Cajun Country Culinary
Leave the big city behind and discover authentic cooking along the Louisiana bayou
STORY: H.M. Cauley
Undoubtedly, New Orleans is home to some remarkable restaurants representing a range of culinary styles. Many have built reputations around Louisiana traditions, from beignets to red beans and rice. After exploring the Crescent City’s dining options, foodies who want to get up-close and personal with Cajun cooking might want to head about 45 minutes southwest to Lafourche Parish.
This long, narrow slice of land is bisected by the bayou that runs from Thibodaux down to the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon. From those two bodies of water come the ingredients that star in the local cuisine—shrimp, crabs, oysters and crawfish—that local chefs and family cooks alike have been finding delicious ways to fix for generations. The influences of several cultures come together to produce such signature dishes as gumbo, étouffée and jambalaya, but don’t rule out trying alligator or some wild game.
To help foodies fond of getting off the beaten path, the area’s tourism authority has created the Cajun Bayou Living Food Trail to showcase 15 local eateries and a half dozen festivals where visitors will find not only authentic flavors but hear stories about how recipes have been passed down through the years and how everyone loves to eat and cook. Here are a few highlights in two of the cities along with gumbo, étouffée and jambalayae way.
Bubba’s II PoBoys, a local fixture since 1996, is a one-story roadside restaurant noted for, as the name implies, its po’boys stuffed with ingredients from bacon-wrapped shrimp to the ham, turkey, bacon and cheese that make up the Poonie’s Hot Club. At peak times, diners are queued up to grab a checkered-tablecloth table in one of the several rooms packed with sports and local memorabilia. Flanagan’s is a hot spot for those who savor Sunday brunch. That’s when the regular menu of seafood specialties such as broiled, blackened or grilled redfish and pasta topped with oysters or shrimp give way to eggs with crab cakes, topped with crawfish sauce or stuffed with seafood. And every dish is served to the tunes of a jazz combo.
A retro ’50s look with a blackand white checked floor and pink laminate- topped tables is why Kajun Twist bills itself “the original Kajun diner.” The favorite fried Cajun goodies are here, along with a lineup of burgers, fried chicken and roast beef po’boys. The menu at Rose’s Café has featured family favorites for more than three decades, including red beans and rice with smoked sausage, seafood and okra gumbo, and platters piled with shrimp, oysters, crawfish and crab patties. But breakfast is as much a draw as lunch and dinner for early birds who want the same ingredients in their omelets. Dig into chicken and waffles, a big breakfast sandwich or the signature cinnamon roll French toast. Eating at all of the designated trail stops might take more than a long weekend. Fill the time between meals with a chartered fishing excursion; a visit to Chine’s Cajun Net Shop, where the nets are still made by hand; a stop at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, which chronicles the history and cultures of the area; or a tour of the historic home of E.D. White, the state’s only U.S. Supreme Court justice. And you can always hop aboard a boat and head out onto the bayou to feed a few alligators. Before you go, visit the Cajun Bayou Food Trail website and download a “passport” to keep track of all the good eating. Those who make at least seven stops are awarded a T-shirt announcing the accomplishment of having explored a bit of the deliciously different side of the Bayou State.
Louisiana Cajun Bayou Food Trail