I don't usually review takeout places, but I had to make an exception this time. To not pass along this discovery, down in Westerly, would be shameful. It would be sensible, since the Bayou Smokehouse is a tiny place and I don't want to stand in line next time, but terribly, terribly shameful.
Strictly speaking, since it has four stools at a counter, it's not just a takeout place, as would be quickly pointed out by the cheerily talkative cook behind the counter, Pierre Boutros, if he were looking over my shoulder as I write this. I'm sure he would like to be doing that, not to suggest glowing adjectives, but because he's a perfectionist.
And there's a lot for him to perfect, as he has been trying to do since he opened the place three years ago. Besides BBQ and Cajun items, Boutros offers quesadillas, sandwiches, and wraps, plus salads, soups, and stir fries, as well as several elbow macaroni variations, such as "creamy Cajun pasta fazool," in case mac and cheese is too tame for you.
Just about everything is made to order. That mac and cheese won't be refrigerated and coagulated, then overcooked by being reheated. It's $3.50 for a cup and, like most of the items, discounted for greater amounts. It's also as creamy as any I've had and noticeably not mush. Al dente mac and cheese, who knew? Also among the sides, with such standards as creamed corn and rice and beans, was the creamed spinach ($3.50/cup) that I'd seen touted in reviews online. Chopped, seasoned, and sautéed with just a splash of cream, it was a definitive preparation.
"What are customer favorites?" I asked Boutros. He's thinking of putting the menu on a dartboard, he joked, because people can't decide. As if on cue (I didn't see Pierre sneak a phone call), a customer soon showed up. When I put the preference question to him, he replied, "Whatever you get here doesn't matter. Everything's good."
Pierre explained: "I'm gung ho about this stuff," he said. "I spent a lot of time as a kid in the kitchen. Twelve years old, I was working at a restaurant. Fell in love with food."
That would be his dad's restaurant in Exeter, Little Country Pizza.
We had just stepped in for a casual bite to eat, but I started taking this place seriously when Pierre said that he smokes his own pastrami — for 20 hours. (He optimizes the time to maximize the smokiness while minimizing the drying-out.) Tasting a sample, which didn't have a lot of salt, not to mention nitrates, masking flavor, I was hooked. We ended up ordering a little of what eventually looked like just about everything.
Starting with the smoked Bayou wings ($7.50/pound). You can have them plain, Cajun style, or sauced: Buffalo, teriyaki, or sweet or spicy BBQ. Since their preparer suggested Cajun, I tried them that way. The spicing was subtle, with the slight heat gradually accumulating at the back of the throat. The hushed seasoning was similar with the jambalaya. Described as rice with andouille sausage, smoked chicken, and veggies, there were bits of meat in every bite, however the only vegetables were flecks of carrot and a sprinkling of scallions on top. That was a description rather than a taste issue, though, not a problem for Cajuns and carnivores. I also had to have a cup of the gumbo ($3.75), which again had well-balanced seasoning and was generous with the sausage and chicken.