Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Cafe (La Crosse, WI)
222 Pearl St
La Crosse, WI 54601-3216
Monster-ella Sticks (Appetizer)
Mini-Corn Dog Kids meal (Chloe)
Blackened Chicken Dinner (Tress)
Two Diet Cokes
$47 (Tax and tip included)
Grade: 1 Fork, 1 Spoon, 1 Knife
Since the Flood of 2008, Buzzard Billy’s in Des Moines has been closed. During this time I have sulked over the fact that I have not been able to have gator fingers, good andouille gumbo, or a meal that has been blackened the correct way (a lot of restaurants claim they blacken, but they don’t). We had an opportunity to visit La Crosse, Wisconsin or the Quad Cities to pick up an item I bought. Something in my brain clicked “La Crosse has a Buzzard Billy’s” and the rest was as they say, history.
Ambiance: As with the rest of the categories, I found my self comparing this location to the Des Moines location. For the benefit of those who have never been a patron to either, I’ll try to focus on this location. I’ll do a compare and contrast in the Overall category. The restaurant is located in the historic river downtown location, in an older building (like all locations). The restaurant is filled with various 1950’s through 1980’s advertisements for about anything and everything. They do have many working older animated beer signs. The tables all had collector cards from various tv series pressed into the top. Our table had the Andy Griffith show cards. The waiting area had an interesting tile setup with the game of Twister on the tile itself. Really loved the two carps attached to the ceiling fan, but was somewhat disappointed they did not have a taxidermied (stuffed) alligator. They had a carved wood one, but just not the same…
Menu/Price: Pricing for all most any item is going to run $8 plus, even our monster-ella sticks were almost $7 bucks (although worth it). They had an excellent selection of Cajun and Creole foods that indeed did include alligator, crawfish, and various blackened meals. The one item that I seriously considered was the blackened walleye, which apparently is a local speciality. I still went with the normal Bayou Platter.
Meal: Let’s talk about Monster-ella sticks, basically they are a four inch by inch square logs of handbreadded mozzarella sticks. Because they are hand made the cheese is very elastic and retains much of its rich flavor. Although we did not get them this time, but their Gator fingers are the way to go if you you want to have alligator. If asked you can try a sample of gator to see if you like it prior, believe me when I say it tastes like chicken. Most people would not know the difference if not told. Chloe enjoyed her mini-corn dogs, but did not really touch the fries. The Bayou platter comes with a blackened chicken breast, half order of rice and beans, a cup of chicken & andouille sausage gumbo, and hush puppies. Tress’s blackened chicken dinner came with two blackened chicken breast, an order of riced and steamed vegetables. Table bread was also provided. While I cannot speak for Tress’s meal, mine was perfect and let me tell you, I had really missed good blackened chicken. Their hush puppies are also hand made and have light Cajun spices blended into them. The only things that I was a bit disappointed with was the size of my chicken, but having monster-ella sticks prior it was not a big deal. The other is I am pretty sure the Des Moines one had Pepsi. Our server said its city specific.
Service: Service was prompt and since we knew exactly what we wanted our order was taken quickly. Our waiter played with Chloe and seemed very nice. When I say very nice, I mean “very nice.” Although refills were not offered (or really needed), he stopped by many times to make sure we we’re doing OK. I also noticed that he was apt to his other tables he was busing.
Overall: In all actuality, the rating should be 1 fork, 1 knife, but since I have not had it in almost two years and the quality of the meal was so high, I felt the full 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 spoon rating was warranted. I really do hope that the Des Moines one opens soon, I should be good now for a while.
Differences: Des Moines has a full blown alligator that has been stuffed. If memory serves they also have an alligator head that also has been stuffed and usually mints were located in its open mouth. The only one I saw at this location was a nicely carved wooden one. The Des Moines location has an outside eating area to eat, I did not see one in La Crosse. I don’t recall the Des Moines location having arcade games, but a deer hunting game and Mrs. Pac-Man were in the waiting area. A lot was really the same when you look at it, the one thing I hope Des Moines has when it reopens is blackened walleye.