by Cheryl Baehr
As the street crew sweeps up Soulard from Saturday's festivities and the last float makes its way down Washington Avenue tonight, St. Louis prepares to bid farewell to another Mardi Gras. This year, though, the Dixieland plays on at Evangeline's Bistro and Music House (512 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-3644). This new addition to the Central West dining scene brings the New Orleans spirit to town with classic Creole and Cajun cooking.
This is not Don Bailey's first foray into New Orleans-influenced dining. The Evangeline's owner is also the proprietor of EurOrleans Bistro in Millstadt, Illinois, and, as Bailey told Gut Check last October, was encouraged to open a St. Louis version of the restaurant by friends and Central West End developers Nicki and Jim Dwyer.
This week, I visit Evangeline's to see how Bailey's Cajun vision translates to this side of the river. Here is a sneak preview of my thoughts -- the full review will be online tomorrow and in this week's issue.
The weekend before revelers descended on the streets of Soulard for Mardi Gras, I was warm and cozy, Hurricane in hand, at Evangeline's Bistro and Music House in the Central West End. Everyone was fully clothed and there was nary a bead in sight. Dixieland was in the air and Abita flowed from the tap - it was more of an homage and less of a cliché than the wan and debauched imitation of New Orleans culture about to be peddled down the road.
Evangeline's, the brainchild of Illinois-based restaurateur Don Bailey, inhabits the Central West End corner formerly occupied by Coco Louco Brasil. Bailey and his team subtly transformed the place, opting for neutral banquettes, white tablecloths and dark wood. Floor-to-ceiling windows line two sides of the restaurant and bar area, bathing the space in a warm glow. There's not a stitch of NOLA kitsch in the place; instead, Evangeline's has the simple elegance of a boutique hotel lobby. Although Bailey has yet to put in a stage for live music, musicians currently perform in a nook at the front of the restaurant.