7 Sensational Gumbo Spots In Los Angeles
Gumbo is one of the American South's most decadent, and most contested, exports. Louisianans have long claimed ownership of the stew, due to its combination of culinary influences from along the Gulf Coast — West African, American Indian, French. The dish has many styles — chicken vs. crab, thick vs. watery, red vs. brown — some of which originate in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. Whatever your preference, it's an excellent comfort food, equally suited for balmy summer days and cold wintry nights of Los Angeles. Here are the seven of the best gumbos around the city.
Sweet Blessings by Cyler
A meal at Van Nuys soul food joint Sweet Blessings by Cyler is something of a religious experience, not necessarily for the customer (although the food is on a higher plane) but definitely for chef Katina "Ms. Kat" Cyler and her husband, Ron. They opened the place last September and Cyler regularly prays for its success on Instagram, hence the restaurant's name. She makes a lovely golden gumbo with a roux recipe she learned in her homestate of Florida and a hearty helping of scallops, swordfish, and crawfish. The trick is getting some. Sweet Blessings has a small revolving menu (the Cylers are frequently busy catering for military functions) and the gumbo is only available on Fridays and Saturdays. Plan accordingly.
14126 Sherman Way, Ste. 1, Van Nuys. 818-285-8437.
Preux & Proper
Perhaps the most lauded of L.A.'s high-end Cajun establishments, Preux & Proper isn't cheap. Collard greens cost $18, dungeness crab hushpuppies go for $22 and a massive cast-iron pot of gumbo will set you back $44 but it is one of the most satisfying stews in the city. A delicate lobster broth replaces traditional roux, crunchy Geechie Boy Mill farro steps in for white rice and masses of oysters, mussels and black tiger shrimp create an unexpectedly briny intensity that's missing from most gumbos. Despite the chunk it takes out of your wallet, it's a must-try, especially for a big party willing to split the bill.
840 S. Spring St., downtown L.A. 213-896-0090.
"Tastes so good you wanna tell somebody!," says the website for Cafe Creole. Founded by Eric Lanueville in 2014 and managed by Keith Adams, this small charmer in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza approaches traditional bayou recipes with reverence. Its gumbo features jumbo shrimp, sliced chicken and chicken sausage in a hickory-colored, crab-seasoned roux pulled from Lanueville's home state of Louisiana. The jambalaya, with its bright red vegetable roux, is every bit the gumbo's equal. Cafe Creole's food court digs look inauspicious but its devoted patrons know it's a gem.
3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw. 323-389-8355.
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Stevie's Creole Cafe
Encino residents mourned when Stevie's Creole Cafe and Bar closed its original Ventura Blvd. location in 2015 after 29 years. Hope sprang anew when it reopened in 2016 along Pico Blvd., where it appears to be thriving. The food, in particular the seafood gumbo, is as strong as ever. At $24 for a large bowl, it isn't cheap but the abundance of shellfish and the intensity of the sausage make it worth every penny. Paired with a housemade Cool Breeze lemonade, it's the pinnacle of Cajun cuisine.
5545 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 213-413-2494.
Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking
The six excellent gumbos at Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking, which has three locations, all share one thing: They're full of onions, bell peppers and celery (the Holy Trinity of so many Cajun recipes). The roux at Ritter's is viscous and smoky, like mole or melted chocolate, rendered thicker by okra. For those bored of the classics (crab and chicken), the microchain offers two luxury renditions: lobster gumbo ($26 for 24 oz.) and the house special, made with shrimp, clam, crab and whitefish ($23). The Huntington Beach and Alhambra locations are usually cramped, so head to the brick-and-mortar in Santa Ana for a less hectic experience.
1800 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra. 626-872-6464.
180 5th St., Unit 130, Huntington Beach. 714-536-7733.
1421 W. MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana. 714-850-1380.
Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen
Billed as the "world's first Cajun vegan restaurant," Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen offers the kind of countertop service common in founder Krimsey Ramsey's native Baton Rouge. The cozy-casual vibe, like her food, is calibrated to suit the broadest possible tastes. The gumbo, with its inky roux, sassafras filè, vegan sausage and fragrant parsley rice, is particularly inviting, and it's chunky enough for two hungry people to split. Adventurous eaters should try the gumbalaya bowl, a Franksteinian fusion of two Cajun standards spiced with the house hot sauce (although we recommend adding a splash of Crystal to light the fire). Ramsey seems to have found her niche. She's getting ready to open a Silver Lake location.
12900 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. 818-308-6166.
Juun Dai'Re, a native Angeleno of Creole descent who owns and cooks for the Creole City food truck, describes his cuisine as "comfort food from the heart." Ironically, his preparations are so decadent and the portions so large they might stop your heart. Still, it's hard to complain. Creole City makes a superb gumbo, chunky with okra and bursting with spicy andouille sausage, chicken, seafood or all three. Hefty as these bowls are, only a fool would skip out on Dai'Re's peach cobbler, which deserves its own story.
Daily schedule available at firstname.lastname@example.org. 626-625-2444.