A spicy blend

MoeJoe's brings a little bit of New Orleans to Plainfield

By Michael Kapellas

From the day last December that MoeJoe's Cajun and Caribbean Cuisine opened in Plainfield, Stu Littell, the restaurant's owner, has been asked the same question over and over again.

"People ask me if my name is Moe or Joe a lot," Littell said. "I tell them, 'No, that's my wife.'"

The truth is she's neither Moe nor Joe, either, but Jamie. But StuJamie's just doesn't have the same ring to it as MoeJoe's. The Littells got the name of their restaurant by modifying the term "mojo," which is voodoo speak for a small bag of charms. Since the restaurant's theme is both Cajun and Caribbean, a nod to a mysterious element common to both cultures seemed apt.

Sticking the restaurant in downtown Plainfield seemed just as appropriate to Stu. He liked the area, having previously managed a restaurant on Lockport Street, and had been looking for a place to open his own restaurant. When the building at 510 Lockport St. came up for lease, the couple pounced on it.

Littell's family owns the Front Street Cantina, which has restaurants in Naperville, Wheaton and Plainfield. He started working in the restaurants at 15. It was there that he developed a taste for spicy foods. He got a taste for Cajun foods while visiting Louisiana, and it became his favorite cuisine.

He came up with the Cajun-Caribbean concept and designed the first floor of the 115-seat restaurant to look like a French Quarter speakeasy and the restaurant's second floor to resemble New Orleans' Bourbon Street. The food is a product of the imagination of the Littells and their executive chef, Josh Marlow. One item that wasn't on the menu at the beginning but won't soon find its way off is the corn-crusted alligator tail. The restaurant's best-selling appetizer is served with jalapeno-honey dipping sauce.

Littell and Marlow weren't sure if their customers would be experimental enough to try the alligator. Yet because of its surprising popularity, they'll soon be adding two additional alligator dishes to the menu: honey-glazed alligator ribs and alligator fricassee.

MoeJoe's has plenty of less exotic dishes, although there aren't many that aren't infused with a Cajun flair. That goes for everything from the appetizers, like the chicken skewers, which are blackened and served with chipotle peanut sauce, to the entrees, like the crawfish etouffee and the Jamaican jerk chicken. The platters, which include fried and blackened catfish, are served with two sides from a list that includes red beans and rice, a deep-fried pickle and southern fried okra.

MoeJoe's has gumbo and jambalaya, of course, along with five kinds of po' boy sandwiches. Billed as New Orleans' answer to the hamburger, MoeJoe's serves its po' boys on garlic buttered French bread with a spicy Cajun spread. The varieties include blackened or fried catfish, fried shrimp, steak, crabcake and fried or blackened chicken and are served with beer battered fries, sweet potato fries or a salad. All are $8.99 or less.

The desserts include Southern favorites like pecan and sweet potato pie, as well as house creations like the MoeJoe's flaming banana, a bananas Foster-like concoction that is lit afire tableside, providing a flame over which diners can roast skewers of marshmallows.

MoeJoe's has two full bars, and all its food can be ordered for takeout.


510 Lockport St., Plainfield (815) 230-2790 and www.eatmoejoes.com
Entree range: $8.99 to $15.99.
Noise level: Conversation-friendly.
Hours: 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. The bar is open until 1 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and midnight Sundays. A limited bar menu is served after the restaurant closes.