Peripatetic pleasure

In the voice Vivian Leigh was going for when she played Blanche Dubois, Kay Agnew tells the tale of opening the latest edition of her Creole-Cajun restaurant, Margaux, and the story is one that Tennessee could have written if he had a sense of humor and had been crazy enough to be in the restaurant business.

Fortunately for him, Tennessee chose the safer career path of playwright. His momma should have been pleased--it could have been much worse--but he told us all about that.

The 15-year lease at the Crestpark that Kay had figured would take care of herself, her restaurant, and the real-life Margaux, her 10-year-old daughter, was terminated when the building was redone, so Kay and Margaux found themselves closing shop, again. Dallas' first and most peripatetic Cajun-Creole restaurant (opened back when Cajun was the breaking wave) has moved maybe as many times as Margaux is years old, but its clientele has always followed it, both because the food is dependable and because Kay's Southern hospitality makes each new location seem like an old home.

After the Crestpark deal crashed, Kay promised herself a break from the restaurant business entirely, but--of course--she found herself falling for the location at Maple and Cedar Springs. That lease was signed, and she was nearly ready to open before she discovered that the previous tenant had never cleared her own remodeling with the health department, leaving Margaux liable for all the violations. Mop sinks were moved, bathrooms installed, walls recovered and repainted, and all the wrongs (for instance, when you turned out the light, you turned off the refrigerator) were righted.

Thousands of dollars and lots of drama later, Margaux has opened in perhaps the most charming spot yet. A vaulted, cloud-painted ceiling arches over the room decorated with a trompe l'oeil Eiffel Tower and Kay's collection of wine posters in which a friendly French girl and the gracious Kay oversee a handful of tables.

Wisely, Margaux's simple lunch menu still features old favorites like "popcorn" crawfish--tiny fried bites to dip in sherry mayonnaise--shrimp and sausage gumbo, red beans and rice, etouffe, and a selection of poboy sandwiches. We had the rich shrimp and crab au gratin; the flakes of crab were slightly overwhelmed by a sauce chock-full of chopped vegetables, but the shrimp were firm and flavorful and the abundant sauce was perfectly suitable for sopping with the herb rolls and corn muffins provided. Only some would even say the special of blackened tuna was overcooked; thankfully, it wasn't overseasoned, like so many so-called blackened foods. The seafood enchiladas were shockingly vivid chili red tortillas, packed with shrimp and buttery crawfish tails, smothered in sauce and cheese, and rather oddly served with broccoli.

Right now, Kay is taking it easy. The new Margaux is open for weekday lunch and Thursday night dinner, but it's a good option in the increasingly interesting strip along Maple by the Crescent. And the place is available for private events, catered by Margaux. So this drama has the kind of happy ending Tennessee never tasted.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Margaux, 2404 Cedar Springs, (214) 740-1985. Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11: 30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; for dinner Thursday 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Shrimp and Crab au Gratin $5.75
Shrimp and Crawfish Enchiladas $8.95
Crawfish Etouffe $8.95
Shrimp Poboy $6.75


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