"That looks like the stuff they serve at Mozelle's," my coworker John Lomax piped up as he read a blog post I'd written on the catfish po-boys at The Nickel. My ears perked up. Was this the same Mozelle's where Lomax found the delicious boudin that he'd brought back to the office to share? One in the same, he confirmed. "It's right down the street," he continued. My lunch plans for the day were set.

Mozelle's Cajun Seafood Market
126 Heights Blvd.
713-861-6686
www.mozellescajunmarket.com

Mozelle's Cajun Seafood Market opened a week ago in the old strip center on Heights Blvd. next door to the Art Car Museum—light years away in demeanor and dishes from the series of chain restaurants that are opening in grim procession just across the street on both Heights and Yale. Wingstop, Jimmy John's, Corner Bakery, Taco Cabana, Chipotle, Starbucks...all useful, in their way, yet lacking the individual soul and character that's more representative of the Heights area.

Thankfully, Mozelle's has soul to spare. The moment I walked in, a friendly woman behind the cash register grabbed me in a semi-bear hug, exclaiming: "You're new here! Let me give you the five-cent tour. You got five cents to spare, sugar?"

She walked me around the large space, which looked like the resulting lovechild of Revival Market just up the street and Tony's Seafood & Deli in Baton Rouge. Mozelle's sells prepared food from its steam table as well as a small but significant selection of fresh seafood, frozen Cajun specialties including crawfish pie and alligator boudin, and all the groceries necessary to make your own Louisiana-style feast at home—even beer and wine. Pretty much the only thing Mozelle's doesn't have, in fact, are tables and chairs for eating in; everything here is to-go.

I gawked at the enormous "colossal" shrimp in the seafood case, asking if I could get a picture of the monsters. My tour guide lifted up the glass on the case to let me get a better shot, laughing: "You never seen nothing like this before!" Fresh off the boat from Freeport, she said, the shrimp were as big as a grown man's hand.

Crawfish etouffee with green beans and corn.

Over at the steam table, they let me sample so much food that I had to stop before I was too full for lunch. Crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, seafood gumbo, crawfish bread, sausage and okra stew, Cajun butter-boiled shrimp—all of it was so good I had a tough time deciding which to get in my lunch plate. I finally settled on the etouffee and the sausage and okra stew, which both run for $11 and come with two sides: your choice of green beans, corn, broccoli-cheese casserole, or collard greens.

Lord knows we have enough Cajun restaurants to go around in Houston, but it's been ages since I had Cajun food this finely flavored and with this much attention given to even the simplest sides, like the buttered and spiced corn and green beans.

Sausage and okra stew with collard greens and broccoli-rice casserole.

The etouffee wasn't the goopy, cornstarch-laden junk found in Cajun chain restaurants but thickened instead with a blonde, nutty roux that was studded with thick crawfish tails. The sausage and okra stew was similarly thick with hunks of spicy andouille sausage, the okra still bright green and snappy. Nothing here was overcooked, overdone, or underflavored; it was a breath of fresh air compared to the poor, pallid Cajun examples often trudged out elsewhere.

I'll be back soon to try the po-boys Lomax raved about, and to pick up some boudin balls and crawfish bread to round out the starchy meal of my dreams. I only wish I could eat my lunch at Mozelle's—both to bask in the warmth of the people who run it, and to prevent my coworkers from stealing any of that delicious boudin.

 

 

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