Tapas and small-plates restaurants may have proliferated in recent years, but you'd still be hard-pressed to find one that serves, nonetheless specialize in, Cajun and creole dishes. Tapalaya is just such a place. The eatery's chefs focus on small plates— during evening hours— designed to create a mix-and-match Southern feast. The day menu hosts Po'Boys with cajun creole sides and the night menu caters to tapas. The chefs recreate the flavors of New Orleans with dishes such as the blackened catfish or classic po' boys cooked with locally sourced meat and layered with red remoulade and a spicy Mardi Gras slaw. The staff also accommodates guests when they're just catching a drink at the bar by sticking to their Cajun motif—crispy crawfish fritters and bacon-wrapped chicken livers stand in for regular ole' tavern peanuts and whatever's floating in that large discolored jar behind the bar.
And since there is indeed a bar at Tapalaya, bartenders pour—what else?—New Orleans–inspired cocktails. They blend everything from the classic Hurricane, which was invented in New Orleans, to the Fi-Yi-Yi Tea made with house-infused tea vodka and lemonade. Naturally, a colorful painting of jazz trumpeters looms over the bar, perhaps announcing the arrival of one of the house's signature desserts—fresh beignets dusted with powdered sugar stand out among many other sweet options.
To add to the distinctly Louisianan vibe of the restaurant without making every table a Mardi Gras float, the staff hosts twice-weekly performances by Grammy-nominated pianist Janie Scroggins and New Orleans sax legend Reggie Houston during the dinner hour on Tuesdays and the Milneburg Jazz Band plays on Thursdays.