It’s hard to make a ubiquitous dish like gumbo stand out in south Louisiana, but it was a challenge Eliza owner and chef Russell Davis took on willingly when he and wife, Sally, opened their contemporary Creole restaurant in late 2016.
“Sally thought I was crazy,” says Davis. “Everyone around here makes gumbo. Every restaurant serves it, and everyone has strong feelings about what makes it good, but we’ve worked really hard on each step of our gumbo to make it as perfect as possible.”
Modern, carefully rendered takes on traditional Creole food is what defines Eliza’s menu. The gumbo, which is made with a butter—not oil—roux, homemade chicken stock, roast chicken and andouille, is richer and silkier than most. It’s popularity helped it recently earn a No. 3 ranking for the best gumbo in Louisiana from USA Today. Davis says it’s been a big seller—the top appetizer through the fall and winter.
Davis has put a lot of emphasis on Eliza’s salads as well, with the crispy oyster salad a favorite since the restaurant opened. He tosses mixed greens in warm bacon vinaigrette, and adds fresh parmesan, sliced cherry tomatoes, a tidy pile of slivered red onions and fresh Gulf oysters fried in corn flour. The trick to frying
oysters right, he says, is to dredge them lightly in the flour straight from the oyster brine and flash fry them quickly in 350 degree canola oil.