A Look Inside the Free Man Cajun Cafe and Lounge

Hi there!  Since I didn’t get a chance to do a food review last month, here’s one early this month.  This week, I’ll introduce you to the Free Man Cajun Cafe and Lounge.  It’s another one of Deep Ellum’s many restaurants, also on Commerce Street (up the road from the Dancing Marlin, actually).  Check out their website (linked above) for their address and other information.  Also, it’s not a seafood place!

Here’s a reminder of the rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A look around the place.

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Accessibility… It’s actually really accessible unless they’re super packed and you have to squeeze all the way into the back for a table.  Even then, it’s mostly just a matter of asking people to move, which is definitely one of my least favorite things to do.  Most people are super nice about it, but it’s still not something I enjoy.  Anyway, I like the table set up at Free Man’s.  Aside from being a good height, the half-booth half-chair arrangement is good for me AND lets whomever I’m with have a choice (namely, Dad).

The service here is kind of hit and miss in a lot of ways.  A lot of the time, I’m invisible, but occasionally (like this last time) I’m treated normally.  To be fair, we usually go when there’s live music (7pm-2am every day), so it’s really hard to hear me anyway, but I prefer it when waiters at least try to talk to me.  We went last Thursday around four in the afternoon, so maybe that’s why the waitress treated me like a person right off the bat.  Also, sometimes the staff is really attentive, sometimes not.  It just depends on how busy they are.  Speaking of busy, if they are super busy, the food comes out fairly slow, but if they’re not, it has a tendency to come out boom boom boom, so take that into account when you order.

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Blackened shrimp cocktail and hot crab dip.

Onto the thing everyone cares about: the food!  We went with the blackened shrimp cocktail and the hot crab dip for appetizers this time.  It was our first time trying the cocktail, and I’m happy to say it was super yummy.  There was a little spice to it, but not much, and the shrimp were nicely cooked.  As far as the crab dip goes, it’s cheese, crab, and bread!  You can’t go wrong.

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My Cajun crawfish pasta.
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Dad’s crawfish etouffee.
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Half-eaten gumbo (it’s hard to remember pictures when food is around).

The entrees.  Back when we first started going to Free Man’s, the menu was extremely limited (not a bad thing at all).  They still have a fairly small selection, but it’s slowly growing.  My go-to is usually the Cajun crawfish pasta.  It’s got a lovely creamy sauce and they top it with chicken.  I love it.  Dad went for the etouffee this time, which is also delicious.  They don’t make it too spicy, but they have a number of hot sauces on the table for you heat lovers to choose from.  We also split a cup of gumbo (yum!).  They do it right!  Plus, the entrees come with a hunk of cornbread.  I’m not a big fan of cornbread, but this stuff has won me over.  Try it.  You might like it.

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Bacon cheesecake with a bite missing.
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Cut into cranberry wheat bread pudding (aka Heaven on a plate).

The dessert!  Again, you have a limited choice, but that’s totally okay here.  Dad tried the bacon cheesecake (something new since our last trip).  Sounds absolutely amazing, right?  Looks tasty, no?  Honestly, it’s kind of meh.  It’s one of those “at least we can say we tried it” experiences.  The bread pudding, on the other hand, has got to be the BEST pudding of its kind that has entered my mouth.  You want a foodgasm?  Go get some.  Don’t like bread pudding?  Try it anyway!

And now, the thing no one wants to talk about: the price.  It’s not the cheapest meal you can find, but it’s not horribly expensive.  Go one evening, listen to some live jazz, and relax.  You’ll get your money’s worth.

My overall rating:
MMMM

See you next week!

A Look Inside St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

Hey there!  It’s been another week, so I suppose it’s time for me to start rambling again.  Instead of the usual, I’d say it’s about time to do another food review!  This month, I think I’ll give St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin over in Deep Ellum its due.  It’s on Commerce for all those familiar with the area.  Everyone else should check their website (linked above).  Now, I know I promised you something different in the last food blog, and it is different.  I swear it’s not JUST seafood.  They have all sorts of things.  At least it’s not another oyster bar.  Anyhoo, here’s your reminder of the rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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These stirrers used to say St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin, but I suppose times change. Still pretty neat!

As usual, let’s start with accessibility.  It’s a bit of a tight fit navigating the tables for larger wheelchairs (like my own), especially if the Dancing Marlin is packed.  We usually go on Sunday evenings or late afternoons during the week to avoid crowds.  Aside from that, the tables are a great height.  Most of them are rectangular, but they do have some round tables if those work better for you.  Occasionally, the floor feels like it’s going to give way (not technically an accessibility issue, but extra scary when you’re in a heavy chair), so it’s kind of an adventure!

The service.  The wait staff at the Dancing Marlin gets bonus points because they don’t normally act like I’m invisible.  That’s always a good thing.  The waiter today was attentive (kept our drinks full, answered questions, etc.), didn’t bring our food out too fast (we had time to finish things), and never once made us feel rushed.  The staff also consisted of people  who calmly dealt with someone who was sitting outside complaining about a fly in their drink (it’s summer in Texas and you’re drinking wine outside.  Put something over your glass if you don’t want flies in it. C’mon, now).  No complaints there.

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Calamari and me!

Now, the important stuff: food!  For an appetizer, we got calamari.  It was good.  Not too chewy.  Had a nice crust.  It wasn’t my favorite thing there, but it was tasty.  Now, if you like garlic half as much as I do, I definitely suggest the baked garlic appetizer.  Yes, they bake garlic.  For the not-so-garlicky people, there are other delicious choices as well.

As far as entrees go, they have a decent selection from pizzas to pastas, burgers to hot dogs.  The Dancing Marlin also has a tuna steak (it comes in a number of ways).  Dad got the grilled tuna salad (tuna steak on a salad) with grilled mushrooms, onions, and jalapeños.  They sure know how to cook a tuna steak!  Dad always gets it rare (how else would you eat it), so it’s pink and tender and delicious.  And the salad definitely wasn’t skimpy.  It was a real meal.

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Dad’s salad.

I usually get penne with red clam sauce (highly recommend it), but I decided to get something different this time.  I went with the F. B. Combo (catfish fillet and shrimp) with pasta salad instead of fries.  The fish and shrimp were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The breading wasn’t salty, but seasoned nicely.  And the pasta salad… I normally don’t like pasta salad, but I figured I’d give it a shot.  It was actually pretty yummy!  I was impressed.

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My meal.

Dessert.  The selection here is pretty strange.  Baklava, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and ice cream bars.  Personally, I suggest the baklava.  It’s a tiny serving, but super sweet, and a perfect little end to a wonderful meal.

And, of course, we must talk about price.  It’s actually not too bad.  It’s not often we look at a check expecting it to be a certain amount and have it turn out to be less.  It happens at the Dancing Marlin.

My overall rating:
MMMM

See you next week with more writerly randomness!