Billed as a "Mardi Gras Steak & Seafood House," Michael's is more a themed party than a Louisianian transplant, so your aunt from Crowley may cluck at you for bringing her here* in search of the perfect cochon de lait. However, this is not a quest for authenticity--you need to go under the 10 freeway for that--but for mouth-filling syntheses of ingredients, a place to soak up something hearty and earth-colored.
If the dial of the Burbank sun isn't set to Broil, the patio stretching around the building is probably the best spot to sit and fritter away the day. Inside, under low wood-plank ceilings, there is a bar that is brawnier than the restaurant, with a karaoke stage grinning in one corner. TVs hang from the rafters. The booths are bandaged black vinyl under slickly framed prints of Mardi Gras festivities. The air is that of a serious-minded kitchen knowing it must cater to the modern American sports bar patron.
Sample a cross-section of the aforementioned kitchen with a Combo, a heartily American-sized arrangement of gumbo, jambalaya, étoufée, Shrimp Creole, etc. The Gumbo is thick and saucy with a good-natured bite; it has the gumbo holy trinity of celery, bell pepper and onion, but only a whisper of seafood in the form of a single curled shrimp. If I had a single wish and Michael's could grant it, it would be that the seafood be of greater quantity.
The best item here is the Chicken Étoufée. The chicken is tender, tearing itself apart and full of its own essence, smothered with dark juices from a spicy roux. A scattering of green onion gives color.
Next to that, the Jambalaya is almost a risotto, tomato-heavy and draped over a mound of white (rather than dirty) rice. Slices of mild andouille and another lone shrimp are its texture. Like the gumbo, it suffers from being so far away from the waters of its home parish.
The Po'Boys come on a soft, slightly buttered and toasted roll with lettuce, tomato and what they describe as a "cajun sauce". The Alligator Po'Boy is heavily fried, tender with a slight pull to the tooth. With melted mozzarella wrapped around it, it's sweetly attractive.
Other miscellany: their Red Beans are exuberantly juicy and full-bodied with a slight skin crispness; they go well with the rice, but could be rougher. The Spoon Bread is cheesy, buttery and likeable, like a dense cornbread, excellent for swiping around the plate and gathering any liquid the rice missed. The Sweet Potato Fries are crispy but seasoned, so the salt outweighs the sweetness. The Garlic Fries are fairly brutal. There is also a collection of steamed vegetables that make for a good palate cleanser between mouthfuls of stewed joy.
There's a free parking lot across the street, but otherwise pay attention to signage.
* Unless she likes karaoke. Even then, she will cluck at you because none of the songs will be by the Breaux Brothers, Dewey Balfa or D.L. Menard.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), American, Burbank/North Hollywood, Cajun/Creole )
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