Mouton's Southern Bistro

Family-inspired meals define Leander hybrid restaurant

Mouton's Southern Bistro is Leander's new option for down-home country cooking with New Orleans and Texas flavors in a cozy Southern atmosphere. Ben Mouton and his wife, Rachel, took over the former Moody's Cafe on New Year's Day, and after making adjustments to the hours and menu, they reopened as Mouton's Southern Bistro on March 23.

Mouton studied culinary arts in New Orleans before he moved back to Texas in 2000. He spent the following years waiting tables and managing restaurants in the Austin area, accumulating more than 21 years of experience in the business.

"I've always been in the restaurant business," Mouton said. "I started out when I was 15 washing dishes in a Mexican food restaurant in Bastrop. I washed dishes and cooked, and then eventually moved up to waiting tables."

Mouton, who grew up outside of Bastrop, said he is used to traditional Texas country and soul food. But on the holidays, he and his family would travel to Louisiana and eat traditional Cajun dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo.

The former Moody's location proved to be the perfect site for Mouton to create his own homestyle restaurant inspired by his culinary passion, he said.

"It was just the mom and pop feel with the shady oaks and the country kitchen," he said. "It's real homey."

The food—served at breakfast, lunch and dinner—is described as homestyle Cajun cooking with a Texas flair. Mouton said he tries to incorporate into the menu traditional dishes from the locations of both sides of his family. Also, Mouton's menu contains dishes named after his family, friends and special places that played a significant role in his life.

"I've learned every item on this menu from a restaurant I worked in or a family member that taught me something about cooking," Mouton said.

Such examples include the Gran Jan's Gumbo and the Shrimp Entringer, which are in recognition of his mother; Al's Chicken was named after his dad; the Camille's Cali Club is inspired after his native New Orleans cousin who moved to California; and the Shell Beach Platter is named after where Mouton and his family used to go fishing.

Even the family crest is incorporated into the restaurant's logo. Alex Medrano, a server at Mouton's, said the owner's last name is French for "sheep," so the logo is the crest holding the Texas flag, incorporating both the Texas and Cajun sides of Mouton's family.

"Everything is made to order, and you can't go wrong with good homemade food," Medrano said.

Mouton said he feels his family inspired his passion and the way he cooks. As a result, he said his experience cooking for his family prepared him for the restaurant business.

"I am the oldest of four boys, and four boys eat a lot," he said. "So it wasn't a big transition from cooking for them to cooking in restaurants."

Chef's favorites

  • Mouton's favorite dish to make is the Shrimp and Grits, which has Cajun-seasoned grilled shrimp served with chives over organic jalapeno cheese polenta with a side of garlic bread. ($9.99)
  • The Angry Pasta, one of the first recipes Mouton learned—and the dish that inspired him to have a culinary career—has smoked sausage, ham and bacon simmered and tossed in a spicy fettuccine Alfredo, and is served with garlic bread. ($10.99)
  • The Shrimp Po-boy is a traditional submarine sandwich from Louisiana. Golden fried shrimp is piled high along with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on French bread. ($10.49)

Family namesakes

Many of Mouton's friends and family members are mentioned in his menu.

  • Cade's Club is named after Mouton's toddler son. It stacks grilled chicken breast, ham, bacon and provolone cheese with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on French bread. ($9.49)
  • Mouton said he has been eating his mom's recipe, now called Gran Jan's Gumbo, for as long as he can remember. Gran Jan's Gumbo features chicken and sausage in a dark Creole roux, served over dirty rice. (Cup $3.99, bowl $7.99)

Mouton's Southern Bistro, 309 N. US 183, Leander, 260-6300, www.moutonsbistro.com



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