This is the final restaurant in our list of the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.
The quick-service restaurant (you order at the counter and then choose a table) opened Memorial Day weekend. At first, owners Chad and Aurelia Glassley only served stews plus side dishes. They later added po’ boy sandwiches. The name Roux Dat pays homage to the signature stews. “Our dishes are highly flavorful stews that are thickened with a roux,” says Chad Glassley. “A roux is an essential part of not only French cuisine but also, New Orleans cuisine–creating a great beginning to each dish.”
Glassley, who serves as chef in addition to co-owner, attended South Carolina’s Johnson & Wales University—as he points out, “the same culinary school that Emeril Lagasse attended…he and the New Orleans style of food he was cooking were huge influences in my culinary life.” During the last several years, Glassley worked hard to develop the recipes that Roux Dat uses. All dishes are made from scratch. His experience includes nine years as Executive Chef at several restaurants including Sonoma’s The Plaza Bistro.
Whenever possible, Glassley buys ingredients from local purveyors like sausage from San Francisco’s Evergood or Gilroy’s Silva Sausage Company, and seafood from Stagnaro Bros. Roux Dat feels very family-friendly, and it’s definitely family-run. “My wife (Aurelia) has had a strong impact on Roux Dat,” says Glassley. “She was born and raised in Santa Cruz County and is the main reason we are living here. She graduated from UCSC in art and created the artwork and ambiance at Roux Dat. She also was my biggest critic in making sure our recipes tasted right!”
The menu succeeds with both Cajun/Creole novices and more experienced fans of New Orleans cuisine. Their stew menu rotates, and includes between six and eight selections each day like jambalaya (includes shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage), chicken and sausage gumbo, and—my favorite so far—shrimp and corn étouffée. They also have a vegan, gluten-free stew—fennel portabella jambalaya—plus vegetarian black bean & corn stew with sweet caramelized corn. If you can’t decide on a single type, you can try two half portions for an extra 50 cents. Stews are served over Jazzmen white rice or Lundberg brown rice. For those who prefer their food downright spicy, Roux Dat has a very large bottled hot sauce selection, including Cajun Power garlic sauce (the most popular among customers).
The po’boy sandwiches are served on French rolls from New Orleans-based Gambino’s Bakery, and they include housemade Cajun mayonnaise and housemade pickles. I have tried two of the four varieties—roast beef (slow-cooked, tender, in a Cajun gravy) and fried shrimp (cornmeal- and Cajun spice-encrusted); these were both delectable.
Other available dishes include sweet potato fries with housemade Creole mustard dipping sauce, hush puppies, or a half fry/half hush pup combo. For dessert, you can choose from two treats, both made on-site: pralines or beignets. The beignets (French dougnuts) are made to order, served warm with powdered sugar on top. They make a yummy, sweet ending to a comforting meal.