BG EATS: Tea Bayou gives BG a taste of Creole cuisine

Shrimp and grits with French bread from Tea Bayou at 906 State St. Jake Pope/HERALD

John Greer

Tea Bayou provides a delicious glimpse into Creole cuisine and quality tea. Situated on the downtown square, this little tea café turned restaurant recently expanded its menu and hours to include dinner. The space is small and intimate. An array of local art adorning the walls adds a really quirky and eclectic touch. Multi-colored rows of sealed canisters, containing a myriad of loose-leaf teas, rise up from behind the counter.

Tea Bayou serves a wide spectrum of craft teas, ranging from more popular varieties like Earl Grey to obscure choices like the Dong Ding Special Reserve. The café’s iced house tea was slightly sweet and full of spice. Notes of cinnamon and ginger lingered long on the palate after each sip. The result was a drink both aromatic and refreshing. The spice level stayed, just barely, on the right side of overpowering.

While tea is still the name of the game, Tea Bayou does not slack off on the food front. If the restaurant’s name is any indication, the food is steeped in the cuisine of New Orleans and Louisiana. Those looking for a hearty bowl of red beans and rice with Andouille sausage or jambalaya will find it here.

A dish of shrimp and grits is also on the menu. A bed of soft, stone-ground grits was drowned in a pool of Andouille cream that managed to be rich, meaty and spicy. Slightly sweet fried shrimp were encrusted with black pepper. It is hard to mind that the whole dish was basically a soft, creamy mash. The mixture of savory flavors was nicely developed, and the grits and shrimp were well cooked. Heat was present, but did not overpower. A side of crunchy French bread introduced some much-needed texture and was an ideal vessel to sop up the grits and sauce. The dish only lacked a bright acidic component.

There is no real innovation in terms of the cuisine here, but there does not really need to be. Tea Bayou succeeds in what it aims to do — serve classic southern comfort food and great craft teas.