GEAUX AUTHENTICCajun Boys & Our Poboys cooks up favorite New Orleans dishes.
By Lauren Dowdle
Photos by Dawn Harrison
Residents can find all of the tastes, décor and family hospitality of New Orleans right here in Pelham, thanks to Cajun Boys & Our Poboys.
From the purple, gold and green decorations to the smell of beignets frying in the back, this restaurant has everything someone would expect to find in the French Quarter. And that’s exactly what owner Jack Donovan wanted to deliver to his community.
“It’s always been a passion of mine. I’m from New Orleans, and I wanted to open a restaurant of our own one day,” he says. “I wanted to bring a little bit of New Orleans to Birmingham.”
His wife, Michelle, grew up in Natchez, Miss., so she was also surrounded by fresh seafood. The couple moved to Alabama from New Orleans 18 years ago and now live in Chelsea with their three children: Jack Jr., Ashleigh and Carson.
They decided to create a taste of home in Shelby County with Cajun Boys & Our Poboys, opening the restaurant this past September in Pelham behind their convenience store on Highway 52 W.
“We’ve been so blessed and grateful with Shelby County and Jefferson County coming out. We’ve had a great response with everyone so far,” Donovan says.
Customers are greeted with a large LSU sign on the door — although Michelle is an Alabama fan — and Mardi Gras-themed colors and design throughout. There’s a patio area outside, small bar inside, televisions perfect for watching the game and plenty of space to relax with friends and enjoy some authentic Cajun food.
“We are a family atmosphere and kid-friendly,” he says. “We want them to feel at home when they come in.”
The restaurant truly feels at home for Donovan, considering his wife and children work there, as well. Having his children involved with the business was important for him and his wife because “we’ve tried to teach them the value of a dollar. We want them to grow up with responsibilities.”
Beyond the inviting environment, the restaurant attracts people with its flavor-filled dishes that will make them feel like they are enjoying a meal straight from Louisiana. They use authentic New Orleans products for all of their dishes, including Gambino’s French bread, Patton’s Sausage and Leidenheimer’s bread.
Their most popular menu item is the combo option with the shrimp po’boy and a cup of Grandma Donovan’s seafood gumbo. As for appetizers, their fried alligator is a favorite, served with Jack’s Special Sauce.
They also serve items like oysters, fried crab claws, shrimp, catfish, fried green tomatoes, chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, red beans and rice, hot roast beef, mahi-mahi and seafood platters.
Diners will also find special menu items on certain days of the week. On Saturday mornings, they serve coffee (regular and Chicory) and beignets, transporting customer’s taste buds straight to the French Quarter. The owners’ 12-year-old son, Carson, is actually the beignet chef, and they use his recipe for this fluffy, sweet dish.
They also serve muffuletta on Fridays, which is a popular New Orleans sandwich with salami, mozzarella, ham, provolone, marinated olive salad and mortadella on Leidenheimer’s famous bread.
The restaurant will also have crawfish beginning about mid-December when they are in season. Donovan says they plan to add etouffee and pastas to the menu, as well.
Everything is cooked to order, so customers can ask for more or less spice, depending on their preferences — and Donovan says nothing they serve is too overbearing with spice. While there are plenty of fresh ingredients, one thing people won’t find at the restaurant is frozen, out-of-season items.
They get fresh items in four days a week and serve dishes when they are in season. All of their menu items can be ordered for catering, as well. Donovan encourages people to come and taste their authentic Cajun-style food. Some of his favorites are their gumbo, red beans and rice, softshell crab and hot sausage, and he says he enjoys sampling the dishes every day.
This isn’t the Donovan’s first restaurant, and they’ve even found ways to merge the two a bit. The couple also purchased Johnny Ray’s in June, with locations in Chelsea and the Colonnade. They’ve brought that restaurant’s Honey’s Award Winning Pies to Cajun Boys, serving chocolate, peanut butter, coconut and lemon by the slice and whole pies.
In addition to their tasty menu items at Cajun Boys, Donovan says they also plan to have live music on the weekends. The family wants the restaurant to be a place where others can come relax, enjoy themselves and taste some authentic dishes.
Cajun Boys & Our Po Boys is located at 3120 Highway 52 W. in Pelham. They are open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed on Monday. Follow them on Facebook for updates and menu specials.