STUARTS DRAFT -- One doesn't have to take a geography course to realize that Stuarts Draft is nowhere near Louisiana. They are separated by nearly 1,000 miles and a 13-hour drive. That’s not stopping one local business from providing a taste of the Bayou State in the Shenandoah Valley.
Off The Hook Cajun, a small to-go restaurant in Broadmoor Plaza, offers a variety of food, including jambalaya, red beans and rice, Cajun fries, hush puppies, alligator tail meat and more.
The idea came from owner Terry Caricofe from Draft. He has a long-time friend whose girlfriend is an experienced cook from Baton Rouge. She taught him and the staff how to cook, and it took off from there.
“She came up here and showed us how to do everything,” the owner said. “We wanted to do something different. Cajun is it. It is 100 percent authentic. It is not out of the box. We make everything from scratch, just like they do in Louisiana. It is no shortcuts.”
Caricofe said there are no Cajun restaurants around and it would be a good idea to bring something different to the culinary scene.
So far, the response has been solid, with people lining up outside for exotic eats. At times the restaurant sells out of food before it closes due to high demand.
“Business has been doing pretty good,” Caricofe said. “Everybody just seems to love it.”
One of the fans is local Mack Blackwell, who said he has tried authentic Cajun food all over the south.
“It is great food,” Blackwell said. “The service is good, it is easy to get to and the prices aren't too bad. I've gone about five times and have had just about everything. The alligator bites are really, really good and got good spices … I think the food is as good as any [Cajun] I have ever had.”
Content with the the community support, Caricofe still has had to overcome some issues.
“The hardest part has been getting all the licenses and making sure that stuff is right,” he said.
Off The Hook Cajun is open from 11:30 a.m. till 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday. On Saturday, it will stay open till about 5:30 p.m.
Moving forward, they are hoping to add gumbo and po’boys, a sandwich staple in Louisiana.