Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou

Ordinarily, I don’t have much interest in visiting New Orleans-themed restaurants outside of, well, New Orleans (and even when I’m there it’s not so much that I visit New Orleans-themed restaurants as I visit restaurants where they make the local dishes well). Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou in Springfield, MA is a well-deserved exeption to that rule.

Sure, the names of the dishes sometimes seek to make connections between the city and the food that don’t necessarily exist (for instance, the Bourbon Street Cheese Bread: when was the last time you saw crowds of people walking up and down Bourbon Street eating cheese & corn-covered toast?), but the food that is served is so well-executed, it’s easy to forgive a couple of cheesy name choices. After all, you must consider the audience that he’s playing to lives in Western Massachusetts and has maybe visited the Big Easy for a boozy weekend or two sometime in the not-so-recent past. With that in mind, you must realize that Wayne could put out anything seasoned with cayenne pepper and call it New orleans food, so long as he had some beads on the walls of his joint. But he doesn’t.

There aren’t any beads on the walls of the restaurant (instead, it’s decorated with murals of brass bands) and he doesn’t serve crap food either. My Crawfish Boulettes (little crawfish balls) weren’t something that I’ve ever seen at a restaurant in New Orleans. But they could be—I wouldn’t be surprised to find them at a Jazz Fest booth. These crawfish fritters are mildly flavored and come served with a bit of a well-made remoulade sauce.

The Shrimp-n-Sausage Jambalaya had chunks of onion, celery, and bell pepper (the Cajun trinity) mixed in with the rice and the sauce—exactly what you expect to see in a well made jambalaya. The rice was a bit stickier than many jambalayas I’ve had, and it was covered with a spicy sauce, another touch that I hadn’t really expected, but the technique of the cooking was obviously well-executed, authentic, New-Orleans style cuisine.

It’s like I explained to my dad when he wondered whether his Red Beans and Rice were authentically New Orleans: it’s not so much that there’s one correct way of making anything. There are as many different ways to make beans or jambalaya as people who make them. And then people get together and argue over which is the “right” way to make them, and everyone is always right. It’s just a matter of preference, of technique, of seasoning. And Wayne’s got all three. The beans and rice would’ve been accepted by any native.

My mom got a Fried Catfish Po-Boy. Chunks of fried catfish on crispy, crusty bread, dressed with some sort of a sweet sauce? Another surprise; I normally would expect my po-boy to be dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion; plus, I’d add some hot sauce to it at the table. But just because it wasn’t served the same way it would be served at the corner store in NOLA doesn’t mean that it’s wrong: it’s sort of a refinement upon the theme, a dressing-up, if you will.

I give it 3 1/2 oranges. If he’d had boudin on the menu, it would’ve been a shoo-in for four.

Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou
63 Liberty Street
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 732-1011

5 Responses to “Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou”

  1. Johanna Says:

    I don’t care how “cheesy” the name is, the Bourbon Street Bread and his cornbread alone are worth the trip, in my opinion.

  2. Mom Says:

    I have to agree with Johanna on the Bourbon Street Cheese and Corn Bread. It is one of my all-time favorites. He also makes a delicious gumbo of the day. In all the years we’ve eaten there, I’ve never had a bad meal. If any of your readers ever visit Springfield, MA I hope they’ll check out Chef Wayne’s. It is reasonably priced good food. If you’re lucky Wayne will come out of the kitchen, sit down at your table, and accept your offer to share one of the beers that you brought in with you since it is a BYOB restaurant.

  3. Chuck Says:

    “Wayne could put out anything seasoned with cayenne pepper and call it New orleans food, so long as he had some beads on the walls of his joint.”

    Oh, come on. He could at least use some Tony Chachere’s :)

  4. jwsharrard Says:

    Again, he could get away with the “New Orleans in a box” mentality…but he doesn’t. Instead, he produces fare you’d be happy to be served were you actually in the city.

  5. Frank Says:

    Yes the food was good, but while there I ran into old friends that invited me to sit and talk for a bit. After talking for about 5 mins their waitress came over to ask how things were and told me I should “leave them alone and go sit with the people I came in with.” What the hell! It was not her business whether I was done speaking to my friends, they were the ones that invited me to sit.

    So I finished talking and went back to my seat where the waitress was speaking to my friends I arrived with. She went on to say I was “a bad friend for making them wait” and that I should sit down and order something. Okay the first time she said it I laughed it off, but when she stood there and continue to ridicule me then TELL me to order something. Sorry that is not what I call service. Guess you didn’t want to keep this customer!

    Pass on this place!

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