EDMOND — Thais Goodwin loves her mother so much she flung herself into the mouth of madness to pay homage.
And when I say the mouth of madness, I mean the restaurant business.
The restaurant is Bayou Grill and Bakery, 1315 E Danforth Road, where Thais draws from the recipes of her mother's Creole heritage to offer the flavors of New Orleans.
Her husband, Terry, a retired Federal Aviation Administration engineer, says he's worked all his life in all sorts of environs but has never worked as hard as he does in running a restaurant.
“I have been in this restaurant every day, whether it's opened or closed, since we took over the lease,” he said.
The hard work has resulted in becoming a local favorite, which overall has been a blessing but occasionally a curse.
“I have a lot of good customers — people who come in every day and have been patient with us, Thais said. “Our biggest struggle is when we back up, we can get behind in the kitchen. But I just don't want to send food out that is below our standards.”
In my visits to Bayou, which have only been for lunch, I've never experienced any problems. I lunched there with a pair of Cajuns, Mark and Zeb Gautreau, who gave Bayou high marks even though it considers itself a Creole cafe.
We agreed the crabcakes with caper sauce were inspired.
Despite Thais' Creole background, she does serve Cajun dishes, too. It's hard not to as so many of the dishes and ingredients cross over. Both Cajun and Creole draw from comfort food from the Deep South, too, so it's no surprise to find pork chops, meatloaf and fried delicacies such as chicken, catfish and green tomatoes on the menu.
But the specialties of the house are those roux-based bowls of delicious such as gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. The shrimp Creole is among the best I've tried in restaurants, finding the right balance between spicy and sweet. While Cajun cuisine is more associated with the mouth-blistering heat of blackened redfish and all its blackened friends, Creole tends to lean more toward balance. So, you're less likely to get a bowl of anything rendering heat fumes. But that's what the Tabasco and Louisiana hot sauce bottles on the table are for. They also serve one of my favorite dishes, Louisiana-style barbecued shrimp. This isn't shrimp flamed into compliance, it's more like shrimp scampi bent on revenge: jumbo prawns sunk in butter infused with beer, garlic, onions and plenty of pepper. And as is demanded by law, it's served with crusty French bread. This is something I make every Christmas Eve.
Bayou does a huge fried oyster po boy sandwich and a version with fried catfish, shrimp and pulled pork. Red beans and rice are also available, as is fried okra.
Thais, who grew up in Oklahoma City, said the dishes she serves are those she grew up with — some regularly and some only when company came to town. She said her inspiration for the restaurant was to share her mother's recipes and keep her memory alive through them.
She also said she had Vince Orza as a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma many years ago, and that she was inspired by what he'd accomplished in the restaurant business.
Thais also offers baked goods by order, including a bevy of cakes and pies. For Mardi Gras, she's taking orders for king cakes.
Also for Louisiana's biggest celebration, she's worked with local fishmonger Delancey Miller of Delancey Street Seafood to do an authentic crawfish boil.
“Delancey is getting me live crawfish,” she said with a bit of hesitation. “I'm a little worried about looking into their little eyes, but I'm going to do it.”
Bayou Grill and Bakery, which is next door to Signature Grill in Kickingbird Square, is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Check the website, www.bayougrillandbakery.com, or call 341-3700 for a list of bakery items, ordering instructions and hours.