Pappadeaux brings a unique Cajun-inspired menu from the bayou to the 'burbs. In addition to having top-notch seafood mainstays like Alaskan King Crab legs and live Maine lobsters, this lively joint gives us Midwesterners a chance to try seafood gumbo, boiled crawfish and fried alligator (it really does taste kind of like chicken). The restaurant also has other Southern favorites like shrimp and crawfish etouffee, dirty rice, oysters Baton Rouge and a variety of fried seafood dishes. You can spend a lot if you decide to go with the filet mignon and Australian lobster tail ($50) or one of the chef's special fish selections ($17-28). But to get the full Cajun experience, it may be better to try sampling appetizers ($6-$12), oysters ($10) and/or gumbo ($6 a cup). And if you're more in the mood for a snack, an appetizer (the shrimp and crawfish fondeaux is a good choice) and a drink may be all you need to enjoy a visit at this spirited chain (with another, larger outpost in Arlington Heights).
It is a noisy place, but that only adds to the boisterous atmosphere. Voices and laughter carry across the wide-open dining area, letting you know that your fellow patrons are having a good time. There's also a more secluded seating area behind the bar, but it's probably just as loud. Pappadeaux is a place for all occasions; you'll see couples on dates, groups celebrating birthdays and friends and families meeting up for a meal. There can be long waits to get tables at dinner time, so grab one of the signature cocktails at the bustling, oval-shaped bar near the entrance. Fruity frozen mixtures like the Swamp Thing and Frilly Fraw offer a nice way to start off the experience. These colorful concoctions come with about a shot's worth of liquor sitting atop the frozen swirls, so don't be fooled by how easily it goes down.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Jim Collins