The Classy Alcoholic has hit it big as Arizona’s #1 beer and wine blogger these last couple of years. But just like Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Coldplay and other great conquerors before me I knew I wasn’t going to just settle for the territories I had. I needed to expand my influence. And that’s why I’ve decided to branch out my blog to include food reviews. Because nothing goes better with beer and wine than tears. And then food after.
Up to this point my blog was always intended to support small businesses and I would never dream of doing this just to get free drinks from my Arizona craft beer family. But I can’t imagine food bloggers aren’t getting away with scoring free meals for themselves all the time so I decided to get in on the action. This means you can officially consider me a “traveling foodie.” I’m like Anthony Bourdain, minus heroin, plus sadness, divided by the fact that I’m Mexican.
I descended upon the 2nd annual Great Southwest Cajun Fest in Chandler, AZ on April 22, 2017 ready to meet some food vendors so I could promote them on my blog and then harass them for free shit. I grew up eating Cajun seafood as a little fat kid so I was excited to have some of it make its way to the desert. It was about 99 degrees in Chandler this day so food poisoning was pretty much guaranteed. But a few days of painful fish dumps seemed worth it for some of that sweet, sweet crawfish action.
The doors opened at Noon and I headed straight for the biggest franchise I could find. Now, I didn’t actually try to get free food at this event. I know I need to build a name for myself first before I’m drowning in comped meals. So I paid for my entry and I bought every meal you see here. But if you’re one of the organizers of the Great Southwest Cajun Fest you should Like my Facebook page and send me a direct message next year on how I can get into your 2018 event for free if I’m still alive, which is nowhere near a guarantee.
12:05PM – Angry Crab Shack
With 6 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area (spanning all the way from Peoria to East Mesa) Angry Crab is THE name for Cajun seafood in Arizona right now. They serve you buckets of boiled crawfish, shrimp, crab legs and other sea-based goodies as well as stuff liked pulled pork BBQ sandwiches at some of their locations. Their Cajun Fest menu had a special crawfish roll that wasn’t served at any of the restaurants so I went right for it.
For those of you who don’t know, crawfish are basically just tiny little lobsters. You break the little guys in half and eat the tail meat. They have meat in their claws like lobsters do but if you have crawfish that are only about one-to-two inches long you’re not getting much out of there. Some people enjoy sucking the top half and getting the Cajun-flavored juices out of the crawfish’s body too. If you’re still reading this and haven’t gone somewhere to throw up I can assure you that crawfish are delicious.
The Angry Crab roll was served cold (as it should be) on a toasted, buttered bun. I like my crawfish spicy and the roll was lacking in that department. It was understandable that they didn’t want to overwhelm some festival goers who might not be used to that so I added some hot sauce and went to town.
The roll was delicious and it made me want to visit one of Angry Crab Shack’s six valley locations for some more of their fabulous Cajun fare. Especially if they served it spicy. And even more especially if they hooked some shit up for free. I’m a food blogger, now Angry Crab. And you have half a dozen successful restaurants. I know you can afford to give me some free shit!
12:29PM – Creole Cajun Bistro
Located at 5070 S Gilbert Rd #400, Chandler, AZ 85249
I hopped on over to another booth to get my hands on some etouffee. That’s a stew thickened with a flour and butter mixture called roux and served with white rice. You can then add any number of things to it like shrimp, crawfish or sausage. I opted for the fried catfish.
The rice was molded into a nice little ball sitting over the stew making it look like an air balloon emerging from a murky lake flavored with onion, bell peppers and spices. Since I’m officially a food blogger now I know I have to waste some column space here talkin’ flowery about what my food looks like. As if I really gave a shit how my meal is dressed up and didn’t get into this just to shove free shit into my stupid fat face. Ultimately my job as a Traveling Foodie is, like, 87% making sure entrees look good on camera.
Anyway, the ettouffee was really good, though it did seem like the roux could’ve stood to be a bit thicker. That could also have been due to the extreme heat melting everything around me. I could feel a waterfall under my dress shirt and jacket. The fish sweats were hittin’ me hard. But I was not to be deterred. I made a note to visit Creole Cajun Bistro’s restaurant in Chandler soon. I knew I’d be in a better position to accurately review a variety of their plates indoors with the loving embrace of their air conditioning and maybe some free shit.
12:47PM – Tacos El Jefe
El Jefe was an interesting addition to the fest. I heard the dulcet tones of a bunch of Mexicans speaking Spanish to each other behind the booth so I ran straight over. Or, well, I shuffled slowly and carefully over. ‘Cause I was packed full of fish. Seeing an older Mexican lady working the grill with her family around was like looking through a window into my own childhood except this lady wasn’t obviously blasted drunk at nine in the morning like my grandma usually was. Don’t judge my grandma though. She had a hard life. Most of her children ended up in jail.
Anyway, El Jefe didn’t have a brick-and-mortar location just yet. They set up at festivals throughout town and have even made it out to Tucson. They normally have carne asada street tacos for sale but for this event they altered their recipes to include Cajun shrimp and chicken. They also had their El Jefe Nachos, which was a goddamn pizza box full of nachos. A whole pizza box! I was tempted to try it but after three delicious, extra crispy grilled Cajun shrimp tacos (with some great homemade fish sauce) I knew I wasn’t going to have room for even a small nacho plate. I’ll wait until next time I run into this awesome, friendly family.
Hey, El Jefe, follow me on Instagram. That way you can send me a direct message to let me know where you’re gonna be next. And maybe hook some shit up gratis!
1:00PM to 1:52PM – Toilet.
2:05PM – Tee’s Concessions
My last stop was another place that didn’t have a brick and mortar location and also set up shop at festivals. Tee’s Concessions’ menu didn’t have much to distinguish it as particularly Cajun. They had chicken tenders, bacon mac and cheese and some Cajun fries. But the thing that seemed like the closest fit with this festival was their lobster mac and cheese.
I ordered that and I definitely appreciated how the rich, sweet, minced pieces of lobster melted into the cheesy macaroni. It was the perfect way to class up a simple, traditionally unsophisticated meal.
I know lesser foodies would probably criticize Tee’s Concessions for not offering stuff that was specifically Cajun. But I’m not going to do that. Because I appreciate that Tee’s Concessions saw the Cajun fest as an opportunity to expand their business and that they were able to inject themselves into a communal event with a great meal that mostly fit the theme. They clearly care about making and selling good, all American food and they will not give up a shot to put in time and hard work. Good job, Tee’s Concessions. This humble beer and wine blogger can relate to you carving out a space for yourself in a food-related area where others might think you don’t quite belong. I look at you and I truly see myself……
See myself getting free shiiiiiiiiit!
Last Stop – Abita Brewing Company Tent
Which brings us to the reason I chose the Southwest Cajun Fest as the first food-related blog entry I would write. Besides being a huge fan of this style of food I also have a bit of a bone to pick with Abita, a brewery from Louisiana that has been around since the 80’s and is the 20th largest brewery in the U.S. For some reason Abita beer has a stranglehold on any Cajun-related events outside of its home state. Seriously, look at any Cajun restaurants or Mardi Gras celebrations and the ads will always have that name plastered all over it. This, despite the fact that Louisiana now has dozens of breweries operating within its borders. This, despite the fact that Abita isn’t exactly hard to get your hands on around here.
Hell, I think a few Arizona breweries should’ve been invited to this event. There’s a ton of Arizona beers that would pair well with the food options at the festival and I’m upset that Abita has monopolized any event that dumps pepper on even a single piece of goddamn shrimp.
I’ve never spoken badly about a single brewery in this blog before but Abita isn’t local and I owe them nothing. So I’m calling you out, Abita! I am officially boycotting your beer until you at least make room for some more local breweries at these kind of events or you give me some FREE SHIT.
Come on, y’all! You’re bigger than Ninkasi and Green Flash these days. You can’t even spare a t-shirt for me? I mean, I’m not gonna wear it. But it’s the principle of the matter! I’ll completely change my tune and promote you to my readers all the time if you hook me up. Trust me, Abita, I have only the tiniest shred of integrity to begin with and I’m willing to sell it all out to you. I’m the guy who sold out his own mother to Child Protective Services. And you know the worst part? I was 27, bruh. So gimmie dat free shit.
(Please note that free shit donations to The Classy Alcoholic are not tax deductible.)