Sacramento, CA 95823
With the recent exit of Cora Lorraine’s in Oak Park, South Sacramento doesn’t have too many soul food spots. This is a sad acknowledgment. Are we to live in a world where we’re denied candied yams and collard greens?
We may not have to. Tucked into the corner of a parking lot containing a doughnut shop and a liquor store, Louisiana Heaven has stepped in to replenish the loss.
On both visits, we were the first customers to arrive. When we placed our orders at the counter (standard practice), we were cautioned that the mac and cheese wouldn't be ready for another 15 minutes. Considering the menu notifies customers that most orders take 15 to 20 minutes to prepare anyway, we figured we'd go for it. What's soul food without mac and cheese? The Shrimp Dinner ($12.99) comes with two sides. Mac and cheese, red beans and rice and potato salad were chosen. The shrimp was stunning. Perfectly supple with a craggily crust. The red beans and rice were hot, had good flavor and the beans were tender. But there's hardly any rice. The mac and cheese was texturally banal: The pasta was overcooked and mushy. The cheese sauce was one-note, gummy and the temperature was warm-ish. On both visits the potato salad was warm, like it had just been made and had no time to sit in the refrigerator where the flavors really unify. Warm potato salad that's not German has no place in my heart. The Cajun-fried chicken only comes in wing form. In fact, chicken wings are all Louisiana Heaven offers in the fried chicken department although it's not transparent on its menu.
When two wings and one red snapper fillet arrived in my Two-Way Combo ($15.99) I began to feel disenchanted with the idea of heaven. The red snapper was perfectly fried, with a crispy exterior and that moist flakiness. The chicken wings aren't heavily breaded (if at all) and could have used a bit longer in the fryer to achieve that crackly crust. The texture is more like KFC's original recipe.
Boudin is one of the darlings of Cajun country. Louisiana Heaven offers Boudin Balls ($6), three hefty balls to an order. Most boudin balls are made of boudin blanc, a sausage consisting of pork offal and rice (sometimes dirty rice) without the pork blood. In this case, instead of stuffed into a casing, it's rolled into balls and deep fried. The first impression of the chicken and sausage gumbo ($12.99) is not the generous amount of Dungeness crab clawing its way out of the murky chocolate-colored broth, but the unnecessary sprinkling of seasonings on the rim of the plate and the fact that it's lukewarm. The gumbo could have been the breakout star, if only it wasn't held back by its inexperienced manager and off-key backup singers.
For now, Louisiana Heaven's too-small-for-the-cost portions and its inability to deliver most of the food piping hot will keep it in purgatory. But it has the potential to be something worthy of the pearly gates.