Hot Belly Mama’s is a long time favourite of mine. Located downtown between Nata’s Café and the Olde Stone Brewing Company (with whom they share a beer menu and an entranceway), Hot Belly Mama’s serves up spicy Cajun dishes and an… interesting interpretation of a Caesar salad.

I recently refreshed my memory of Hot Belly Mama’s Caesar salad, as a side salad to the famous Mondo Burger. Hot Belly Mama’s has recently classed up their menu in different packaging, but the choices remain unchanged. Blackened catfish is another Cajun favourite, and the sweet potato fries are some of the finest in the city. I had the great fortune to be in the Belly on a Thursday night, the night that the Quickshifters take the stage to serenade the diners with some hot jazz. Luckily my group had gotten all our socializing out of the way before they started playing, but it strengthens my argument that people should learn sign language to communicate in noisy environments.

The sound of the music is at a tolerable level in the bathrooms, which are accessibly located on the main floor, at the back past the bar. The bathrooms are nice, with one exposed brick wall, the others covered in black and white baroque wallpaper.

Lettuce? Spring mix. SPRING MIX! That’s no Caesar salad. I imagine that Hot Belly’s might have seen some boost in Caesar salad sales during the Contaminated Romaine Scare, but to a Caesar purist this is an affront, an outrage.

Croutons? Made of some dark pumpernickel-y rye. Absolutely delicious, better than average. Not good enough to redeem the salad overall, but a very pleasant addition.

Parmesan? Shreds of cheese, no complaint here.

Bacon? I… don’t remember there being bacon? A quick check of the menu reveals that you can add shrimp or blackened chicken for $4.

Dressing? Hot Belly Mama’s Caesar salad dressing is house made, and ~spicy~. Somewhat garlic-spicy, and a little bit spicy-spicy, with spices that my unsubtle palate can’t identify. And a wedge of lemon on the side!

A fun thing to do is take friends who don’t like spicy food to Hot Belly Mama’s, and then poach their meal when they complain. Make sure to buy them plenty of drinks to apologize. Because really, who goes to a Cajun restaurant and complains that you didn’t expect the food to be spicy?

FUN FACT: The Cajun community of Louisiana is the distant relation to the Acadians of Canada’s Maritimes; the ones who refused to pledge allegiance to the British king when some reshuffling of Canadian territories was going on (around the time of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham). The drummer of the Quickshifters is Acadian, and also my high school English teacher.

ADDITIONAL FUN FACT: the Asterix comics take place in the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul (modern day France). And the Asterix comics are full of puns! I feel like, given the Gaulish resistance to Roman occupation, the Hot Belly Mama’s Caesar salad is appropriately defiantly unique.