6 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Gumbo
Louisiana-style cooking has always been a mix of influences, combining the traditions of different people who passed through the state. Gumbo is probably one of the best examples of the multicultural roots of the state, and specifically, New Orleans. However, as Southern Foodways reports, trying to sort out the origins of this famous dish is a challenge.
The name itself is a derivative of a West African word for okra, the use of filé (sassafras leaves) is a contribution of local tribes like the Choctaws, and roux has its origin in French cuisine. The first references to the hearty dish appeared around the start of the 19th century. In 1803, gumbo was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans.
There are many gumbo variations, but two are the most common. The first is Creole, made with a dark roux and typically containing seafood, such as shrimp, crab, and oysters. It may also contain chicken or andouille sausage. The other is Cajun, made with a lighter roux and typically containing chicken, sausage, and vegetables, such as okra, onions, celery, and bell peppers.
If you haven't tried gumbo, or you're far from home and need a fix, there are several chains around the United States that serve the classic dish, and quite a few of them are very good. Find out below where to sample the official state cuisine of Louisiana, without getting on a plane.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
With 22 locations around the country, from New York City to San Francisco, Bubba Gump serves up many southern-style comfort dishes. The Mama Blue's Shrimp Gumbo is an easy way to get your fix. The dish is brimming with andouille sausage, fish, poached shrimp, and okra. You can get a cup or a bowl, and it's served with the obligatory steamed rice.
Copeland's of New Orleans
Started in 1983 by New Orleans native Al Copeland—also known for a little chicken chain called Popeye's—Copeland's serves Louisiana-style cuisine in 10 locations across the south. The family-friendly restaurant offers a Cajun Gumbo Ya Ya, made with a classic roux that's loaded with shrimp and crawfish.
With locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, this fast-casual Cajun and Creole restaurant prides itself on great service and hearty homestyle Southern cooking. J. Gumbo's chicken and sausage version starts with a deep brown roux, blended with onion, celery, bell peppers, shredded chicken, and savory sausage stirred in for maximum flavor. A scoop of rice is added for a little starch to deliver those flavors.
Landry's Seafood House
Houston-based Landry's Inc. currently owns and operates over 600 restaurants, hotels, and entertainment destinations nationwide, including Morton's the Steakhouse. But, it all started with Landry's Seafood, which dates back to 1947. Specializing in Gulf Coast cuisine, the chain now includes over a dozen locations in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and South Carolina. The house gumbo, a mainstay on the menu, features seafood and andouille sausage, available in a cup or bowl. This savory dish is sure to warm your belly.
The Lost Cajun
Opening as a gumbo shop in Colorado in 2010, this small chain is considered one to watch by restaurant industry insiders. And, since it started with seafood gumbo, fried catfish, and chicken and sausage gumbo, you know this restaurant is serving up the good stuff. Currently, most franchises offer the chicken and sausage version, which is an excellent choice. However, you won't be disappointed by the seafood gumbo, either. Or, get a classic trio, with both styles of gumbo and jambalaya to boot!
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
One of the largest family-owned restaurant businesses in the country, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen celebrated 35 years in business in 2021, and operates over 30 locations. The "Louisiana" gumbo, which is a hearty favorite, features shrimp, crab, andouille sausage, and other seafood.