First impressions: Downtown Palatine is getting a major overhaul these days, and Gumbo A Go-Go, which opened in August, is part of the boom, occupying retail space in one of the new condo developments.
The interior is spanking new, so don't expect an homage to blowzy N'awlins. Instead, the owners opt for light and bright. One wall boasts a lively mural of Bourbon Street, other walls are decorated with Mardi Gras masks. The wrought iron and wood chairs are attractive, sturdy and comfortable, and the place is super clean.On the plate: Suburban sheen aside, these dishes rock to a rollicking New Orleans beat. Patrick Reardon, an Irishman whose wife, Suzanne, owns the restaurant, does the cooking. A former racehorse trainer who worked many years at New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Course, Reardon has a way with the battery of classic Cajun and Creole entrees -- red beans and rice, gumbo, voodoo chicken, jambalaya, etc. Most dishes are served in large bowls with rice and a large slice of soft garlic bread. The proportion of rice can seem a bit out of kilter; additional meat or shrimp is available for an extra $3 -- which still keeps these dishes safely in Cheap Eats Land. Check out the specials board, with items such as oysters on the half-shell. Also, a new menu is coming in this spring, Reardon said, offering a salad, seafood bisque and separate vegetarian menu.
At your service: Customers order at the counter, then the food is brought to them. It can take a little time but the staff is courteous and efficient.
Second helpings: Voodoo chicken, a heat demon of Cajun spices spiking slow-cooked, shredded chicken, really made us sweat, and we loved every minute of it. Less intense but just as delicious was the gumbo, a rich stew of chicken, sausage and vegetables.
Coming in between the two, heatwise, was the vegetarian bumblebee stew, a colorful concoction of corn and black beans that my companion perfectly described as boasting "sweet heat." Please don't pass up dessert: The sensational bread pudding is made on-site (with or without raisins); add a scoop of the premium vanilla ice cream for an extra layer of bliss. It's plenty for two.
Take a pass: Our generous-sized appetizer of crawfish cheese dip was creamy and thick, and tasted fine, but the chunks of crawfish were difficult to scoop with the ordinary corn chips. We'd rather spend our calories on dessert.
Thirst quenchers: Soft drinks and iced tea are here, as well as several wines by the glass and beer, including New Orleans Abita beers (amber; Turbodog, a stout; and Purple Haze, a raspberry wheat beer).
Extras: Curbside delivery is available for folks who order takeout.
Newbies unfamiliar with the menu can get sample tastes before ordering.
For an extra $1.50, you can order a combo platter of two entrees; sampler platters of any four entrees are $10.95 (non-seafood items) and $13.95 (seafood items).
Price range: Appetizers, $4-$6.50; main courses, $5-$8.50; desserts, $3.95; drinks, $1.90-$6.
Gumbo A Go-Go
45 N. Bothwell St., Palatine
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
Credit cards: D,M,V
Noise factor: Conversation friendly
Ratings key: 4 forks, don't miss it; 3 forks, one of the best; 2 forks, very good; 1 fork, good
Cheap Eats reviews restaurants where entrees are $13 or less. Reviews are based on anonymous visits by Tribune staff members; meals are paid for by the Tribune.