Bourbon n' Toulouse

Surprises make memories stick, and nothing is more sudden and exciting than realizing you’re driving straight into a supercell thunderstorm that has just shut down the entire block of the restaurant you were on a 40-minute drive towards. Fitting that I am listening to Nice For What while writing about a Louisiana restaurant, but more to follow; 

Bourbon n' Toulouse in Lexington, Kentucky, right beside Chevy Chase, the oldest bar


You get there. It looks dark cause the power is out. But they’re still open; there’s candles and iPhone flashlights, organic and harshaficial lights blending so you can at least see what you’re eating. Two baked cashiers, and one girl with a crop top that just displays her hip bones. I think everyone in there was very high. Drinks are free cause the power’s out. The front of the restaurant is traditional glass, but plastered with signs from other local Lexington restaurants, like Chevy Chase, the oldest bar in Lexington (open since 1933). There’s a saxophone in the front window, along with various New Orleans paraphernalia (beads and masks). 

It has history! Even in the dark I could see a joke Employee of the Month printout with one guy on it 12 times and various stickers for Wine mom and BBQ dad types. A man with a trivia shirt came in with a battery-powered stick light and duct taped it to the ceiling so the serving area could see what they were serving. Then he left. An establishment truly soaked in the local, mom 'n pop flavor aesthetic, creating a very homely environment. 

Lumpy mystery dish, or Chicken Étouffée and beans and sausage. Traditional New Orleans

Lumpy mystery dish, or Chicken Étouffée and beans and sausage

Actual Food:

I must preface this by saying I do not like ‘Nawlins food. Traditional plates like Jambalaya and Gumbo are just lazy soups, and I cannot take even a hint of spiciness. So, coming to a New Orleans restaurant in Kentucky was not my idea. However, this restaurant understood me and offered 1/2 plates + 1/2 plates for 8 dollars, compared to a normal full plate price of 7 dollars. 

I got a half of Chicken Etouffee and another half of black beans and sausage, not realizing all New Orleans food is just thick soup or thick soup poured over rice. Their residual pots of soup allowed them to stay open when everyone else was closed. They also served cold dogs and buttered (but not toasted) bread. My plate was half brown, half black, but just looked like lumpy soup in the darkness. Which it was. But so good! I feel like normal soup is unable to carry any flavor on account of it being water, but boiling beans and spices for long enough and you get something so flavorful I used all my rice eating it! I am actually named after beans, and adding them to sausage was an excellent double protein serving. 

The other half was chicken étouffée. Étouffée means smothered, which is a fancy way to say “we’re too lazy to separate the veggies from the meat so we left it all in there and made a lazy soup then poured it over rice”. But similarly to dump cake (wherein the ingredients are just dumped together and baked), the simplicity left a complex, rich flavor interrupted only occasionally by chunks of tender chicken. I was floored! It was spicy to a self-regulating degree, where I couldn’t eat too much or it would hurt but if I went slowly and savored it there was no problem. Genius food design.

Hot sauce heaven at Bourbon n' Toulouse in Kentucky

A veritable horde of hot sauces, light glinting off their eyes in the dark

Someone else got a cold dog, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The various art canvases, sticker wall, and big table of hot sauces established the inside of this restaurant as another world, Louisiana, all in the warm darkness left behind after a thunderstorm. A beautiful dinner. Their primary dessert was bourbon-spiked bread and chocolate pudding. A soppy mess that, again, turned out wonderfully. I guess if the materials are good, the method doesn’t matter (and can even become part of the culture!)


A place that corrected my derogatory views on lazy Louisiana cooking, Bourbon n’ Toulouse supplied a backdrop drenched in history with none of the grime, staffed by influential (influenced) people and purposefully careless food that diners MUST enjoy. 19/20 lazy Louisiana soups.


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