“We get different responses—different facial expressions—when people try it,” says Artin Safarian, co-owner of Bourbon Bayou Kitchen. He’s talking about guests tasting alligator flesh for the first time. When the Ashburn restaurant opened in January, Safarian offered to buy diners’ gator dishes just to get them to try it. Now, both the fried alligator appetizer, served with Cajun rémoulade, and the alligator nachos are among the restaurant’s bestsellers.
The latter comprises tortilla chips buried in spicy nuggets of alligator sausage, cheesy Cajun-style Mornay sauce, and jalapeños. Its ample portion merits its $16 price tag, making it a shareable app for a whole table.
Many of the meats, including the grass-fed rib-eye and the bourbon pork chop from Whiffletree Farm, are local. But the alligator comes from Louisiana, as Safarian says that the flavor and texture of nearby alligators (yes, apparently they exist) can’t compare with those of reptiles bred on the bayou. However, sourcing the meat can be touch-and-go. “If we have a hurricane, we can’t get it,” he says, citing a scare due to bad weather on opening day, when the restaurant nearly debuted without its signature ingredient.
Still not sold? Chef Jazmin “Jazz” West is focused on approachable Louisiana flavors. Her most popular dishes include shrimp and grits, jambalaya, and a crispy duck breast plated over collard greens and peppery dirty rice that evinces every bit of its African influence.
And it’s all served in a space that Safarian, who also owns a construction company, custom-built for his longed-for first restaurant. He has spared no expense, from unusual light fixtures to a baby grand piano, all conveying a taste of the Crescent City.
You don’t have to be open to gator to soak up the NOLA vibes, but when it’s this delicious, it doesn’t hurt. 44184 Ashbrook Marketplace Plz., Ashburn, thebourbonrestaurant.com