Black Business Spotlight: Cajun Life

(l-r) Owners Roz Barnes and Darnell Dubra
Photo by Ashley Lauren

Cajun Life restaurant re-emerges at Maplewood Mall

If you’re looking for a flavorful variety of appetizing Cajun and Creole cuisine, look no further than Cajun Life. Local entrepreneurs Darnell Dubra and Roz Barnes are the owners of the restaurant, which primarily offers seafood. Their welcoming establishment is located at the Maplewood Mall in Maplewood.

Dubra and Barnes established the well-known Cajun Life brand in 2018. They previously conducted business on Payne Avenue in St. Paul. The restaurant relocated to Maplewood Mall on March 6, 2021. They’ve experienced rapid success in a short period of time since reopening.

The business has grown tremendously over the last three years: “From the hallways to the mall ways,” said Dubra. The owners are humbled and thrilled about the new move. “It’s been great—came a long way from Payne Avenue,” said Dubra.

There’s a profound backstory of the Cajun Life enterprise. Both of the owners grew up in St. Paul. Dubra attended Arlington High School. Barnes graduated from Central High School. The two started out as rivals before establishing a brotherhood and outstanding business partnership.

Dubra elaborated, “We were rival gang members—now we’re bros.” He added, “Now, we own all of our companies together.” Aside from operating their restaurant, the business-savvy entrepreneurs have generated multiple streams of income. They’ve invested capital in various business ventures.

 “People don’t know that me and my business partner buy and sell companies; we go in there, buy em’ out, change the concept or make the concept better, triple the value,” said Dubra. He added, “People just think we’re into the restaurant.” But they’ve successfully invested capital in a “hair salon, nail salon, transportation company,” said Dubra.

When the MSR visited Cajun Life, the team members worked as a collective in a fast and efficient manner. They showcased phenomenal work ethic, customer service and exuded a high level of professionalism. There was a steady and consistent flow of customers. Everyone seemed to work well under pressure as the orders came rolling in.

Customers can expect to experience high-quality and delicious Cajun seasoned seafood. The Louisiana flavors are infused throughout their mouthwatering cuisines. All items on the menu are “straight from down South—it’s something you won’t find in the Midwest anywhere,” said Dubra. He added, “Everything is from scratch and that’s why we stand out, everything is fresh.”

There’s an array of delicious, premium, and decadent options on the menu. Customers can order their signature seafood boil with mild, hot, or dragon seasoning. Patrons can request Cajun peel shrimp, snow crab legs, crawfish, mussels, and/or lobster tail, with a side of broccoli and/or eggs. The corn and Cajun potatoes accent the meal perfectly.

Photo by Ashley Lauren The Cajun Life team

Also on the menu: Cajun catfish, wings, dry rub wings, lemon pepper wings, fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, gator nuggets, and fried lobster tail. Patrons can also add cheese and/or the signature Cajun Life sauce.

The restaurant serves up flavorful sandwich combos that consist of Cajun shrimp, catfish, and gators. Customers can add sides to their order like Cajun potatoes and Cajun rice with beef or shrimp. The flavorful Cajun corn is also on the menu. The price ranges from $1 to $24.95.

The Cajun Life owners place an emphasis on having a strong work ethic. They’ve hired young people, some of whom are family members. The goal is to guide, uplift, and teach the youth lifelong lessons. Dubra said, “I know what the game is—I don’t feel sorry for people when they say they’re tired. No excuses.” Hard work pays off.

The dedicated businessmen value social responsibility. “We give everybody jobs—donate to the homeless, the schools—all you gotta do is ask and we doing it.” When the owners aren’t at work, they spend time giving back to the community and are compassionate about creating economic opportunities, especially for our youth.

Although business is a success, there are challenging moments. Dubra said the most difficult aspects are “studying consumers, buying and selling products overall.” Despite obstacles, they’ve adopted a positive attitude, remain resilient and innovative.

When asked about the rewarding aspects of operating a business, Dubra said, “Satisfying people … and the money too, if you don’t have money, you don’t have options.” He also cited the ability to create jobs and inspire others. The owners aspire to “give the youth hope.”

 “Don’t give up,” Dubra encouraged young people. “Don’t let nobody control or impact how you feel or how you think. If it’s not right, it’s not right.”

He added, “You would never know that you can fly if you don’t take that leap of faith. We take risks and gambles every day. Try it on something good, something great.”

Cajun Life is located at 3030 Maplewood Mall Dr. in Maplewood, MN. Business hours are Monday through Sunday, from 11 am to 7 pm. For more info, visit Facebook.com/cajunlifestpaul or call (651) 777-6553. 

About Ashley Lauren

Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at alauren@spokesman-recorder.com.

View all posts by Ashley Lauren →

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