Give your taste buds a kick in the heart of Cajun Country.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Lafayette, Louisiana is known as the hub of all things Cajun—culture, history, festivals, Zydeco music, and cuisine can all be savored here.
While traditional Cajun dishes will always have a place on local menus, innovative chefs are giving Cajun flavor creative new twists. Lafayette’s food scene has earned lots of accolades, including “Best Food City” by Rand McNally/USA Today, “Tastiest Town of the South” by Southern Living, and “Top 10 Foodie City” by Livability.com.
In short, Lafayette is where you want to come eat. Among our tasty recent discoveries…
3524 Kaliste Saloom Rd.
Dark Roux showcases fresh, local ingredients in contemporary Southern dishes with Cajun influences. This is where to kick back and linger over a meal that’s also a rustic-chic dining experience. Indulge in high-quality food and some of the finest-crafted libations in town. “Our team understands the cultural importance and culinary value of supporting small family farms and producers,” boasts the restaurant website and the commitment comes through the freshness in each bite. Alongside gumbo, oysters and crab salad are options like pumpkin gnocchi, crawfish risotto, and a salad of salt-cured beets, baby frisée, wheatberry, rye, blood orange, dill and goat cheese. Your biggest challenge may be choosing what to order.
305 Bertrand Dr.
Deano’s Pizza South
2312 Kaliste Saloom Rd.
This family-owned and -operated pizza parlor has grown since it opened in 1971, and now has two locations. “But we’ve never lost sight of the high standards,” proclaims the restaurant website and it’s true that made-from-scratch quality elevates these pies to well above average. You could come here and order your typical pepperoni and mushroom pizza, and not only be perfectly content but impressed by the spicy sauce and crisp crust. But you’re in Cajun country so step outside of your routine and get something specifically local like the Jacque Boudreaux (shrimp, crawfish and crab pizza), Cajun Canaille (shrimp, sausage and jalapeno pizza), barbecue shrimp pizza or another specialty pie that makes your mouth water when reading the description. Sandwiches and pasta are also available, but our personal preference is to order pizza when the restaurant name includes the word “pizza.”
The French Press
214 E. Vermilion St.
Two kind receptionists at Carriage House Hotel recommended The French Press for brunch, and we’ll be eternally grateful that they did. We later learned that the restaurant has been hailed as one of the “Top 100 Inspiring Places and Things to Eat” by Saveur Magazine, and one of the “Top Breakfast Restaurants in the County” by Urban Spoon—accolades that prove well deserved on a first visit. Chef Justin Girouard, a James Beard Award nominee, creates innovative versions of traditional Cajun and American dishes with a focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients and rich flavors. We adored both the grits & grillades (stone ground grits with barbecue bits, stewed tomatoes and eggs) and Cajun Benedict (toasted French bread, boudin, poached eggs and chicken/andouille gumbo). This is a restaurant worth returning to again and again.
@21plusTravel Tip: Order decaf coffee and it may well arrive in a French press at no extra charge since regular coffee typically fills all the drip pots in order to keep up with higher demand.
The Lab – Handcrafted Coffee & Comforts
1042 Camellia Blvd.
Located within walking distance of Carriage House Hotel, The Lab is a coffee shop that locals rave about. Hand-crafted espresso drinks like a vanilla latte are prepared to order with exquisite attention to detail. Here you can linger and mingle with locals, read a paper, or sit and stare out at the horizon line, whatever suits the mood.
740 Jefferson St.
The restaurant website explains the menu: “Classic interpretations and exciting twists on Louisiana’s favorite sandwich plus starters, salads, sides, and refreshing beverages all in a relaxed casual setting.” We focused on the poboys, the famous sandwiches. Simply, yum. If you want a classic with grilled or crispy shrimp (or catfish or oysters), you can get it and not be disappointed. Or you can venture into creative territory with Banh Banh Shrimp, meatballs, falalel, surf and turf, Nashville-style hot chicken, and more. Whichever direction you take, your taste buds will thank you.
Bring It On Home…
Craving the taste of Lafayette? Mix up a Sweet Crude Rouler, the official cocktail of Lafayette Parish.
2 oz. Sweet Crude Rum*
2 oz. sweet & sour mix
1/2 oz. simple syrup
5-10 drops bitters
2 oz. club soda
Mix first four ingredients and pour over ice in a rocks glass. Add soda, stir gently, garnish with the lemon twist and enjoy. Cheers!
*Sweet Crude Rum is an award-winning small-batch white rum made using sugar cane grown in South Louisiana. It’s produced by Rank Wildcat Spirits, the first spirits distiller in Lafayette Parish.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.