anything at Brennan’s that wasn’t outstanding, but that’s to be expected from a place sprouted in the late Ella Brennan’s empire. Miss Ella’s tinkering with traditional New Orleans French and Creole cuisine, as well as her amplifying the actual restaurant experience, harnessed the world’s attention. If you’ve ever dined at Houston Brennan’s while Yvonne Washington exploded into “Respect,” or “Proud Mary” with saxophones full throttle, you would understand the sort of groundwork Ms. Ella laid. Hands down, Houston Brennan’s is superb. Although it might not be perched on the lowest shelf in regards to price.

Want low-priced Shrimp and Grits? I found some at Beaux Coo Daiquiris and Cajun Eats.

Beaux Coo is a casual place. Those interested in an upscale experience, will find the ambience somewhat disrupted by eight large screen TVs and a frozen Daiquiri drive-through window. If, on the other hand, all you care about are tasty Shrimp and Grits at a low price, look no further.

What must it be like to get a new endeavor off the ground, to fire up the coals, fan them and hope it flies? When I visited Beaux Coo in January, I learned the restaurant had opened on May 5, 2018. The owners renovated an awful building that used to be a Jack-in-the-Box, then it was a Title Max. They pulled up the ugly blue carpet, laid a fresh floor, raised the ceiling, and built an outdoor patio.

If Shrimp and Grits don’t please you, you can order Alligator. Visit Beaux Coo on May 5, and wish them happy one-year anniversary.

Beaux Coo Daiquiris and Cajun Eats
5600 Richmond, Houston Texas 

Beaux Coo's Fried Catfish

Beaux Coo's Burger
Beaux Coo's Boiled Shrimp

Images from Beaux Coo’s website and facebook:

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