Blue Denim: Comfy as your favorite jeans
One of the measures of a great food city is a plethora of choices when it comes to cuisine. Not only do we want a multitude of restaurants to choose from, but it’s nice to be able to have plenty of ethnicities on hand. One can only enjoy so much Thai, Italian and “New American.” And after many years of doing without, Greensboro once again has Cajun on the menu.
Blue Denim opened quietly on Elm Street just three weeks ago and has been humming along at a steady pace, getting a good feel for things downtown. Owner and chef Jody Morphis has been down this road before, literally. He formerly owned Fincastle’s Diner next door for nine years before selling in 2014. During his time at Fincastle’s, he developed a special menu during Mardi Gras that was so popular that he made some of the items staples.
Then, Pan Hollis, who owned Thai Pan, formerly in the Blue Denim space, decided to close her restaurant in order to move to her native Thailand with her husband to open a bed & breakfast. Morphis says, “We did a Mardi Gras pop-up here last February when it was Thai Pan. And it was a big hit. Pan’s a friend of ours and when she decided to close her restaurant, we worked with her to take over the space. So, it worked out really well.”
When you enter, you’ll hear the music of New Orleans playing quietly in the background. The decor is simple with exposed brick on one side and from the looks of it, Morphis will probably be adding some appropriate art to the opposite walls. It’s casual and quiet, but you’re not made to feel like you should keep it down. Not a whole lot of people were there for a Saturday evening, but Morphis says they’ve been keeping it low-key. “We plan on having a Grand Opening very soon.”
Blue Denim’s name celebrates Greensboro’s history in textiles. Morphis gets to use his skills with Creole and Cajun and “celebrate the foodways and culture of the new South, using locally grown and raised food.” So we made ourselves comfortable with local farmer, Garland McCollum, and his wife Ruby, who own Massey Creek Farms and who supply eggs to Blue Denim along with other restaurants in the Triad.
The McCollum’s had been there before so we enjoyed their input. The menu is just a single page and really, don’t you sometimes just enjoy the simplicity of a smaller menu? It’s filled with Cajun and Creole staples like Po’ Boys, Gumbo, fried green tomatoes and wings, plus Trout Meneiurre and Delta Style Tamales and salads. Burgers can also be found on the lunch menu. First to come to the table was Crawfish Beignets. Savory puppies filled with crawfish and served with a remoulade called “Comeback Sauce.” They were light and fluffy and made a great intro to what was to come.
I had to try the Smoked Chicken Wings, which have been brined and dry rubbed and smoked. They come with a Vietnamese peanut sauce and an Alabama White Sauce. White sauce is kind of like a white BBQ sauce but not as sweet. It’s delicious and I found myself dipping my wings into it and completely forgot about the peanut sauce. Morphis suggested the Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs, so we got an appetizer of those as well. They had Morphis’ signature Seersucker Chef BBQ sauce on them, and were sticky and spicy and had a sprinkling of peanuts on top that had been dressed in the glaze.
Our dining companions both ordered the Crawfish Etouffee, “because it’s that good”and we got to try it and agreed. Really wonderful. Some people are put off by the idea of Crawfish, but these babies were great. The tails are off, so you can just dig into the mixture of onions, peppers, garlic and rice. It won the table for true Creole spice and flavor.
My husband ordered the Chicken & Andouille Gumbo, classic file style with house made andouille that was spicy and hearty. I ordered the BBQ Shrimp. Headless, with tails on, in a New Orleans style BBQ that is buttery and worcestershire-y with a hint of citrus. You might need extra bread for dipping. And I wanted to try the Seafood Gumbo, so I ordered a smaller version of what they have on the menu. It has oysters, shrimp, okra and crab, served with rice. It was milder and less spicy than the sausage version. I preferred the sausage gumbo’s spice personally, but if okra and seafood are your thing, you’re sure to really enjoy it.
There is a kids menu that’s simply either grilled cheese or butter noodles, but both my kids ordered Shrimp Po Boys with no bread. Basically you end up with a fried shrimp platter and it was great. Homemade ketchup too! And the plate was finished so that’s saying something.
Then for dessert, the four adults shared the White Chocolate and Pecan Bread Pudding with whiskey creme anglaise and the Seersucker Banana Pudding with vanilla custard, vanilla wafers and bananas. The banana pudding was great “¦and just like you remember. But the bread pudding won the dessert round because it was so warm and custardy and rich and glorious.
Right now, regional craft beer and wine are what’s for cocktails including a festive Mardi Gras Sangria. But Morphis says come spring, they’ll do a bit of renovation, get their liquor license and add an elbowshaped bar on one side. He says, “once that happens, we may be able to offer brunch so folks can enjoy Bloody Mary’s.” By the way, those in particular are made with Morphis’ own homemade Seersucker Chef Bloody Mary mix, available at the restaurant. A must try. And who needs to only have a Bloody Mary on Sunday anyway, right?
After the Grand Opening in a few weeks, Morphis hopes to have some special events that celebrate the food and culture of New Orleans and the Deep South. !
KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.
Blue Denim is located at 217 South Elm Street, Greensboro. Follow them on Facebook for events and specials. Open for lunch Monday-Saturday 11:00-2:30 and dinner Tuesday-Saturday 4:30- 9:00. (336) 676-5689. For more info on Massey Creek Farms: masseycreekfarms.com.