First Look

First Look: Bongo Beaux’s Bourré Palace and Cajun Kitchen in Celina

Crawfish boil at Bongo Beaux's
Crawfish boil at Bongo Beaux's Courtesy of Bongo Beaux's
Bongo Beaux’s Bourré Palace and Cajun Kitchen has been open since 2019. We first stumbled upon it around that time and have enjoyed our experiences each time we’ve been. It's located in the heart of downtown Celina in the old post office, but you will feel like it’s Mardi Gras every time you walk into this place. It is fun, wacky and whimsical and it feels like something straight off Bourbon Street. When they originally took over the space, the owners expanded it with a covered patio and a side yard that has live music most Saturday nights and outdoor games, making it a family friendly place that is great for adults and kids alike.
click to enlarge Jesus Mural at Bongo Beaux's spray-painted by angels in the rafters. - COURTESY OF BONGO BEAUX'S
Jesus Mural at Bongo Beaux's spray-painted by angels in the rafters.
Courtesy of Bongo Beaux's
According to their website, the story (a well-written fable) began in the swamplands of Cajun Country where a young boy named Beaux lived. He spent days dreaming of getting the hell out of those mosquito and gator-infested waters and joining a jazz band in the French Quarter. One day, his father came across a man gleefully tapping away on a small set of bongos. He played them with such joy that Beaux’s father knew his son had found the instrument that would help him break into the world of jazz. Beaux loved his bongos and brought them everywhere and after some time, the locals started referring to him as “Bongo Beaux”.

When he was old enough to venture into the world on his own, he headed straight to New Orleans to be in a jazz band, only to learn that the jazz bands neither had nor wanted a bongo player. So, he resorted to playing his bongos in the streets for anyone who would listen. After some time, he had a small following, and to make some extra cash, he started a game of bourré, a gambling card game primarily played in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. Beaux would take a small percentage of the winnings and eventually opened a permanent location to house his “Bourré Palace.” He would entertain the gamblers with his beat-up bongos while they gambled their money away. The concept took off, and he finally got the interest of some like-minded jazz musicians, and the jazz band he dreamed of as a young lad became a reality.

To round out the concept, Beaux started adding food and drinks and Bongo Beaux’s Bourré Palace and Cajun Kitchen was born and became more than he ever imagined. That is, until the law came calling. They realized that everything he built was unlicensed, and therefore considered an illegal gambling ring. So, Beaux scooped up his bongos and headed northwest to Celina. There, he found his new home and a new place to bring folks together in a celebration of good music, good food and good times. Minus the illegal gambling, of course.
click to enlarge Breaux Bread is stuffed with crab, crawfish, andouille sausage and cheese and topped with Crackfire sauce. - COURTESY OF BONGO BEAUX'S
Breaux Bread is stuffed with crab, crawfish, andouille sausage and cheese and topped with Crackfire sauce.
Courtesy of Bongo Beaux's

When you enter Bongo Beaux’s, you’ll hear sounds of accordions and fiddles from the Zydeco music playing in the background and see gold, purple and green accents all over the place. The stuffed raccoons playing a serious game of bourré are an awesome addition. And the most eye-catching piece of décor is the giant mural of Jesus Christ painted on an entire wall inside the restaurant with gold spray-painted cherubs hanging from the rafters. The restroom is a wild adventure on its own. Go into the larger stall and you will find a strangely placed full-length mirror directly adjacent from the toilet — because there is nothing like the ability to check yourself out while you do your business, right? They did not miss a detail when decorating the place to accompany the theme, right down to the alligator door handles and other authentic Cajun signs and décor.

We’ve tried different dishes the few times we’ve visited and have yet to find anything on the menu that we would not order again. For starters, a sharable option is the Breaux Bread, which is a French bread roll stuffed with crab, crawfish, andouille sausage and cheese and topped with their Crackfire sauce. If you’re dining solo, it is filling enough to act as your entire meal. Looking for something not quite as filling? The hush puppies are a great choice to start without ruining your appetite. Fried to a deep golden brown with a fluffy yellow center, they're served with maple butter and a jalapeño jelly. It’s a nice sweet and spicy combo that will prepare your tastebuds for what might come next. If it’s crawfish season, do yourself a favor and order a pound or two of their mudbugs. Served with the option of corn, potatoes, garlic and andouille sausage, the crawfish tail meat is plump and flavored with the right amount of spice.
click to enlarge Red beans and rice with andouille sausage - ANGIE QUEBEDEAUX
Red beans and rice with andouille sausage
Angie Quebedeaux
Outside of crawfish season, other great options include their red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya and the Drowning Catfish. The red beans and rice are served with a generous portion of creamy red beans and roasted pork on top of a fluffy bed of rice with one whole link of sausage sliced in half and grilled. The gumbo has a dark roux and can be ordered as a cup or a bowl. They do not skimp on the shrimp, sausage, okra and chicken in each order. The jambalaya is served with andouille and mushrooms. It's hearty and filling, and we would propose adding chicken or blackened shrimp to it. One dish that is worth the extra workout at the gym is the Drowning Catfish. You get a whole fillet of blackened catfish served over their jambalaya and then smothered in crawfish etouffee.

Bongo Beaux’s is certainly different but in all the right ways. They strive to make each experience unique and exceptional. So, you should two-step your way to Celina and check them out. There is truth to their motto, after all, and we are all just “a bunch of bongos in the jazz band of life.”

Bongo Beaux’s Bourré Palace and Cajun Kitchen, 218 W. Walnut St. (Celina), 4-8 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday
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Angie Quebedeaux is a freelance food writer for the Observer. A "ragin' Cajun" from Lafayette, she's been in Dallas since 2002. She is an HR director by day and loves to “laissez les bon temps rouler.”