July 12, 2016
Stepping into Da Levee, the Short North Arts District’s spot for Cajun-Creole food, is like making a 900-mile road trip, straight to New Orleans. Inspired by the style and flare, Da Levee features many decorations like beads and feather masks, meant to make your Cajun food experience as if you were in The Big Easy itself.
For Da Levee Chef Justin Boehme, it’s all about the flavor when he prepares the authentic Cajun-Creole food.
“If you’re cooking Cajun food right, it should be super flavorful,” said Boehme, a 13-year Cajun food veteran. “Don’t be scared of the spice; we cook everything from scratch, and nothing is going to be over powerful.”
Boehme started Da Levee after moving to the Short North Arts District from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he worked at Yats, an authentic Cajun-Creole restaurant located in Indianapolis. Boehme believed the Short North Arts District was the right place for his restaurant to call home.
Gumbo, jambalaya, and chicken creole are just a few of the Cajun-inspired dishes offered on Da Levee’s menu. Da Levee cooks everything from scratch, and for Boehme, gumbo is his all-time favorite dish to prepare.
“I have to eat gumbo every day. It’s the only dish I still get nervous cooking every time because it’s so easy to mess up,” he explained. “People eat your gumbo and that’s kind of like their baseline of how they think you can cook when it comes to the Cajun world. Everyone who knows anything about the Cajun world wants to try your gumbo to see how that gumbo compares to the gumbo they’ve had their entire life.”
Beyond gumbo, Justin’s biggest inspiration when he cooks is that he loves food. A lot.
“The biggest kick I get is cooking delicious things and watching people’s reactions when they taste the food,” Boehme said. “I take a lot of time and put [in] a lot of effort… because I want people to have that experience and be happy when they’re eating. That’s what it’s all about.”
One of Justin’s main goals when he began Da Levee was to put a Cajun-Creole stamp on the Short North Arts District. Inside the restaurant definitely feels very reminiscent of New Orleans, but now Da Levee has expanded to include outdoor seating. In the heat of the summer, you’ll certainly feel as though you’re visiting Louisiana. Their sunny patio faces High Street, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner, and take in all that the District has to offer.
“I wanted to make another location for people to come visit and make a destination spot in the District. We like to know the customers by name and see them around the neighborhood,” Justin said. It certainly is.
– Breanna Williams