South Side Eats: Satisfying Jambalaya at Sizzlin' Skillets in Chatham

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[Photographs: Titus Ruscitti]

A recent week-long stay in New Orleans re-triggered my love for all things Cajun and Creole. Despite eating well while down there, I still wanted more. Unfortunately the two places in this region that most scratch that itch aren't in my immediate vicinity: Ron's Cajun Connection in Utica, IL is 92 miles from Chicago, and New Orleans Takeout in Madison, WI is 148 miles away. I've made do by cooking stuff up in my own kitchen, but I didn't feel like shopping when the need hit me this week. Before you go getting excited, no, I haven't found anywhere that gives Cajun/Creole a good name in Chicago. However, I did recently have a really nice representation of some jambalaya at a South Side staple called Sizzlin' Skillets.

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They serve upscale take-out here. The menu leans towards the healthy side compared to many other spots in these parts. I noticed there were no signs of pork or even beef on any of the listed items. On top of the Jambalaya, which I was there to try, they had a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, turkey burgers, pastas, and wraps for those who still love the 90's. Business was steady with traffic, and most regulars seemed to know it was best to call ahead.

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After about a 20 minute wait, my number was called. The smells coming from my bag shifted my wondering from "When will this be ready?" to "When will I be able to eat this?" Not wanting to wait, I sat down at one of the tables alongside the wall and indulged in a few big bites. The first thing you notice about this chicken, sausage, shrimp, mushroom, onion, and bell pepper mix is the immediate spice that comes with each bite. After that the most notable thing about it is the portion, my entree-sized container ($9) had enough food to make two meals for me. The use of a chicken and or turkey sausage blend didn't take as much away as I thought it might. So while it might not of been as satisfying as my favorite version of this dish served at Coop's Place in the French Quarter, it was still quite enjoyable.

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