If you like Cajun food (and honestly, who doesn’t?) there’s a food truck turned restaurant in Dunedin you may want to check out. Happy’s Bayou Bites is, quite literally, a food truck with a wooden façade that transforms it into a restaurant, complete with outdoor chairs, a small wooden deck, picnic tables, and a nice oak to shade under. They also have live music playing, depending on the day and hour. It was a bit surreal but lots of fun to hear a guy singing about local streets, including the one that Happy’s was on.
Laura and I both decided to grab a cup of their gumbo. A good thing, too, as it was absolutely amazing! (Not fighting over the gumbo probably saved our marriage.) The gumbo is made from scratch, with a heady broth being just the start. They add in green peppers, onions, celery, okra, and rice, letting them soak in the broth to both absorb its flavor and add their own to it in return. Chicken and andouille sausage are the proteins. In most soups, the tender chicken and spicy andouille would take over the show but Happy’s has managed such a fine balance and harmony of flavors that no single ingredient pushes the others aside. This was no thinly populated soup, either. Oh, no, every spoonful was chock full of gumbo goodness and we couldn’t have been happier!
We also sampled their hush puppies. These little morsels packed a lot of flavor! The outer shell was crunchy while the interior was a soft mealy texture, almost like moist corn bread but with a Cajun flair that made the taste buds on my tongue stand at attention. A spicy, orangish-pinkish dipping sauce added another sublime layer to the experience. Among the hush puppies of the Tampa area, these are at the head of the pack. I wish I had a half dozen to eat right now.
And those were the appetizers! Laura ordered an oyster po’boy. Served on French bread (it is Cajun, after all,) the traditional Louisiana sandwich is a favorite of hers, so she was bound to be judgmental. And she judged it worthy! The gulf oyster, hand breaded and deep fried, had that almost creamy texture that screamed I AM OYSTER! They preserved that bottom-of-the-ocean sapidity without tasting muddy. A little lettuce brightened the sandwich, keeping it from feeling too oily. The po’boy was simply overflowing with shellfish, too, as if the oysters couldn’t wait to hop in your mouth. It’s easy to understand why this is one of their more popular dishes.
I, on the other hand, was attracted by the crawfish sausage po’boy. A little lettuce, a little tomato, a little Duke’s mayo, and a good portion of sausage. Apparently, that is the recipe for one heck of a po’boy! The crawfish sausage was cut in half to make the sandwich easier to eat, but the skin retained that snap to it a good casing brings. Well seasoned and in possession of a mild heat, the po’boy harkened back to New Orleans, creating a mini Mardi Gras in my mouth. That poor sandwich had no hope of making it home in a doggy bag.
Dunedin is a great place. It has a fun downtown area, with some Celtic shops, a large gazebo, and an outdoor area just waiting for the next holiday celebration. The Pinellas Trail runs through it, so bicyclists and pedestrians alike can enjoy a bit of scenery. Several beaches, including Honeymoon Island, Dunedin Causeway, and the perpetually highly rated Caladesi Island State Park, call Dunedin home. And it has Happy’s Bayou Bites, which is in and of itself worth a trip. Great food, fun shops, and a visit to either an extensive trail that spans all of Pinellas county or a beautiful beach, what else do you need for a fantastic day trip?
Happy’s Bayou Bites
431 Skinner Blvd.
Dunedin, FL 34698