The Big Easy Grille & Raw Bar 

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New Orleans has a reputation, and whether you've been there or not, you've got some associations. Everybody connects this cosmopolitan town with jazz, with the historic French Quarter, the notorious Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras. has developed these themes, although it's hard to achieve the down-at-the-heels-but-on-top-of-the-world ambience of New Orleans in a suburban West End shopping-center restaurant. And it's equally difficult to recreate the earthy essence of Cajun cooking.

Once you've settled in with your drink of choice, you may want a selection from the raw bar (market-priced), or with menu in hand, you'll find that the appetizers ($4.95-$7.95) are old standbys with a bit of Cajun or Creole finishing: potato skins topped with fried oysters and bacon; chicken wings sauced with a "Voodoo" bourbon concoction; crisp-fried crawfish tails with a tangy "secret" sauce.

The dinner "specialties" ($11.95-$15.95) get more inspiration from bayou country. Jambalaya, available as a full or half order ($11.95/6.95) was good with a fresh-tasting tomato sauce redolent with the holy trinity of Cajun and Creole cooking — onion, green pepper and celery — along with sausage, chicken and shrimp, and the other fundamental, rice. I suspect Redfish Wellington won't make the next menu, and in this execution it shouldn't. Two smallish redfish filets were topped with an abbreviated lattice of puff pastry and topped with a sauce. If it had not been for the "lagniappe" (a little extra), a platter of squash and red beans and rice, this would have been a meager and inadequate offering.

The Big Easy gives us a hint of New Orleans, titillating rather than exploring, but truth be known, we'll get the real experience only in the real Big Easy.


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