Q • We recently had the best Cajun/Creole food at Riverbend Restaurant. What a hidden gem! The Crawfish Étouffée is a great taste of New Orleans. — Mary Troll, Maplewood
A • Sam Kogos was born and raised in New Orleans and operated a restaurant there for 15 years. The year before Hurricane Katrina hit, he and his wife, Pat, who was born and raised in South County, moved to St. Louis to be close to her family.
Steve Daney, New Orleans chef and Kogos’ cousin, also headed north when Kogos decided to open Riverbend Restaurant in 2011. It’s in Soulard, just south of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Here in St. Louis, Kogos says, “I just want to serve good food you can’t get anywhere else.” That means that Riverbend’s signature étouffée is thick enough to stick to a fork, which also determines the plating. “Gumbo should be served in a bowl, étouffée on a plate.”
Riverbend’s other Cajun specialties include Mondays-only red beans and rice and seafood gumbo. “And turtle soup,” Kogos says. “People like our turtle soup.”
Kogos appreciates the camaraderie within the St. Louis restaurant community, saying that local chefs frequent the restaurant themselves, then spread the word. In just two years, he says, Riverbend has created more connection with foodies and chefs than he ever experienced in New Orleans.
Riverbend’s Crawfish Étouffée features the traditional Cajun combination of a dark roux and the “holy trinity” of onion, celery and bell pepper. To re-create it at home, Kogos recommends using a strong stock, one with real flavor, not a watery broth.
Riverbend will close on Saturday for Soulard’s Mardi Gras parade but will be open Fat Tuesday, even though it’s usually closed on Tuesdays.
Riverbend Restaurant and Bar
701 Utah Street