As much as I love Bloomington and consider it my home away from home, New Orleans has an irresistible charm all its own. After visiting the city over a long weekend, I fell in love with its feel-good vibes, electric energy, and, most of all, its amazing food. Everything I ate in NOLA was flavorful, spicy, and downright delicious.

Frankly, after returning to campus, soggy dining hall pizza and frozen C-Store meals just didn't cut it anymore. Thankfully, downtown Bloomington offered me salvation in the form of DATS Cajun Creole Cafe, located just off of 4th Street.

For those of you looking for a taste of Cajun food in Bloomington or simply looking to expand your dinner options, I tried out some DATS dishes and compared them to the ones I loved in New Orleans.


chili, chicken, rice
Grace Hwang

One of my favorites from my time in NOLA, jambalaya is a hearty, spicy rice dish traditionally made with peppers, onions, and sausage. DATS' version had some big shoes to fill because the jambalaya I had in New Orleans was life-changing (okay, that's a little dramatic — but seriously, if you ever find yourself in NOLA, go for blackened chicken jambalaya).

The first thing I noticed about DATS' jambalaya was the portion size. A single order includes a mountain of rice and 4 slices of oiled and spiced french bread. I know the jambalaya is the star of the show here, but DATS' bread is no afterthought— it is good.

vegetable, sauce, pork, chili, rice, beef, meat
Grace Hwang

DATS' take on the classic dish is filled with the feel-good ingredients you'd expect from a tomato-based Jambalaya. It may seem pretty run-of-the-mill, but I guarantee once you bite into a slice of the flavorful Andouille sausage, you'll think otherwise. Honestly, I'd eat the whole plate just to uncover more of the sausage (and I just about did).

If you're a fan of Jambalaya or just rice in general, you need to give this dish a try.


parsley, bread, garlic, pork, meat, vegetable, soup
Grace Hwang

Behind jambalaya, gumbo has to be one of the most identifiable New Orleans dishes. After nearly freezing to death on my walk from campus to DATS, this gumbo is exactly what I needed. Made with sausage, chicken, rice, and fresh veggies, this soup is liquid comfort in a bowl. 

One thing is for sure: DATS does not skimp on the Gumbo. Don't let the term soup fool you. This dish is filled with meat, rice, and veggies that will fill you up. The flavorful goodness is topped off by even more French bread (10/10 recommend dipping). My opinion: DATS' gumbo is just as good as any gumbo you can find on the streets of New Orleans.

The Datwich Sandwich

bread, sandwich
Grace Hwang

DATS' take on the classic New Orleans Po'boy, this sandwich is absolutely overflowing with turkey slow-cooked for hours in a mix of beer, garlic, tomato sauce, and spices. Their addictive bread makes yet another appearance as the bun (are you seeing a theme here?) and is the perfect complement to the spicy, tomato-based filling.

Although the Po'boy I had in NOLA had more texture and a longer list of ingredients, the heartiness of the $7 Datwich can't be beat.

coffee, tea, beer
Grace Hwang

Although I still miss the energy and experience of New Orleans, DATS Cajun Creole Cafe satisfied my cravings for some flavorful Cajun cuisine on campus. With $7 dinner entrées and crazy fast service, DATS is the perfect place for a laid-back and affordable meal if you're looking to venture beyond pizza delivery and Chinese takeout.