By Jessica Johnson
When you think of Louisiana, chances are one of the first things you think of is the food — spicy, hearty food meant to bring friends and family together over a steaming pot of jambalaya or gumbo. Makes your mouth water just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
I have good news for you — Roux Dat serves up tasty gumbos, jambalayas and po’ boy sandwiches right in Capitola (between Kinko’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond) and soon opening a second location in Abbott Square, downtown Santa Cruz. Dedicated to making all their authentic dishes from scratch they use fresh and flavorful ingredients and offer a variety of dishes (including vegetarian) in a fast, casual environment.
Owner and Chef Chad Glassley grew up in Fort Wayne Indiana, and when I asked him how he ended up serving Cajun creole stews in Santa Cruz, he had to credit his wife, Aurelia. Aurelia is an Aptos High School graduate who he met in Santa Rosa when he was the chef at the Plaza Bistro and she was working up north.
While they met in California, eventually they moved back to Chad’s home state of Indiana where Chad worked as a chef at a country club and Aurelia earned her nursing degree. One of their favorite spots to go out to dinner with friends was a Cajun place that only served “stews” — like jambalayas and gumbos.
It may well have been over a steaming bowl of goodness and a New Orleans Abita beer, who knows, but the idea of bringing a similar restaurant back to Aurelia’s home town was born. “We thought that if we ever moved back to Santa Cruz this was a good concept,” recalled Chad, smiling at the memory.
The thought stuck to their ribs, like a good bowl of stew will, and they spent time researching their idea which, fortunately for them, required trips to New Orleans to taste test, train their palates, and pick up on some of the magic (dare I say “Voo Doo”?) necessary to make an authentic pot of southern soul food.
Although born a mid-western boy, Chad had already spent years in the South, as his desire to make a career in the food industry led him to attend Johnson and Wales’s culinary school in South Carolina. His love affair with the restaurant business began when he was in high school and took a job at an Italian restaurant called Casa D’ Angelo’s in Ft Wayne, “I just loved it, loved being a part of the business,” said Glassley.
Glassley’s love of food — and the business of food — has been put to good use over the last four years. Since he and Aurelia decided the time was right to move back to her hometown and make their Cajun dream come true, it has been full steam ahead.
Initially, the Glassley’s were looking to open a food kiosk on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. They had diligently prepared their business plan and Chad was in the Brown Ranch Marketplace running errands when, on his way to Kinko’s to get the business plan printed and bound, he walked past an empty retail space. It was the former home of an ice cream shop – and the future home of Roux Dat.
In March of 2014, the Glassley’s started a fundraising campaign on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter. With the generous support of over 50 donors they were able to raise more than their goal of $15,000 in just six weeks. Once they met their financial needs they focused on getting the restaurant up and running which meant, according to one of Aurelia’s updates on Kickstarter, “[Chad] has made seemingly endless phone calls, emails and meetings, learned about city requirements and county licenses, blueprints, hood specs, health regulations and trash schedules.”
While the financial support was essential to opening the restaurant, it wasn’t the only support they received. Aurelia’s parents both helped out with getting the new restaurant open. Aurelia’s mom sewed the custom burlap curtains that hang on the walls, while her dad repainted the buffet that holds the lemonade and Louisiana iced tea and Aurelia painted the walls while (then baby) daughter Josie supervised. (Brother Everett and new baby brother Warren have since joined Josie).
Roux Dat officially opened on Monday, May 26, 2014 and the Glassley’s have been letting les bons temps rouler ever since. “We’ve been in business for just over four years and we continue to grow, learn and improve every day,” said Glassley.
With a full menu, including their newest offering — a house smoked pulled pork Po’ Boy topped with Cole slaw — Roux Dat also offers a selection of New Orleans craft beer and Cafe du Monde coffee. Oh! Don’t forget the beignets! For the uninitiated, beignets are warm French doughnuts, made to order and covered with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar, and yes, they are as good as they sound.
Roux Dat is open 7 days a week from 11:30am – 8pm. They are located in the Brown Ranch Marketplace and in early 2019, opening a second location in Abbott Square, downtown Santa Cruz. Online Menu www.rouxdatcajuncreole.com and follow them on Facebook.