Northeast Portland plays host to a creole food offering that locals have been delighting in for over 15 years. You’ll find this wildly delicious Portland tradition in the Sabin/Irvington neighborhood. Welcome to Acadia, a hugely popular Cajun inspired restaurant that features all your favorite southern classics.
The name derives from French immigrants who settled in Nova Scotia, but were expelled in 1755. After their expulsion, most of the native Acadians settled in Louisiana, where the creole and Cajun traditions took root.
Opened in 2001 by executive chef Adam Higgs, Acadia is a comfortable and casual eatery specializing in modern American cuisine that follows Louisiana food traditions. Higgs was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, where he worked at V. Mertz for eight years.
After working his way up from dishwasher to head chef, Higgs decided to make the move to Portland. When Higgs arrived in 2000, the nascent Portland food scene was getting its legs, and a chef with a background in French cuisine was a serious catch.
Higgs began his time in Portland working at L’Auberge, as executive chef. Within a year and a half, he was offered a chance to partner with New Orleans native Bud Deslatte, and together they opened Acadia Bistro. In 2004, Higgs bought out Deslatte’s half and has ran it ever since.
If an ingredient can’t be sourced locally, Chef Higgs looks to the south, airlifting indigenous ingredients twice a week. He drives to PDX himself to pick up the ingredients and regularly takes trips to New Orleans to research new dishes and recipes.
Higgs prides himself in sourcing local ingredients. Their in-house charcuterie is a delectable surprise of creamy offerings and subtle pairings. They also make their own andouille and boudin sausage and cure their own tasso ham and bacon.
As soon as you walk into Acadia, you’ll immediately feel the New Orleans jazz vibe. With polished concrete floors, saffron-colored walls, and dim candlelight, this is a place that will transport you to Bourbon Street before you’ve even ordered your meal.
The room is set up with pleasant earth tones and artwork from Chef Higgs’ own personal collection. Just in case the setting wasn’t authentic enough, Higgs even boasts a collection of voodoo oils.
The evening should start with a drink, an Acadian specialty. The Vieux Carré, composed of cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, angostura and peychaud’s bitters, is the perfect way to prepare your taste buds for the feast to come.
Acadia also specializes in various forms of Absinthe, something few other eateries can lay claim to. Their Absinthe menu has eleven different varieties, with one, the Jade “Nouvelle-Orleans” being described as a deep forest green, slow forming, opaque louche with allspice, wormwood, and seawater notes. A few sips of it will lift your head up into the sky and leave you feeling giddy.
Once you’ve wet your whistle, move on to the food. Acadia is famous for their New Orleans style barbecue shrimp. They come head-on and ringed around a bowl of creamy, buttery broth with notes of pepper and a touch of salt. They are tender, juicy, and served with a piece of crusty French bread to soak up leftover juices.
Next you might indulge in the paté, which comes with excellent house pickles and a delicious creole mustard. Scoop the delightful combination into your mouth on crisp little pieces of toast. It’s a classic creole dish executed with style and panache.
The seafood gumbo is a classic dish with a dark roux and a smoky flavor that compliments the pervasive taste of shellfish stock. From the clams to the shrimp, it is a dish that highlights the joys of Cajun food in a way that doesn’t smother the meal.
If you’re in the mood for something more traditional, the cayenne grilled drum fish provides the spice and the flavor without compromising on style. Bite down into a blackened crust replete with notes of lemon and thyme. The andouille sausage gumbo with Cajun popcorn will leave you wondering why you’ve never tasted these flavors before.
Once you finished dinner, move on to Acadia’s own recipe crème brûlée custard. It combines brûlée custard and bread putting with a white chocolate Frengelico sauce and toasted pecans. It’s an ostentatious combination of ingredients that creates a burst of flavors that go together perfectly.
One of Acadia’s main draws is their Monday cheap eats promotion. Expect a menu that scales down on the price without skimping on quality. The mouth-watering Wild LA blackened catfish with fresh corn, heirloom fingerling potato jo-jo’s and spicy salsa verde is a magnificent combination of flavors. For only $12, this is a meal that will satisfy your craving without breaking your bank.
Acadia is open Monday through Saturday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm. They are open for lunch on Wednesdays only from 11:30am to 2:30pm and are closed on Sundays. For menu or reservation information give them a call at (503)249-5001 or visit their website at www.creolapdx.com.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is an author, journalist and blogger who’s been writing professionally for over eleven years. When he isn’t writing or eating, then writing about eating, expect him to be outside enjoying the natural splendors of his home in the great Pacific Northwest.