Joe’s OK Bayou claims to be “da best Cajun,” but there’s also a humility to the enterprise—starting with the playful name and extending to decor that alludes to a low-country shack with a sheet-metal awning and rough wooden walls. Home-style cooking comes naturally to owner Joe Wheatley, whose father farmed grain and raised hogs before opening similarly rustic restaurant The Feed Mill with other members of the family in a former feed-storage building.
Since 1995, Joe and his team have striven to introduce Louisiana flavors to a northern audience, seasoning crawfish étouffée and chicken-and-sausage gumbo with spices that are bold but not painfully hot. Visiting in 2008, the Courier-Journal’s Marty Rosen found that this mission succeeded, with “bold, accessible flavors, friendly, quick service and extremely affordable prices.” He also found oysters “big and glossy with fine, firm textures—as fresh-tasting as any I've eaten along the Louisiana or Alabama coasts” on the menu’s wide selection of simply prepared coastal creatures—fried gator tails, catfish filets, and frog legs among them. Abita beers, the star of the drinks menu, hail appropriately from Louisiana, and join wines and other domestic and imported brews at the full bar.