Rating Fat Tuesdays Cajun & Blues

Food: () Catfish is good, but classic Cajun dishes are mediocre; menu diminished because dishes are always unavailable

Service: ()Servers are well intentioned but frustrated by management’s inability to maintain food and beverage inventory

Atmosphere: () There’s a stage, posters on the walls, but too little atmosphere for cavernous rooms painted dark purple

More Info

Location: 3105 NE O.B. Riley Road (Shilo Inn & Suites), Bend

Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Cajun and Creole

Price range: Appetizers $10 to $16, sandwiches $12 to $16, entrees $13 to $25

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Several $6 meal options

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Salads and veggie pizza

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Large patio

Reservations: Unnecessary

Contact: fattuesdaysbend.com, 541-382-4082

When Fat Tuesdays Cajun & Blues closed its south-side Bend location last fall, I thought a new location might help the New Orleans-style restaurant to overcome problems plaguing it since its January 2015 opening.

I’m sad to report — after two visits to the new store on N. U.S. Highway 97, at the Shilo Inn & Suites — that it’s even less inviting than before.

Inventory remains a major problem. The food, never outstanding, remains disappointing, as does the service. The atmosphere, in the main dining room and the adjacent lounge, does nothing to inspire a Bourbon Street flavor.

Even the restaurant’s website and Facebook page misinform diners that Fat Tuesdays is open for lunch when, indeed, it is not. The website promises a lunch buffet that hasn’t been served in months. And it displays a phone number that’s no longer in use.

Moreover, Fat Tuesdays is unable to consistently fill orders that the menu promises. This was an issue at its former address (when they were variously out of ribs, prawns, crab and fried oysters), and it remains so today. On the first of my two recent visits, the restaurant had no crab cakes, fried oysters nor steak. On the second, it was out of black-eyed peas, beignets and steak. Really, out of steak? The management here has completely lost track of its inventory.

Dining room

When I arrived for lunch at the new Fat Tuesdays — its name appears on a roadside marquee, but not on the restaurant building — it was closed, and there was no sign posted with dining hours. I walked next door to the front desk of the Shilo Inn, where the staff told me they had no idea when the restaurant would open.

In the early evening, I found it open. A pair of black-clad servers were enjoying a cigarette outside the front door. The reek of smoke on their clothing followed them inside to the table at which I was seated with my dining companion.

Two tiny cornmeal-jalapeño muffins, delivered with pats of butter, began our meal.

I ordered a sampler of house specials to be able to try a variety of New Orleans-style dishes. Separate cups of gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée and red beans and rice were delivered on a single plate. I requested them “three-star” spicy, on a scale of four.

For the most part, they all tasted the same. Only the traditional red beans and rice, its kidney beans simmered with smoked ham hock and hot links in Cajun spices, had a distinctive flavor. But its white rice was surprisingly dry.

From a flavor standpoint, it was difficult to tell the difference between the jambalaya, the gumbo and the crawfish étouffée, somewhat shocking for three made-from-scratch dishes that should each be distinctive. The gumbo was stewed with big chunks of chicken, andouille sausage and green pepper rather than okra, as might be the norm. The menu said there were shrimp in the gumbo, as well, but I didn’t find any.

The jambalaya also had chicken and andouille, simmered and thickened with a Cajun roux. The étouffée promised “crawfish tail meat smothered with Cajun trinity” of onions, bell pepper and celery. It’s possible they were included in the garlicky blend, but I know there were no more than two crawfish tails. And they aren’t very big to begin with.

My friend was more accepting of her catfish, which was pan-fried and blackened with red Cajun spices. She said it tasted better with a side of aioli, for which she made a special request. Her entree came with a choice of two sides; she preferred a medley of steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower to an unexceptional coleslaw.

Music lounge

The atmosphere was nothing to sing about. There was an attempt at decoration, but it mostly involved painting the walls of the dining room and lounge a deep purple. Framed posters hang on some walls, but the mood suggested by a giant mural in the front corridor didn’t carry through the remainder of the restaurant.

The dining room, at least, has large windows that open onto the hotel’s central courtyard, with its pool and fountain. Deck seating for sunny summer evenings complements 50 spots indoors, at tables and booths atop concrete. A soundtrack of good Delta blues music provided background for our meal, even if service was less attentive than it might have been.

When I returned alone, a week-and-a-half later, for a light dinner in the 40-seat lounge, the blues track had been replaced by classic rock radio — Blondie, America, Elton John. There was no Muddy Waters, no B.B. King. A large central stage was lit, but no performance was forthcoming on this quiet evening. “Fat Tuesday” is the English translation of the French “Mardi Gras,” but there would be no party tonight. Indeed, I was the only diner.

I asked the bartender-server about the wine selection. She told me she had chardonnay. Nothing else. She apologized. No red wines. No sparkling wines. But she had six beers on tap, so I went that route.

For my meal, I ordered a smoked, pulled-pork sandwich with a simple green salad instead of Cajun fries. Tossed with a mildly spicy barbecue sauce and topped with a creamy coleslaw, it was presented on a good-sized hoagie bun that spent a little too long in the toaster oven: It was significantly burnt around the edges.

By this time, however, I really didn’t care. The pork was tender; the sandwich was edible. And I doubt that I’ll be returning.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com.

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