Cari Taylor-Carlson

Bay View Gets a Cajun Cutie

Bellis Bistro serves delicious gumbo, jambalaya and other Cajun fare in cozy space.

By - Sep 26th, 2018 05:27 pm
Bellis Bistro & Spirits. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Bellis Bistro & Spirits. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

We were sorry to see the little girl in the pink pinafore leave Bellis with her dad and his take-out bag. Her antics on a chair and her infectious smile took my mind off the burn in my mouth.

This was my first of two visits to Bellis Bistro & Spirits, the restaurant that replaced Pastiche on S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View. When I noted an emphasis on Southern/Cajun dishes, I jumped in and ordered the House Gumbo. After the initial heat subsided, the complex flavors in the dish presented themselves in this tomato-based stew filled with meat and vegetables including okra and the usual onion, celery, and peppers. An abundance of shrimp and andouille sausage added rich full flavor to this satisfying bowl of southern comfort.

I used a warm yeasty roll to cool my mouth after my first encounter with the heat-forward gumbo. The rolls, a surprise, served with sweet honey butter, came straight from oven to table.

Along with the gumbo, I tried Elote Bites, an appetizer meant to share as there must have been at least 20 little deep-fried corn fritters in the basket. I couldn’t find the “4 cheeses” in the bites which had been promised on the menu, but the Cajun mayo dipping sauce made up for that small discrepancy.

My companion’s Jambalaya, New Orleans style, hit all the right notes with multiple layers of flavor starting with that traditional trio: onions, peppers, and celery. The Jambalaya, served on a bed of rice, overflowed with chicken and shrimp, and because this was New Orleans style, lots of andouille sausage.

Another companion stayed with Southern Bowls and ordered the Shrimp and Grits. Five spicy grilled shrimp spent just enough time on the heat to bring out their flavor without getting tough. The poblano cream sauce, a perfect match to the shrimp, topped a bowl of impossibly creamy grits, a true tour de force.

It’s always tempting to eyeball surrounding tables to see what you might be missing. That’s how I noticed two orders of the Cajun Beef Ribs Special served on Lobster Mac & Cheese. Two diners feasted on beef and carbs which filled an oversized plate and appeared to be enough food for a crowd.

On a second visit, my companion and I stayed with southern specialties and ordered Fried Catfish and Shrimp Po Boy. Both were nicely seasoned with a crusty exterior, yet remained juicy and full of flavor. There were also sides to order. The Asparagus looked better than it tasted thanks to woody stems; the Seasonal Veggies, dominated by carrots and green beans, were fresh and crisp; the Southern Mac & Cheese with its three cheeses, was well, cheesy. We asked our server what made it “Southern?” Her tentative answer, “The crumbles on top. I think.” It was delicious, even without the alleged crumbles, unless you call a sprinkle of parsley a crumble.

In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant serves a Crab Boil every Tuesday ($20.00,) a daily Happy Hour from 3:00-6:00 with $5.00 burgers, and a Sunday Soul Food feast featuring Southern Fried Chicken, Catfish, and Pork Chops, Green, Yams, Mac & Cheese, and Black Eyed Peas.

Bellis kept the cozy Pastiche vibe. In addition to seating at the bar, you’ll find fewer than a dozen tables which suggests reservations might be considered, especially on weekend nights. If you don’t reserve, Bellis southern food is well worth your extra time and a specialty drink from the bar will bring a smile while you wait.

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The Rundown

  • Location: 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  • Phone: 414-210-3665
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tue-Thu, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun
  • Neighborhood:
  • Website:
  • UM Rating: 4 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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