K’Lynn’s Cuisine – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion in Rio Rancho

Before permanent signage was mounted, a tethered banner in front of K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion in Rio Rancho listed a few of the delicious treasures available in the tiny restaurant: “catfish, BBQ, gumbo, po boys, jerk chicken, carne adovada fries & more!” Yeah, we did a double-take, too. One of those items just seemed a bit out-of-place? If you’re thinking “carne adovada fries” don’t belong on the list because they’re not Soul food, you’d be wrong. Carne adovada fries definitely belong on the list. So does jerk chicken which, by most conventional definitions, isn’t soul food either. The one item we thought to be out-of-place was “& more.”

I mean what more could you possibly want listed on the banner. If it didn’t have you at “catfish” you probably haven’t had catfish down South…and if it didn’t seal the deal with “gumbo,” you definitely need an infusion of South in your mouth. Beyond catfish and gumbo, the rest is gravy and it’s absolutely delicious. Until the summer of 2016, restaurant-goers craving Southern cuisine had only one option for soul food, albeit a wonderful option in Bucket Headz (sadly now closed). For those of us on the “west side,” the trek to the International District for Malaika’s fabulous cooking was a long (though well worth it) trip. With the launch of K’Lynn’s Cuisine, we now have a second option to succor our souls.

K’Lynn’s Tiny and Cozy Dining Room

Residents of the City of Vision may be asking themselves where this new denizen of deliciousness is situated. Most restaurants in the Land of Enchantment’s third most populous city, after all, are clustered on three main arteries: Rio Rancho Blvd., Southern and Unser. K’Lynn’s occupies a Lilliputian space on the northeast side of the Rio Rancho Marketplace, a retail shopping center whose anchor tenants include Target and Albertson’s. Even if you take Ridgecrest west-bound, it’s not easy to spot. Trust me. It’s there and it’s worth a detour from the well-beaten, well-eaten path.

K’Lynn’s Cuisine is the restaurant arm of K’Lynn’s Cuisine & Catering, an enterprise owned and operated by Karen Johnson-Bey, aka K’Lynn. A self-taught chef, K’Lynn launched her restaurant on July 7, 2016 after having focused solely on catering. It’s no longer Rio Rancho’s best kept secret. Word is getting out about the tiny place where you can enjoy food for your soul–a mix of Southern, soul, Cajun and Caribbean cuisine. Her culinary repertoire is even more expansive, catering “all types of cuisines from American, New Mexican, Italian and more.” There’s that “and more” term again.

Gumbo and Cornbread

You probably won’t peruse K’Lynn’s menu too thoroughly. That’s because the day’s specials, scrawled on a white board on the counter, are so value-priced and tempting. Listing only a handful of items, the specials list may include such mouth-watering items as crab cakes, oxtail and barbecue ribs. The menu belies the smallness of the restaurant, listing only a few starters, salads,  po’ boys,  specialties,  tacos (gator tacos anyone?), baskets, platters and sides.  We visited larger Cajun restaurants in New Orleans that didn’t offer such variety.  There’s one certainty–you won’t leave hungry…and we haven’t even gotten to the housemade desserts which are worth a visit in and of themselves.

2 October 2016: Gumbo is an archetypal Cajun offering and almost inarguably the most popular dish ever conceived in Louisiana (as emblematic of the Bayou State as chile is to New Mexico). It’s a veritable melting pot dish, transcending all class and income barriers. With a fragrant bouquet that precedes it, a steaming bowl of good gumbo is one of life’s most satisfying pleasures. K’Lynn’s offers two options for its gumbo: Andouille sausage and chicken or shrimp. We can’t speak for the version made with shrimp, but the version made with Andouille sausage and chicken is “close your eyes and let the aroma and flavors wash over you” satisfying. It goes without saying that it pairs best with cornbread, some to sop up that great gumbo and some cornbread with lots of butter.

Catfish, Mac and Cheese and Fried Green Beans

2 October 2016: One of the Southern traditions we quickly embraced upon moving to Mississippi was a family-style meal of catfish and fried chicken after church every Sunday. For umpteen consecutive Sundays we visited Aunt Jenny’s in our hometown of Ocean Springs for a bounteous repast. Aunt Jenny’s set the bar for catfish rather high and only a handful of restaurants (such as the aforementioned Bucket Headz) in the Land of Enchantment are even in the same zip code as that bar. Though K’Lynn’s source for catfish isn’t the murky ponds of Mississippi, Californian catfish is still very good. Sheathed in a golden-hued, lightly seasoned batter, the catfish is light and delicate with a deliciousness that defines any notions you may have about the bottom-dwelling fish. Catfish goes especially well with mac and cheese and fried green beans, both of which are quite delicious.

2 October 2016: While you’re more likely to find restaurants pairing fried chicken with catfish than you are restaurants pairing catfish with jerk chicken, the latter combination goes very well together. Infused with an assertive jerk seasoning, the beguiling fragrance of which wafts toward your waiting nostrils with a siren’s irresistible call, the chicken is moist and tender, but its most endearing quality is that it allows the deep, emphatic penetration of the slightly sweet, pleasantly piquant jerk seasoning. If you prefer your jerk chicken to render you a coughing, sputtering, watery-eyed frump, K’Lynn’s version won’t do that for you, but you will enjoy it.

Jerk Chicken, Mac and Cheese and Fried Green Beans

2 October 2016: In his terrific tome Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time culinary historian Adrian Miller declared red Kool-Aid to be the official soul food drink. That’s a pretty audacious claim for which he puts up a good argument. In the South, Kool-Aid tends to be made with almost as many scoops of sugar as there are granules of Kool-Aid. That’s why we prefer K’Lynn’s grape Kool-Aid and ginger ale. Not only is it not cloying, it’s got a nice effervescence and it makes you feel as if you’re getting away with something.

2 October 2016: While the Land of Enchantment is second only to Georgia in the annual production of pecans, Southerners would argue that only in the South can pecan pie be made the right way. The “right way” means an almost sickeningly sweet pie, palatable only to diners with a seriously sweet tooth. In the South most pecan pies are made using dark Karo syrup which has a more pronounced and sweeter flavor courtesy of the addition of molasses. K’Lynn’s version is made with the not-quite-as-sweet blonde Karo syrup and it’s topped with a smooth bourbon sauce redolent with the unique bouquet of the oak casks in which it is distilled. Whole pecans and a flaky crust offset the cloying elements. While some Southerners might complain it’s not sweet enough, most diners will enjoy it very much.

Pecan Pie with Bourbon Sauce

20 October 2018: Sometimes the most flavorful dishes are born not of deliberation and design, but out of necessity.  Jambalaya, Louisiana’s favorite one-pot-dish, evolved over time from ingredients just thrown together, a melange of whatever was on hand at the time.  Several cultures had their hand in its evolution.  Spanish cooks, for example, are credited for the addition of tomato as a practical substitute for the rare and expensive saffron they used in paella.  French cooks contributed assertive spices ferried over from the Caribbean while rural Cajuns introduced proteins plentiful in nearby swamps.  Not surprisingly, the name “Jambalaya” is derived from the French term “balayez” which means to “throw something together.”  Within New Mexican cuisine, perhaps the only dish comparable (at least in terms of being soulful and comforting) is our sacrosanct green chile stew.  Both are hearty and bold elixirs for whatever ails you, their restorative properties particularly wonderful in cold weather.

 K’Lynn’s jambalaya is a jumble of chicken, Andouille sausage, shrimp, rice and the Cajun “trinity” of onions, celery and green bell peppers  seasoned assertively the way New Mexicans love their food.  Who would have thought that despite having lived 90 miles outside New Orleans for some eight years, we’d have to return to the Land of Enchantment to have jambalaya made with crawfish instead of shrimp?  K’Lynn’s happily accommodated this request, a testament to the made-to-order nature of its dishes.  It’s a wonderful variation.  We were as pleased with the generous amount of crawfish as we were with the fact that they weren’t mealy in the least as crawfish tend to be so far from Cajun country.  K’Lynn’s jambalaya joins the one from Bosque Burgers as the best jambalaya we’ve found in the Land of Enchantment in a very, very long time.


20 October 2018:  Satirist Jonathan Swift, renowned author of Gulliver’s Travels,  is credited with having said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”  Domestic dumpsites unearthed by archaeologists in Australia show that mankind has been “brave” for at least ten-thousand years.  Despite being an important source of food lo those ten millennia, Swift would discover that not everyone is as brave as the bold man (or woman) who first ate an oyster.  Even some so-called foodies are still trepidatious at the notion of slurping up the bivalve delicacy in its raw form.  Some won’t even try oysters on a dare.  To be sure, oysters do have a bit of an “ick” factor, mostly attributable to texture. 

Anthony Bourdain described his life-changing experience of eating a raw oyster: “It tasted of seawater…of brine and flesh…and, somehow…of the future.” My own first experience wasn’t quite as epiphanic as Bourdain’s though like him, I embraced the new experience with gusto.  It was love at first bite that quickly grew to include oysters in any form. During our eight years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I devoured oysters by the netful, sometimes right off the boat.  Obviously, oysters that fresh aren’t available in landlocked New Mexico.  Still, you can find pretty tasty oysters if you look.  Count K’Lynn’s oysters among them.  Available as a starter or entree, these battered plump juicy oysters are sheathed in a crunchy coating then fried.  Bite into the coating and you’re rewarded with the unique umami-rich flavor that characterizes fried oysters.  They’re served with your choice of several dipping sauces, including a New Orleans quality Cajun remoulade.

Fried Oysters with Cajun Remoulade and Sriracha Sauces

20 October 2018: For reasons similar to the distaste and fear some people have for oysters, crawfish seem to have an off-putting “ick” factor some just can’t get past.  The notion of “pinching the tail and sucking the head” has more than double-entendre connotations to some.  Others are scared, sometimes scarred when they see a crawfish’s beady eyes staring back at them.  Still others take the crawfish’s nickname, “mudbugs” very seriously, especially the “bug” part.  As crustaceans, crawfish are indeed among the large group of animals without backbones (invertebrates)–a group that includes insects, spiders, mites and scorpions.  Yep, bugs.  If only they knew how similar crawfish are to lobster. 

There are many similarities between crawfish and its larger cousin from the cold Northeastern waters.  They’re similar in appearance and are prepared in much the same way.  Moreover, both are delicious.  One, however is considered a delicacy while the other is considered a “poor man’s dish,” an inferior “baby lobster” or “lobster wannabe.”  K’Lynn’s crawfish etouffee will make converts out of the disbelievers who can’t fathom something so icky can be so tasty.  Etouffee (which my spellchecker insisted should be changed to “toffee”) comes from the French étouffer, which means to smother.  K’Lynn’s rendition is very traditional: fat crawfish tails (or shrimp) in a homemade buttery roux topped with rice.  It’s available in small and large sizes (you’ll want the larger portion) and like the jambalaya, will warm your tummy and sooth your soul.

Crawfish Etouffee

20 October 2018: Almost every time we walked around Jackson Square in New Orleans, we ran into Paul Prudhomme, the world-famous chef who scoured the vegetable stalls from his motorized scooter.  In addition to introducing crawfish to menus throughout the Crescent City, Chef Prudhomme invented and popularized the blackening technique now widely regarded as canonical to both Cajun and Creole cuisine.  Blackening, in this case, doesn’t actually mean the fish is black or charred from overcooking.  Rather, when a fish fillet that’s been dredged in a spice blend hits hot fat in a very hot iron cast skillet, the fish inherits a black, crisp sear and all the oils from the spices are released right into the fish.  Prepared correctly, blackening, leaves the fish moist, tender and delicious.  Chef Prudhomme used to say “A good piece of fish is good cooking, good eating and good lovin.” 

That pithy observation is certainly true of K’Lynn’s blackened catfish, a dish so light and tender that it flakes off with a fork.  It’s much like Prudhomme would have prepared it, meaning it’s seared, not charred and it’s seasoned for flavor not for assertiveness.  You can actually taste the catfish and that’s the point.  We had blackened catfish in New Orleans so emboldened with spices that we couldn’t taste the fish.  The blackened catfish is served atop a bed of rice and is served with fried okra or red beans and rice.  Ask for the okra, so lightly breaded and delicate that it’s almost like eating it raw.

Blackened Catfish

20 October 2018: Autumn in New Mexico is indisputably chile time. Hazy smoke plumes waft upward from giant rotating drums. These irresistible smoke signals beckon hungry masses to roadside stands where flame-licked chile tumbles in steel-meshed drums. Those chiles blister then seem to hiss and spit in protest as their skins blacken, leaving their fleshy insides intact and imbued with an intoxicating aroma and addictive flavor.  Autumn isn’t solely about chile.  It’s also about roasted butternut squash from which we enjoy hearty, soul-warming stews, soups, curries, pasta dishes, risottos and soups.  For many of us, autumn is also about the ubiquitous pumpkin spice. 

Just how prevalent is pumpkin spice?  You’ve probably experienced it on coffee, donuts, liqueurs, syrup, cookies and maybe even on chicken wings, but did you know there’s a Napa Auto Care Center in Albuquerque that offers “pumpkin spice oil changes?”  Obviously the Tin Man of Oz would probably enjoy that oil change more than your car would.  For the rest of us, K’Lynn’s offers a magnificent pumpkin spice bread pudding and it’s worthy of inclusion in Larry McGoldrick’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame. There’s just enough pumpkin spice to let you know it’s there.  That’s true also of the amount of sugar used.  It’s not cloying as some bread pudding tends to be.  You should probably wait a few minutes to dig into it as it arrives at your table plenty hot.

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

20 October 2018: What is it with cakes which purport to be citrus flavored?  If you don’t know of what I speak, picture the last lemon cake you had.  I’ll bet “lemon” was a misnomer, almost as if the baker only waved a lemon in front of the cake.  If you were able to taste any lemon at all, it was probably so diluted by sugar or some cloying buttercream frosting that it was difficult to discern any essence of lemon at all.  Lemon scented furniture polish has more lemon than most lemon cakes.  To even call them lemon cakes is false advertising, the type of which may turn you off ordering citrus-flavored cakes. 

Before you give up on citrus flavored cakes, you owe it to yourself to try the lemon cake at K’Lynn’s.  It’s an exemplar of what lemon cake should be.  Even the buttercream frosting is imbued with lemony flavor–not the lip-pursing sourness you get when you bite into a lemon, but a pleasant sweet-sour tartness and fragrance.  Moreover, it’s a very moist cake–not nearly to the degree of pastel tres leches, but certainly more moist than ninety nine point nine percent of any other cake you’ll find.  K’Lynn is as amazing at baking as she is at cooking.

Lemon Cake with Buttercream Frosting

3 May 2019: In October, 1987, the Air Force assigned my Kim and I to Mississippi.  Before we had even finished unpacking, we began exploring the culture and cuisine of our new Deep South home.  On a backroads trek to Pensacola, Florida, we espied a cavalcade of conveyances parked in front of a nondescript restaurant named The Irondale Cafe.  Surmising there was something special about this small town Alabama eatery, we stopped for lunch.  Our server apprised us that the restaurant was the inspiration behind the recently published Fannie Flagg novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Fried green tomatoes, we quickly discovered, are a Southern staple, as part of the culture as good manners. Before we even read the book or watched the movie, we were besotted by tangy fried slices of succulent fresh-from-the-garden green tomatoes.

We don’t often find fried green tomatoes in restaurants across the Land of Enchantment, but when we do we invariably order them and compare them to the “love at first bite” version we enjoyed at The Irondale Cafe more than three decades ago.  K’Lynn’s version certainly triggers pleasant memories.  Okay, K’Lynn’s fried green tomatoes are more thickly breaded and her tomatoes aren’t quite as green, but they’re quite good in their own right…very good when dipped into the flavor-enhancing remoulade.  Make sure to ask for a double portion of that remoulade.  It’s as good, if not better, than the gallons of remoulade we enjoyed across the Deep South.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 May 2019Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, one of James Patterson’s 1,300,452 novels may have best expressed what most people think of grits: “Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”  That’s probably not a paragraph Patterson could read aloud in the Deep South where grits are as revered as Lynyrd Skynyard music and sweet tea.  “Like grits, but with high self-esteem” makes grits sound like the canned beans hobos cook over a campfire.   Maybe Patterson has never had good grits.  He should visit K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion Cuisine. 

While the menu offers “shrimp and grits,” the accommodating staff happily substituted crawfish for shrimp at my request.  Crawfish and grits are a new favorite.  Much like tofu, grits don’t have much flavor on their own even though they’re made from ground corn. Instead, they inherit the flavors of seasonings in which they’re simmered.   In other words, they have to be well-seasoned for your palate to appreciate them.  K’Lynn’s grits are very well-seasoned and packed with green onions, thick bacon bits, cheese and of course, plenty of that delicious decapod known as crawfish.  With those ingredients, the coarse-ground grits can’t help but be delicious.

Crawfish and Grits

3 May 2019: My Rio Rancho neighbor Sarita, whose thoughtful comments and great photographs frequently grace this blog, loves K’Lynn’s and has recommended several dishes to your friendly neighborhood restaurant review blogger.  One of her favorites is Catfish Lebeaux, a dish we didn’t see often in the Deep South, not even in Mississippi, the most prolific producer of catfish across the fruited plain.  In fact, we saw it only once at a restaurant in Louisiana.  It’s only fitting that the name “Lebeaux,” which can actually be spelled several ways, translates directly from French to “the beautiful.”  Your initial impression when Catfish Lebeaux is ferried to your table just might be “this is almost too beautiful to eat.” 

3 May 2019:  The operative word there is, of course, “almost.”  There’s no way you’ll pass up a morsel of this beautiful dish: fried (or blackened) catfish topped with a zesty, creamy crawfish étouffée garnished with green onions and served over rice with a side of okra.  On any list of Cajun food pairings, this one should rank rather high.  You’ll want to sop up every bit of that creamy étouffée so make sure you order a side or three of cornbread…or dip the okra into it.  This is a superb dish!

Catfish Lebeaux

Visionaries (isn’t that what residents of the City of Vision are called) have started to discover K’Lynn’s Cuisine, but it shouldn’t take long for savvy diners from throughout the metropolitan area to find out for themselves that food for your soul is good for everyone.

K’Lynn’s Cuisine
4300 Ridgecrest Drive, Suite O
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 453-3068
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 4 May 2019
1st VISIT: 2 October 2016
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo, Cornbread, Catfish, Mac and Cheese, Fried Green Beans, Jerk Chicken, Red Beans and Rice, Grape Kool Aid, Pecan Pie with Bourbon Sauce, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Blackened Catfish, Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding, Lemon Cake, Fried Oysters, Catfish Lebeaux, Crawfish and Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes

26 thoughts on “K’Lynn’s Cuisine – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

  1. Yi hoo, it’s only 25 minutes from e.g. Albuquerque Academy…e.g. great time to catch up with SOs about the day.
    Elsewise, did a repeat of one Fried Catfish plank…top-draw per crispness and being tasty. Chose the slaw…Yes! the creamy kind!…as the included side. Also got a side of Mac n Cheese…generous and cheesy serving with seasoned taste.
    Per my avian appetite, I got some Gumbo to go instead. For this AM’s review, miked up a sample. Blush, never had it before…Whoa, Muy Sabrosa! Très Savoureux! Looking forward to suppaah…
    Has beer and wine. N.B. Closed S/M/T.
    (Alas, I’d previously mentioned added reasons to make the trip up the hill. Sadly, J&R Vintage Auto Museum has closed per relo of owners. The Blue Grasshopper however, is still kitty-korner across the street for some after dinner pub music, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/y3c47z2b…Oh my, it has opened 2 pubs off the hill.)

  2. I don’t know what ya’ll have planned this coming Wednesday, but K’Lynn’s has a special from 4 to close, dine-in only: Jambalaya at half price. I probably won’t be able to make it, but thought all you Jambalaya fans ought to know.

  3. and so glad I did!!!

    I was there this past Friday. I started with the fried oysters. Plump and juicy with a nice crispy breading exterior. Very delicious.

    After much deliberation, I went with the crawfish etouffee. Wow! While I like mine a bit more spicy (didn’t realize you could have them dial in the heat, good to know Tom), it was very delicious. I almost hated putting some Louisiana Hot Sauce on it, but I had to have the heat.

    I very much miss having a Cajun restaurant in town ever since The Cajun Kitchen closed, so K’Lynn’s is a God-send! I only wish is was not so far away…but then maybe that’s a good thing, otherwise I’d be there once a week!

    Next up is probably the Catfish Lebeaux, or the Jambalaya, or the Gumbo, or…yeah, I really liked this place!

  4. Tears in my eyes and sniffles.

    No, that’s not the title of a 50s hit-song by The Platters; rather, it’s the result of my asking for the Jambalaya to be prepared spicy hot. The thermostat control on Jambalaya is cayenne pepper. And the chef dialed it up all the way to the crying game. Love at first bite.

    The Jambalaya at K’Lynn’s is a spicy tomato-based soup with chicken and andouille sausage. A horse’s hoof of white rice sits in the middle with chopped green onion sprinkled atop.

    It’s my glancing understanding that there are two primary methods of making Jambalaya, distinquished by the presence or absence of tomatoes. The Creole Jambalaya features chopped tomatoes and the Cajun version contains no tomatoes. K’Lynn’s Jambalaya contained no tomatoes, which is consistent with K’Lynn’s full name, “Southern and Cajun Fusion.”

    Lastly, a plug for beer. K’Lynn’s beer menu includes several beers from our local Marble Brewery. There are so many good craft breweries in ABQ it’s nice to see when local restaurants support local beer. Think globally, drink locally, I say.

  5. And hey, whaddya know, Tom. For the last couple of Wednesdays Cajun Poutine has been the special. Coulda killed two birds with one stone! 😉😉😉 Never had their Cajun Poutine, but I’ve never had anything there that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. I do, however, understand completely why you passed that up for the Catfish Lebeaux instead.

    1. Sarita, now’s the time to order dishes with crawfish. Generally, the crawfish season in Louisiana runs from mid-January through early-July for crawfish caught in the wild, with the peak months being March, April and May. Crawfish from farms are available over a longer period of the year. I didn’t ask if the crawfish on the étouffée was wild caught but I’m sure it was. Each bite had the mouth-snap of a good popcorn shrimp.

  6. It’s been a year since I last had crawfish étouffée having spent a month last summer living in Mandeville, Louisiana. I’ve never tried heroin but have heard that the withdrawal symptoms are brutishly gut-wrenching but imagine a close second just may be the hellish withdrawal from Cajun cuisine addiction.

    I stopped by K’Lynn’s today for a fix of Catfish Lebeaux and I can say without fear of contradiction Louisiana has finally arrived in ABQ metro. The Catfish Lebeaux featured moist catfish fried to perfection in a thin peppery batter and topped with a creamy crawfish étouffée and served with superb fried okra.

    One thing was missing from the taste and that was heat. I asked my excellent waitstaff, Haley, if my Louisiana recollection of this dish was erroneous since I remembered more heat to the taste. She smiled and replied that several of the Cajun dishes have been dialed-back to suit the New Mexico palate.
    I countered by saying that New Mexicans are weaned on heat and can take it and she quipped back, “Cajun heat is different than New Mexican heat.” She ought to know since she was born in Louisiana and was raised on every dish on K’Lynn’s menu. I solved the thermal gap by liberal doses of the Louisiana bottled hot sauce brand taken from the table and whose slogan proudly stated, “One Drop Does It.” Well if one drop does it then ten drops will really do it, and it did. I realize this vigorously-shaken excess is an addict’s reasoning, but I did, as I mentioned earlier, stopped by for a fix.

    Haley did, however, point out that the two dishes on the menu that do feature more heat are Jerk Chicken and Jambalaya. The latter is my next order which I can assure you will happen very, very soon.

    1. Hello Tom: About a hundred years ago, I frequently traveled to NOLA where I devoured as much food as possible on each visit. One of my very favorite restaurants was Chef John Folse’s original Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in Donaldsonville. Of course, I was a huge fan of many area restaurants including K-Paul’s for just about anything, Pascal’s Manale for NOLA BBQ shrimp, and Mosca’s for Creole Italian, but Lafitte’s was the place to go for really good Cajun cooking and I was a big fan of Chef Folse.

      After a quick search, I found the excerpt below which pretty much defines Cajun food. With all due respect, Tom, this discussion also brought back memories of a dinner I once served to guests who were also very familiar with Louisiana cuisine. Having spent considerable time preparing a delicious etouffee, I was aghast when one guest requested Louisiana Hot Sauce “one drop does it” and proceeded to drown his plate in it – as everyone else looked on in horror.

      From https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/revealing-the-truth-about-cajun-food: MYTH: Cajun food is always super spicy.
      “When Cajun and Creole food was first introduced on a global scale in the ‘80s, most people became familiar with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s version of blackened redfish: a filet seasoned with spices and cayenne pepper, then seared in a cast iron pot ‘til those seasons were extra toasty. It was incredibly popular and led to lots of imitations, which led to poorly crafted dishes that were way too spicy, according to Folse. The reality is, most Cajun and Creole dishes are highly seasoned, rather than just hot and spicy. The dishes call for ingredients with a ton of flavor, like fresh vegetables and smoked meats. A properly prepared Cajun or Creole dish should leave you with a warm feeling in the back of your throat — not running to gulp down a glass of milk to put out the fire spreading down your esophagus.”

      1. Becky, our roving gourmand has told me that there’s great room for different crawfish étouffée recipes and in his time spent in Louisiana he found stark variances between Creole and Cajun. The former being mellower.

        As for this dish, wouldn’t you say the taproot of variance is the “cajun (or creole) seasoning” and its level of cayenne pepper? White and black pepper can be throttled up or down as well. I’m curious to explore my waitstaff (born and raised in LA)’s comment that New Mexicans react differently to cayenne-driven heat versus heat from chiles. She’s worked at K’Lynn’s for nearly two years and found that its jambalaya and jerk chicken (their two hottest dishes) can be a tolerance challenge for diners who associate *heat* with chiles. What do you think?

        1. Tom, I’m assuming by “the dish” you’re referring to etouffee and /or jambalaya? If so, then my answer to “defining criteria” is, indeed, the use of Cajun seasoning along with the “Holy Trinity” of bell peppers, onions, and celery. As an aside, there are two distinct variations of jambalaya: Creole jambalaya includes the use of tomatoes whereas Cajun jambalaya does not.

          You also mentioned jerk chicken with which I’m not as familiar although I do know that, like my favorite Bajan chicken as prepared in Barbados, jerk is based on fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, and marjoram as well as fiery Scotch bonnet chilies that rate an 80,000 to 400,000 Scoville units.

          As you know, New Mexico chiles vary widely when it comes to heat factor with a Scoville rating of up to 70,000 so they far and away outdistance the tame bell pepper with a Scoville rating of a solid zero. As I previously noted, a judiciously prepared jambalaya or etouffee would not include ground cayenne pepper to the point of being incendiary – it’s usually measured in quantities of a teaspoon or less, depending upon the quantity being prepared. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got jerk seasoning with Scotch Bonnet peppers so if it’s the heat factor you’re seeking, you’ll want to go with the jerk chicken.

  7. Hands down, this is some of the best food we’ve ever eaten. Based on this review, we traveled from Santa Fe just to have lunch here. (Thank you for writing it, Gil.) I almost fainted with my first bite of the jerk chicken with red beans and rice–such depth of flavor! The fried catfish is outstanding, as well as the gumbo, jambalaya, and mac and cheese. Making a choice was agonizing, so we must return. The beautiful people who work at this place are gracious and welcoming and they must be supported by our patronage. This restaurant is a treasure. Just go. It’s so much cheaper than a ticket to NOLA!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Stella. Karen (K’Lynn) will really appreciate hearing how much you enjoyed her great cooking. I wholly agree with you about the beautiful people who work at K’Lynn’s. Beautiful people, beautiful food…K’Lynn’s has it all!

      1. We’d be regulars if it weren’t for the distance. Albuquerque is such a food mecca to us. It’s hard to branch out beyond Taqueria Mexico, California Pastrami, Bocadillo’s, and some other favorites, but I’m happy we found K’Lynn’s.

  8. It was exactly a year ago today I had an empyrean plate of fried catfish and crawfish étouffée at Boudreau & Thibodeau’s in Houma, Louisiana. I will have to try K’Lynn’s soon and I would encourage my fellow New Mexicans to do so too, as Louisiana ranks fourth in state obesity rankings while New Mexico trails way behind at 38th. We have heaps of deliciously full-fledged, high-caloric eating to do to close the gap with Bayou State!

  9. “Ick” RE Oysters? Only “Ick”? I prefer YUCKO/OooEee! despite being a near-Boston native. My Portuquese de San Pedro, CA college roommate invited me to his Folks’ home over holidays. His (dropdead) Mom wished to make me feel at home and brought out a huge platter of CA oysters on the half shell for me to quite embarrassingly/humiliatingly decline…ya, showing how unMacho I was. Elsewise, I was once married to a gal that loved one thing Gil did not mention…An Oyster Shooter, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/y8m426hw
    – Catfish: despite “living in the South” in Nashville’s Belle Meade for 11/12ths of a year, I am not an expert. For some reason our FAV eatery was in historic/Civil War Murfreesboro, where we enjoyed feasting on Catfish in an always jammed packed place I had my first taste of Tom Yum soup…OMG…ya always remember your first! (If ever in Nashville, Y’all MUST DO Jimmy Kelly’s (since ’34 for beef) for their amuse-bouche, buttery fried corn cakes!
    RE K’Lynn’s: Being on the southside of Ridgecrest, it is just to the East of The BlueGrasshopper where ya might stop in afterwards for some music http://tinyurl.com/y8aemruc and a brewski…yo K’L serves beer/wine.
    Indeed, while stripmall places are my bane for ambience, I found the painting of the white wall reddish and especially plus Maria and her engaging style, think Flo, kinda mellowed me especially if you get your mind set to be: Y’all be there for inexpensive down-home eats! I had the one plank of Blackened Catfish con red bean/rice. I’ll give both 2 Thumbs/Halluxes Up for tastiness ala seasoning…Worthy of the trip up the hill! Need another reason to go ‘way’ up there? Go here http://tinyurl.com/y7uu3ouv M-Sat as for salivating appetizers for K’L’s! Besides scrolling to the Reviews, click the opening pic for a slideshow.

    1. Ya know, how could one do a review…talk about such food…. of any such place without forgetting to include a reflection of waiting in line at Captains of the Caribbean while looking across the waters magically bespeckled with FireFlies at Captain Jack’s at DLand? And so, pardon…in this age of soul-less music…I forgot: http://tinyurl.com/ybxqrup4

      1. I have no idea. How could you possibly do that ? But you did. I assume that DLand actually means Disney World. I have never been there and never will be.

        1. Yo Old Geezer, Sorry… DLand means DisneyLand in Anaheim, CA. Sorry you opted out of ever going. My first time was circa ’59 when ya paid $3.95 for a coupon book for rides vs the preposterous > 100 bucks today. Pretty sure have been…Holy Cow!…10X…LOL

  10. I am surprised there are not more reviews for K’Lynns! It is so delish! My family have gone several times and had the catfish, the gator, the collard greens, and more. There also is a once a month breakfast event she posts on Facebook. We had beignets, French market coffee and Shrimp & Grits! (Grits were so buttery and decadent!) Real comfort food you will want to go back for again and again. Seriously, go tonight!

    1. Thank you, Jennifer, for reminding me about K’Lynn’s. We returned on Saturday and found many new new things to love. I’m still thinking about that lemon cake and the jambalaya. Unfortunately, K’Lynn’s is open only Wednesday through Sunday, but I’m with you. Everyone should visit this restaurant.

      1. Hi Gil,

        Unfortunately, K’Lynn’s is not open Sundays. But, she used to not be open on Wednesdays; now she is. Also, she extended her hours, so while I hate that she’s closed on Sundays, at least there’s that. There isn’t one thing there I’ve tried that wasn’t delicious. Think the next time I go I’ll try the Catfish Lebeaux. Looks intriguing. And oh, her desserts! *SWOON*

        Oh yeah. Her info has changed. Her website is now: https://www.klynnsfusion.com/ Her Facebook page is now: https://www.facebook.com/Klynnsfusion/

        1. Hi Sarita

          Thank you so much for keeping me honest. I really do need a proofreader sometimes.

          The Catfish Lebeaux (fresh, fried catfish fillets served over rice & topped w/ our insanely good crawfish étouffée) sounds wonderful. I’ll have to try it too, along with a slice or two of that lemon pie.

  11. Want to give a big high five for Viet Rice which is our favorite restaurant in Rio Rancho. And, yes, we have been to Tao which is good and Banana Leaf. Viet Rice is always fresh with great service, reasonable pricing and it’s so far our favorite. Like I say, can not wait to try K’Lynnes!

    At Viet Rice, I highly recommend the Chicken Noodle Soup with Rice Noodles. It comes with a pile of bean sprouts, some jalapeno and lime. I opt out on the pile of cilantro and instead get enough basil to take some home with me. Really too much. But it is the perfect flavor if you put the sides in the soup and it’s huge! My son gets the Country Style Beef and it is fantastic as well. Go there!!

  12. Can not wait to try. Will leave a review after. So exciting and daring; who would think of opening a decent restaurant in Rio Rancho – positively daredevilish!!!

  13. Thank you for this enlightening article about K’Lynn’s Cuisine. I love trying new privately owned local restaurants, and I am literally a fried catfish freak. If her meals are as sumptuous as you describe, I’m certain my husband and I will become regular customers. We would be sad to lose a really fine soul food restaurant because no one would give it a try.

    I must ask you now. have you eaten at Tao on Southern just east of the post office in the closed Albertsons shopping center in Rio Rancho? If you haven’t, you should. I think it will cause you to re-evaluate the Chinese restaurant category. They are the only restaurant in town that offers pea pods and beef. Neither the pea pods which still crunch,nor the beef which is tender and juicy, are over-cooked. We, with friends and family, have sampled several of their extensive list of entrees, and it seems that each is coupled with its perfect and distinct sauce. Please try it. I love Chinese food, but this is the first I’ve found in the ABQ area that meets every requirement of my finicky pallet. As it now resides in a nearly deserted shopping center, I’m worried this valued gem will not be discovered before it is lost. Once discovered, though, I’m sure it will flourish!

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