Southern Comforts Find a Way to Suburbs : Cajun spices and Creole flavors stand out on a spotty but affordable menu at Loozy Anne's Cafe.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Add a dash of suburb and subtract a spoonful of soul from the Cajun formula, and the remainder still provides some good things to eat.

Open since last summer, Loozy Anne's Cafe in Agoura Hills has taken over a former Sizzler. The interior has been completely redone to suit stylishly Southern sensibilities.

Wrought iron chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Faux shutters, painted robin's egg blue, could have been lifted from buildings in New Orleans' French Quarter. Street signs with names like Riverboat Way and Alligator Alley are posted throughout the restaurant.

The cafe is clearly a family affair. Tables are covered with kid-proof pink oilcloths. T-shirts and jelly beans can be purchased at the front register. Best of all, no one has to spend a pirate's fortune in here; most of the entrees, huge portions of food served on large platters, are under $10.

It's tempting to order the house specialty drink, a 60-ounce monstrosity called the Blue Bayou, but you'd be better off resisting this temptation. Despite the splashes of blue Curacao and a few more choice liqueurs, this popular drink, which looks a little like liquefied mineral ice in a bird bath-size goblet, tastes like a souped up, $7.95 lemonade. (For another $7, take the goblet home.)

One of the best appetizers is fresh avocado egg roll, which is the usual deep-fried Chinese pastry skin, but this time with a filling of chunky avocado. The egg roll is almost greaseless, and is served with an interesting sticky sweet dipping sauce.

Cajun popcorn shrimp come with a pleasant enough remoulade dipping sauce. Pick and lick "jazzy" wings are sweet and spicy, served alongside a lightly vinegared coleslaw.

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Soups get mixed notices. Loozy's Creole gumbo is easily the best of them, thanks to a flavorful, smoky broth. A purist might complain that the bits of chicken, sausage and shrimp hovering toward the bottom of the bowl are too finely chopped. I like the fact that this soup is chock full of okra and tomato.

Chef Scott's French onion is watery and insipid, in search of a good beef bone. And potato cheese soup is none too appealing either, essentially a bowl of tooth-white, overly pureed mush.

I'd come running back here for a couple of main dishes, however. Riverboat rack of ribs is a terrific rendition, a big plate of slow-smoked, dry-basted pork ribs that hold their own against any I've had recently. The portion is so generous that even a half-rack is too much for one person.

You'll get about seven or eight ribs, what looks like a small paintbrush and a side dish of a cumin-spiked red sauce so layered with complex flavors, it's easy to get carried away with it. My friend Steve laid on the stuff as thick as Van Gogh.

The other entree worth trying is Loozy Anne's fried chicken. Bathed in buttermilk, the chicken is fried to a golden brown and crackles with flavor. Inside the heavy but delicious breading, the meat is juicy and tender. Fine lumpy mashed potatoes and good fresh vegetables make this plate a real steal at only $7.95.

Beyond those two dishes, pickings are slim. Shepherd's pie is described as a savory blend of ground beef, vegetables, herbs and gravy topped with mashed potatoes. I couldn't taste the herbs in this utterly bland dish, which reminded me of something a high school girlfriend once cooked on our first date.

Filet of sole "pecandine" might possibly turn out to be a good idea if the kitchen topped these buttery filets with fresh pecans. In its present form, the tasteless, finely minced pecans are just about undetectable.

"Nu Awlins" pasta jambalaya, overcooked linguine tossed with chunks of chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp, is mostly sound and fury signifying nothing. It's completely bland.

The oddball poulet pistachio (from the French Quarter, the menu says) is spinach and egg fettuccine folded into a surfeit of pistachio cream sauce. Have it topped with a lightly blackened chicken breast, which the restaurant cites as New Orleans-style.

I am very disappointed by Loozy Anne's desserts, even if the families surrounding my table seemed to make a big fuss over them.

This version of bananas Foster is a bowl of generic ice cream, a thin caramel sauce and sliced bananas, which melts into a mess in about 90 seconds. Doughy beignets are so inundated with confectioners sugar, you need a small shovel to eat them. Peanut butter pie is gummy.

If you're lucky, the restaurant will have brewed some coffee with chicory, which gives the French roast a bitter edge. (Cans of the coffee with chicory are also sold at the front counter.) That's one New Orleans tradition that feels like serendipity in Agoura Hills, or anywhere this far from Cajun country.

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DETAILS

* WHAT: Loozy Anne's Cafe.

* WHERE: 28700 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills.

* WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.

* FYI: Self parking in lot. Full bar. All major cards. Dinner for two, $18-$32. Suggested dishes: Loozy's Creole gumbo, $2.75/$4.95; fresh avocado egg roll, $5.95; Riverboat rack of ribs, $8.95/$13.95; Loozy Anne's fried chicken, $7.95.

* CALL: (818) 707-7080.

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