Yats had already reared its head once on my most recent trip to Indianapolis. While searching for something uniquely local for dinner, Yats kept popping up as an Indianapolis favorite and for all intents and purposes, I could see why. Every comment, review, and picture pointed to a local chain that focused on approachable and satisfying Cajun & Creole cuisine. That all sounded great, but years of poor to mediocre results have left me leery of trying both Cajun and Creole food outside the state of Louisiana. It’s mostly been tarted up Zatarain’s mixes with a little Cajun seasoning sprinkled on top, but I quickly realized that when it comes to lunch on Memorial day, sometimes you have to compromise. Out of the six restaurants I called, Yats was the first one that actually answered their phone.
The Yats on College Avenue isn’t a large restaurant, but it’s packed to the brim with all kinds of Nola kitsch. I was expecting the Jazz Fest posters, the beads and all the accouterments, but I was surprised when I saw the menu. Written in chalk, it’s an ever-changing menu of daily specials, but who’s complaining when samples are readily distributed?
Curious about the chicken pazole and the chili cheese crawfish étouffée; I ordered both expecting two separate, small bowls.
There’s nothing wrong with a heaping plate of pazole and étouffée.
Let’s start with the chicken pazole.
Once I got past the annoying parboiled rice, this was a very well prepared chicken stew. The chicken was shredded but still remarkably moist while the corn, pinto beans, and black beans provided a satisfying amount of well-prepared body to the dish. There wasn’t an overpowering level of spiciness to the pazole, but enough to compliment the well rounded flavors and juicy chicken.
As if a plate of rice, beans, chicken, chili, and cheese wasn’t enough, Yats included a few pieces of French bread.
Moving on to the chili cheese crawfish étouffée, this was a new one for me.
I’ve made and eaten plenty of étouffée but this is the first time I can recall seeing a chili cheese étouffée. Reading the name, chili cheese crawfish étouffée, it doesn’t seem like it would work, but that’s because I was thinking of hot dog chili.
The chili in this dish comes from chili powder and when combined with the heavy cream and cheese, it makes for a very different étouffée. One major complaint was the small amount of crawfish, but on the whole this was a very thick, rich, and cheesy dish with just a touch of a burnt cayenne finish. I don’t think I’ve been persuaded to leave behind the traditional Cajun and Creole étouffées but it’s a unique take on the classics.
Was a trip to Yats worth it? Did it end up being just another bastardized version of icon Southern cuisines? Well, yes and no. By virtue of being open on Memorial Day, Yats was certainly worth the trip and they had some fairly satisfying food to boot. I certainly wouldn’t mind ordering the chicken pazole again, but the jury is still out on the chili cheese étouffée. All together, Yats makes a good pass at bringing Cajun and Creole cuisine this far north.
Yats Address & Information