It’s not easy to find good Cajun food in the Northeast. Despite New Orleans being a culinary mecca, producing some of the most influential and famous chefs (think Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and Susan Spicer to name but a few), somehow that style of cooking rarely makes its way up north. But in Atlantic City, Cajun food just got a whole lot more accessible thanks to a little spot by the name of Bourre.

Bourre sits on New York Avenue in a space that was most recently occupied by Ria strip club. But the dancing girls and Champagne rooms are long gone and in their place lives a remodeled building with seating outside that looks more than inviting for a warm night and a vibe that’s inviting no matter what.

Bourre is part of the brand new “Orange Loop” of restaurants, bars and other businesses, all doing their part to give three formerly decaying streets in Atlantic City a bit of a facelift (the name comes from the orange properties on the Monopoly game board, New York, St. James and Tennessee avenues). Bourre was opened by Pat Fasano, a developer who owns several spots in the trendy Monmouth County town of Asbury Park — the current poster boy for towns looking to make a successful comeback — and who has now set his sights on Atlantic City.

“I was attracted to Atlantic City for a number of reasons,” Fasano says. “If you ask anyone in real estate what determines the value of any property they will tell you the same three things: location, location, location. Atlantic City has always been an excellent location, the problem was the perception. But you can change a perception, you can’t change a location. Atlantic City wasn’t ready until now, but the stars have aligned.”

As for its New Orleans theme, Fasano explains it and hints at the future.

“I think A.C. likes New Orleans. Who doesn’t want that kind of ‘feel good’ vibe? I think the way things are going to go over there — and I don’t want to speak out of school — but I think they’re going to have open bottle (laws) eventually. We are going to try and get a little Mardi Gras vibe in the loop. We want you to be able to bounce from place to place.”

For now, the bottles must be kept inside. And truth be told, the layout inside Bourre still offers reminders of its raunchy past, the space oddly split into two distinct sections, with one side sporting a massive stage that is now used for live bands and DJs, but likely holds a few secrets we may never know. Of course what could more perfectly channel the vibe of New Orleans than a place with a sinful past that sprinkles on a healthy dose of mystery with each dish?

Speaking of dishes, expect swamp-friendly starters like gator tators (fried pickles served with Cajun mayo for $7), and a to-die-for alligator sausage that comes with a sweet and spicy mustard. Yes, that is real alligator in that sausage — welcome to Cajun cooking. Order it and be glad you did. Other recognizable nods to the Crescent City include shrimp and grits ($13) and blackened red fish ($15) as well as a selection of sandwiches such as Po’ Boys and Muffaletas, all of which will make you feel like you are dining at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The man behind the menu is Chef Louie Dello. Dello has been cooking for as long as he can remember in spots like Asbury Park’s Kim Marie’s among others. But he does have a background in Cajun cooking as well.

“I once had a Cajun seafood restaurant that I worked at, so I know about Cajun cooking. And I definitely know about barbecue.”

Bourre is actually a Cajun/barbecue restaurant. What is Cajun/barbecue? Your guess is as good as ours, because one thing you will not find a lot of in the New Orleans area is barbecue, but Chef Dello doesn’t seem to acknowledge that fact or care. He seems more concerned with important stuff, like making sure they do barbecue the right way, smoking their meats on premises for hours at a time in a giant outdoor smoker. Whether it goes with the New Orleans vibe or not seems to matter a lot less once you taste the brisket platter ($18) which just about melts in your mouth.

Like any great barbecue it comes with sides. The collard greens were a strong addition to the plate, but the star was the “Bad Ass Mac,” a mac and cheese that absolutely lives up to its name. Creamy, perfectly salted and extremely difficult to stop eating, Bourre’s version of this southern classic is not to be missed.

Of course it wouldn’t be a proper New Orleans themed bar/restaurant if they didn’t have some serious cocktails. The cocktail menu is well-rounded, with everything from bourbon-based drinks to New Orleans classics. Of those, the frozen hurricane ($8) does a really nice job of paying tribute to the rum and passion fruit-based cocktail made famous by the legendary Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. An alcohol-free version is available for $4 for those looking to skip the booze.

Bourre takes some risks, both culinary and stylistic. It fuses Cajun and barbecue, it puts rock bands on a strip club stage, and it brings the Big Easy to America’s Playground. It may not be your typical Atlantic City restaurant, but maybe that’s the point.

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