Pearl Theriot had eight sons, five daughters and all the grandchildren a woman could want. Somewhere in there came her son Robert Brunet, a chef who moved to Colorado Springs in 2010 "thanks to a little lady named Hurricane Katrina," as the menu for his new restaurant, Momma Pearl's Cajun Kitchen, tells it.
It's the latest project for a man who made a name for himself as The House Chef, a frequent player in the deal-of-the-day scene, and it comes in a Rockrimmon location known for chewing up restaurants every six months or so. Mexi-Blues BBQ, Wood's Barbecue and Burgers, Everything Fajita and Miss Saigon Bistro are just some of the recent occupants.
The dining room's now been redone with the typical New Orleans trappings, including a laminated listing of popular "Looziana" aphorisms, like, "Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two. We do like a little tea with our sugar." Which is what I figured when I ordered the sweet tea ($1.50), but instead it came light and tangy with lemon — perfect for my Colorado tastes but surprisingly restrained for the region.
Either way, it began a trip through a menu that may actually make it through the locational lassitude. Brunet has put together a series of often-rewarding plates, especially at breakfast.
It's then you'll find entrées like Momma Pearl's Coco Rice, a surprisingly compelling bit of simplicity. Brunet fries white rice with onions, eggs, crispy bacon bits, "Creole seasoning" and cheddar and Jack cheeses, topping the rounded mound with slices of cooling avocado. The dish is warm, salty and very hard to stop eating.
A bleary-eyed soul might also seek a moist, dinner-plate-sized frittata made with plump Gulf shrimp and roasted peppers ($9.75), paired with roasted red-potatoes slick with salt-studded olive oil. Or find the Cajun Spiced Breakfast Burrito ($6.95, plus $2 for green chile), which comes off more like a chimichanga — picture large amounts of sour cream, guacamole and green chile rocking golf-ball-sized pork hunks — but is no less the pick-me-up for it.
It doesn't hurt that the java ($1.50) from locally owned Mission Coffee Roasters is fantastic, or that Brunet came by with a complimentary pecan praline, a round, smooth disc tasting like pure brown sugar. He even threw a pair of free beignets in with our to-go bag.
Those two bettered the dried-out ones we'd had a couple days before to end our lunch, a meal that was otherwise snakebitten by Momma Pearl's being out of shrimp creole, oysters and gator bites.
We did have access to plates like the fried shrimp po-boy ($11.50/10-inch), though, which comes packed with thick veggies on chewy bread, but shrimp that tasted mostly like breading. A cup of dark gumbo ($4.75) also seems a little full of pepper for my taste, but also blissfully full of fat rounds of okra.
The crawfish étouffée ($13.50) does a lovely mild, thick-and-creamy thing over white rice — maybe just add a touch of salt — while the Cajun Dirty Rice ($7.50), full of smoked pork sausage with onions, peppers and back-of-throat heat, is just good eating. Our New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp Boat ($15) beat them all, though, with its round of floury French bread holding a creamy, tomato-y stew of 12 large, tail-on shrimp. Hot garlic breath flowed, napkins fled for their lives, and the good times rolled.