Good lord, that dinner at Roux was great. Not great as in a new, transcendent apex of haute cuisine; great as in—from start to finish—inarguably tasty and completely satisfying, and, when appropriate, actually spicy. And messy, too. Roux knows when you need a hot towel to clean your happy mitts.
This is what we ate that night.
Fried chicken gizzards ($5): Let us admit that gizzards can be gross. Gizzard, per Merriam-Webster: "the muscular enlargement of the alimentary canal of birds that has usually thick muscular walls and a tough horny lining for grinding the food." This does not sound delicious. The gizzards you get from, say, under a glowing heat lamp at a gas station are likely to be not just greasy, but chewy, too (due to the whole muscular/tough/horny thing). Gizzards are for true-blue fans of weird-meat-bits. The gizzards at Roux, however, have light, non-oily, golden-brown jackets and zero sudden, unpleasant, hard-to-chew parts; they are soft, faintly musky, and really good. If you can stand the idea of eating gizzards—even if you've disliked them before—you should try these. Also, the Creole honey mustard dipping sauce is just right: creamy and spicy-sweet.
Fried rabbit saddle ($12): Wait, why did we order more fried food? Oh, never mind: This rabbit, with its super-crisp, light coating and juicy meat, is, possibly, better than fried chicken. It comes with a very chivey, nicely lemony potato salad, the kind with hard-boiled egg in it, like Mom makes but better (sorry, Mom).
Shrimp and grits ($12): As you may know, Roux is the sit-down place from Matt Lewis, named after the combination of hot butter and flour that starts out lots of recipes in his native New Orleans. People love the Creole food from Lewis's truck, Where Ya at Matt; for Roux, he's joined up with chef Mike Robertshaw, who came from Belltown's Local 360, where people loved his food until he was reportedly fired for being too loud in the open kitchen. He didn't do any shouting while I was at Roux, but: Yell all you want, sir. These ultra-creamy grits have lots of strong cheddar melted into them, and the three big head-on gulf shrimp are a joy to dismember: sweet-tasting, not even slightly overcooked. This dish also has an excellent sauce of tomatoes and peppers and Creole spice, nice and oily for added messiness; the menu indicated that Abita amber beer is involved as well, which you can (and should) also drink. Stevie Wonder played while I ate this food, then there was a hot towel. The joy!
Jambalaya ($18): This also comes with peel-and-eat shrimp, which I was anti-disappointed to see more of. The thing you need to know about this jambalaya, though, is that it is spicy in a way that restaurant jambalaya, especially in Seattle, is usually scared to be. The heat has a fullness to it that's indicative of the use of fresh hot peppers, a lingering, nuanced burn; there's lots of shredded chicken, not quite enough sausage, and the right amount of rice. The spiciness of this jambalaya tells your head a story, starting at the sides of your tongue, then working around to the roof of your mouth, where the slight burning sensation rises up into your brain.
Tagliatelle carbonara ($17): What is this doing on the menu at Roux? If adding oysters makes pasta carbonara Creole, let all carbonara everywhere experience this transformation, because this is basically pasta plus angels on horseback, which is sheer genius. Melted leeks make it even better. The only problem with this masterpiece is that it needs more bits of oyster so that every bite can be perfect.
We were too full for dessert. But on a second visit, the beignets ($4), covered in a snowy ton of powdered sugar, were exactly what puffy squares of fried dough covered in a snowy ton of powdered sugar should be. Also excellent: the baby greens salad ($6, with an admirable amount of Rogue blue cheese, pumpkin seeds, and sweet-tart cider dressing) and the root-beer-barbecued pork ribs ($12, of the lacquered-and-caramelized instead of saucy variety, yet still worthy of more hot towels, and served with "fizzy grapes," which are regular grapes on whippets). Both the cauliflower soup ($8) and the braised rabbit leg ($18) were more self-consciously fancied-up and thus, counterintuitively, less exciting. The hush puppies ($5) were gummy in the middle, which making them smaller would fix.
Ian Cargill, who possesses the enviable title of Director of Libations at Roux, has previously done libation duty at Canon and Tavern Law. The Pleasing Savisky ($11, cachaça, lemon, apricot, sparkling wine) is reportedly named after a compatriot barkeep, and if she is as flowery, tart, and peachy as the drink, she must be awesome. The Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle ($10, aged rum, ginger beer, and bitters) tasted like being on a porch in hot weather with men wearing seersucker suits.
The bar has recipes for Southern classics—sazerac, Arnaud's special, milk punch—in chalk up above it, and the marble counter makes a big horseshoe around to the open kitchen on the other side. There are booths, slate shingles, weathered beams, and a few more details, but the overall effect is relatively minimalist. Personally, I love what they haven't done with the place. It used to be the Buckaroo Tavern, and not making it into a neo-roadhouse or a fake barn feels appropriately respectful of that fact.
Roux also makes po'boys at lunch and weekend brunch, which both sound damn good. As for service, it can be a little bit leisurely. Fine by me. I can wait.