Delve into the decadent seafood dishes of this Denham Springs restaurant – 
Through DJ Beauty
My Denham Springs friends had been bragging about this area restaurant for months. After constantly hearing them sing its praises, we finally had the opportunity to experience Duke’s Seafood and Steakhouse.
Duke’s, which has its first location in Watson, is prominently located on Range Avenue just off the freeway. You can’t miss its bright yellow exterior, rustic tin roof and cozy porch.
A bubbly hostess greeted us warmly and allowed us a moment to look around while we waited. We admired the walls tastefully decorated with murals, paintings and coastal scenes. Slightly different in tone, the bar has the feeling of a boat dock at night with dark walls, warm woods, and netting bar lights.
I had an idea beforehand that we should try the crayfish bisque as a starter. A rarity on the menus – no doubt due to the work involved – there was a visible sign of authenticity: stuffed crayfish heads nestled on top. Cornbread and crawfish were evident in the stuffing, but it was a bit gummy. Loaded with the Cajun trinity of onions, peppers, and celery, the bisque was flavorful, although the side of rice was needed to tone down some of the salt.
Baked crab cake isn’t usually found in typical South Louisiana seafood joints, but we found it to be a refreshing change of pace for an appetizer. This version had huge chunks of crab with little else to hold it together. It had a softer, creamier texture and mild seasonings that never masked the sweet succulence of the fresh crab.
An all-encompassing entree offering – and a fine Cajun music reference – was the Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie & Filé Gumbo. Sufficient portion of jambalaya was wet and red. My personal preference is usually dry and brown, but one bite converted me. Plump grains of rice contained incredible zest and heat, while chunks of sausage added tang and coarseness. The biggest surprise were the juicy crawfish tails.
The crawfish pie had flaky, buttery edges but seemed pale, mushy and undercooked near the middle. But the filling was nicely spiced with plenty of crawfish in a rich sauce. I can’t tell if there was filé in the okra, but there were crawfish tails, which I found confusing. It was less of an okra and more of a spicy stew. Good, but not okra.
I’m always up for the whole fish, but I was intimidated by the description of grilled whole dab as “a big one”. They weren’t kidding either. When the juggernaut arrived, I noticed the stares from nearby tables.
The sweet fish was flaky and tender, delicately enhanced by a buttery sauce that provided nuanced flavors. With each bite, I was more satisfied with my choice. Although I’m not usually a big fan of stuffed potatoes, I found the included side nice. There was just enough cheese to keep it from being overdone, zippy jalapeño chunks.
Wanting to try as much as our stomachs could handle, our table added a side of red beans and rice. The portion had a dark red color indicating a Creole version with creamy beans that held their shape. Although I usually prefer it Cajun style with a thinner sauce, I couldn’t resist eating this thicker, more indulgent alternative.
Unlike the breadth of the rest of the menu, Duke’s only offers three desserts. Of these, the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding seemed like the most logical choice. Two Louisiana staples combined looked like a match made on the bayou, but unfortunately the slice was incredibly dense and a little too crispy. The drizzled sauce had just enough cinnamon, but overall there was no indication that it was a banana bread pudding hybrid other than the raw sliced bananas on top. We found it lacking.
Still, it’s easy to see why my friends love this place. Duke’s offers solid seafood dishes with a wide variety in a casual and comfortable setting. When seafood isn’t your thing, there are plenty of beef and chicken entrees to satisfy. It’s a definite boon for the eastern edge of the Capital Region.
The basics: Duke Landry opened the first of its restaurants in Watson in 2015, then followed its success with the Denham Springs location in the fall of 2017 in what was previously Piccadilly. Duke’s joins an explosion of restaurant activity around the Bass Pro Shops and offers an extensive menu of steaks and plenty of traditional Southern seafood options.
What is necessary : The crayfish bisque if you want to discover the traditional version, crayfish heads and all; Baked Crab Cake if you want less breading and more meat in your crab cakes; and the whole grilled plaice starter if you’re not one to shy away from fish with skin and fins.
DINNER AT DUKE dukesseafoodandsteakhouse.com 2591 Range Ave, Denham Springs (His Watson location is at 33920 Highway 16)
Hours: Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11am-10pm
Our food critic’s name may be wrong, but the references are not. This foodie has studied the history, culture, preparation, science and technology of food for over 30 years.
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of 225 magazine.