Our latest restaurant venture is a refresh of Blue Bayou, a Cajun and New Orleans themed eatery with live music and a menu based on regional favorites in Lakeview.
While the current Blue Bayou serves gumbo and hosts jazz, we wanted to up the ante in terms of ambiance, food and design by drawing and unifying the aesthetic themes around the rich and complex history of the Louisiana Bayou. To explore design themes, we researched The Bayou and its inhabitants.
The Bayou’s culture is mainly influenced by two ethnic groups, the Cajuns and the Creoles, who, along with waves of other Immigrants, are part of the Bayou’s distinctive culture. Cajuns, mainly composed of the descendants of Acadian exiles, developed their own dialect, known as Cajun French.
Creole culture also has strong roots in Louisiana, and in fact, the Creole dialect has a hyperlocal type known as Louisiana Creole, which originated in the area. The Creoles were slaves from French Colonies and Haiti, and are associated with the arts of Voodoo and black magic in pop culture. Because of religious discrimination, The Cajuns and The Creoles were pushed out of New Orleans and into the Bayou. We are celebrating the people, food and culture taken from the crawfish cookouts, recipe swaps and musical innovation that took place on The Bayou when these two groups were brought together.
The cuisine of the Bayou makes use of the creatures that love inhabiting the marshy, near-stagnant wetlands: alligators, crawfish and catfish. Two of the most popular dishes known for their Bayou origins are Jamabalaya and Gumbo, both of which combine an incredibly diverse range of influences. Gumbo, for instance, is thickened with a roux (a flour-liquid paste of French origin) and seasoned with filé (crushed sassafras flowers of Native American origin) and begins with the “Holy Trinity”, a cornerstone of Cajun cuisine, which is actually a riff off of the French sauce/stew base mirepoix, swapping out the carrots for bell peppers.
We approached the design update to Blue Bayou wanting to bring the New Orlean’s establishment back to its Cajun, Creole roots, as well as recall the architecture of the Bayou and Louisiana. We are stripping out any irrelevant design features from the space and replacing them with things that are culturally or geographically relevant. Out came the heavy woodwork and tchotckes, but the charming vintage tin ceilings aren’t going anywhere. Other material choices are being drawn from historical buildings in NOLA, and will include stucco, ornate wrought iron, panel doors and lively colors. We’re also installing backlit photo boxes, highlighting the colors and culture of the region through photography, cartography and drawings to curate a sense of place.
We’re revisiting the existing facade to better connect it with sidewalk seating, playing off the second floor balcony—a very New Orleans design feature. For French Quarter inspired shutters (commonly made with wood from Cypress trees in Louisiana) we came up with three options, which you can see above. We’ll be choosing one of the iterations above for the final design.
To better connect graphics and physical space, we’re designing new menus, echoing motifs from the lightbox installations in the new design. For the solid wood bar top, we are considering carving out a likeness of the Mississippi River, which played a large role in the formation of The Bayou. Significant towns and events relevant to the history of the region will be represented visually as well. KG Consulting is currently updating the food and drink service for the re-opening.
Watch our blog for the next update on Blue Bayou. In the meantime, please visit our Blue Bayou Pinterest board to see more of our design inspirations.