A June 2002 trip
to Lafayette by ssullivan
Quote: Lafayette is located in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. The area is full of historic homes on oak-lined streets, plantations, and a culture you won't find anywhere else. In 2002, I made eleven business trips to Lafayette in seven months and became quite familiar with the city.
Lafayette, Louisiana sits about 15 miles west of the Atchafalaya River basin and swamp, and is fewer than 40 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. The city is known as the unofficial capital of Cajun Country or Acadiana, as most locals prefer to refer to the region.
Settled by immigrants from Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s, this area of Louisiana developed its own unique culture, famous for its cuisine, language, and music. To this day, over a quarter million local residents speak a unique dialect of French, and, like the nearby city of New Orleans, examples of the continuing French influence abound.
Today Lafayette is a major hub for the Gulf of Mexico offshore operations of a variety of major oil and gas companies. The city is home to a university, historic homes, great restaurants, and opportunities for outdoor activities, such as swamp tours, hunting, and fishing. There is also a popular horse-racing track, Evangeline Downs, located on the north side of the city just off Interstate 49.
As the majority of my trips to Lafayette have either been for business or a rest stop while passing through on Interstate 10, I am limited my entries in this journal to the restaurants I’ve eaten at and hotels I’ve stayed in. However, there is plenty to do in Lafayette and the surrounding area, and a visit to the Lafayette Convention and Visitor Commission website (see the link below) will reveal the many possibilities that await you in this unique part of the country.
A cheaper option is to fly into New Orleans, where fares are much cheaper and then drive up to Lafayette through the Cajun country. This drive will take you through communities like Houma, New Iberia, and St. Martinville, which are full of the area's unique culture. Non-stop driving time between New Orleans and Lafayette is around 2 hours. Lafayette is also easily reached by Interstates 10 and 49, which intersect in the city.
Hotel | "Hilton Lafayette and Towers"
Of the hotels in Lafayette I’ve stayed in, the Hilton Lafayette and Towers is my favorite. It is one of the few full-service hotels and quite possibly the largest hotel in the city. It’s also probably one of the more expensive places to stay in town, although you can find rates around $90 online for weekend stays. On my business trips taken during the week, the rate was usually around $140. That said, do not expect four- or five-star accommodations from the Hilton; when compared to other full-service Hiltons, I’d rank the Lafayette location no better than average. But, when compared to some of the other options, the Hilton stands out, even with its faults.
So why do I say the Lafayette Hilton is no better than average? First, in my opinion, the hotel is in fairly serious need of renovation and modernization. Much of the property’s public areas retain the original 1970s-era fake antebellum, Louisiana plantation-style décor. Think Scarlet O’Hara and Gone With the Wind here, only to an extreme. To me the lobby and other public areas are very dated, and the southern theme could be done in a more modern, tasteful way. But maybe that’s just my personal opinion; after all, this Acadiana and the pre-Civil War plantation look is big here.
Moving upstairs to the guest room floors, one of my chief complaints about the hotel’s infrastructure are the extremely slow and unreliable elevators, and hallways that seem to always be at least 80°F. The rooms are not bad, although the bathroom fixtures are showing their age. The furnishings again fit the plantation-style, French-provincial theme. Beds are comfortable, but nothing special; don’t expect the plush pillow-top mattresses and down comforters that some newer Hilton properties feature. Some nice features, like high-speed Internet access, are available. The upgraded Towers rooms, available at an extra charge, add a few amenities to an otherwise standard room, including a bathrobe. Towers rooms also feature access to the hotel’s VIP lounge, with complimentary evening hors d’oeuvres and continental breakfasts. The lounge, located on the top floor of the hotel, is a nice place to stop in for an evening drink and snack, and the continental breakfast in the mornings features a nice selection of breads, pastries, cereals, fruit, and yogurt. As with other Hilton properties, access to the VIP lounge and space-available upgrades to the Towers rooms are complimentary for Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond VIP level members. Hilton Honors members are also more likely to get the more desirable river-view rooms, which overlook the scenic Bayou Vermillion that runs down one side of the property.
Overall, the Hilton Lafayette and Towers is not a bad choice. In a larger city, I would not consider it the best hotel in town. My main complaints, as I said above, concern the dated furnishings and infrastructure. However, given the local competition, it still gets my vote for best full-service hotel in Lafayette.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 10, 2004
Hilton Lafayette Hotel and Towers
1521 WEST PINHOOK RD
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
My one stay at the Hampton Inn Lafayette will always stand out in my memory, not as much for the hotel itself, but for the events surrounding my stay there. My only stay at this hotel was on the night of September 11, 2001, and was booked on very short notice when it became apparent that I would not be making a scheduled flight on the morning of September 12 from Houston to Birmingham. So, in order to get a head start on a long road trip, I left for Lafayette on the evening of 9/11 and had one of my coworkers book me at this Hampton Inn.
The Hampton Inn Lafayette is a standard Hampton Inn located just off of Interstate 10. There is a newer Hampton Inn and Suites located near the Lafayette Airport, but this is not that property (which I have not stayed at yet). Upon checking in, I was upgraded to a nice, large room with a king-size bed because of my Hilton Honors Gold VIP status. In the room, the bed linens had been turned down (a nice touch, but not something I consider overly important in making my stay more comfortable) and a welcome snack consisting of two bottles of water, a bag of microwave popcorn, a package of four Oreos, and a small bag of chips on the table with a "Welcome Hilton Honors VIP member" card. Such snacks are standard at Hampton Inns for Honors VIP members, although usually it’s just the water and one snack, so getting a variety of snacks was a step beyond the usual here. Not being very hungry, I packed the snacks and one of the water bottles in my bag to take with me the next morning when I hit the road again, knowing they would come in handy later on. The room itself was immaculately clean, which is something I’ve had an issue with at other moderately-priced hotels in Lafayette.
Hilton has announced that all Hampton Inn locations are being upgraded with new room features and a hot breakfast buffet. According to the hotel’s website, these changes had not yet been implemented at this location as of October 10, 2004, but Hilton has stated that the upgrades should be in place by the end of 2004. In addition to an enhanced complimentary breakfast, some nice features, such as complimentary high-speed, wi-fi internet access, ceiling fans, curved shower curtain rods, and lap desks for use in bed, are being added to the guestrooms. All of these enhancements should make an already nice moderate hotel even better.
The one downside I can find with this hotel is its location. While very convenient to Interstate 10, it’s not very close to many of Lafayette’s great local restaurants, the airport, or most of the local companies. However, for easy access to the interstate, the location is great, and there is generally less traffic than on the "hotel row" a few miles away on the Evangeline Thruway.
Hampton Inn Lafayette
3941 State Road 26 E
Lafayette, Indiana 47905
Hotel | "Holiday Inn Lafayette Central/US 167"
I’ve stayed at this Holiday Inn more than any other hotel in Lafayette, but not by choice. Most of my business trips to Lafayette were to conduct 401(k) education workshops for the employees of a large offshore drilling company, and the client always chose this hotel’s meeting facilities to host the workshops. After about 15 trips to this hotel, I became very familiar with the property, including its shortcomings, which, unfortunately, there were many of.
My biggest complaint about this Holiday Inn is the persistent problem with air conditioning that exists in many of the guestrooms. This is not an isolated problem, as on every stay here over two years, at least one (if not more) people from my company ended up with a room with a broken air conditioner. With two or three employees on each trip, we stayed in a wide variety of rooms, so this problem was apparently not limited to just a few rooms. And, because the hotel was almost always full when we stayed there, it was usually impossible to change to a different room. Suffering through a warm, humid Louisiana night in a room with a broken air conditioner is not pleasant, especially when you have to get up early the next morning and teach a four-hour workshop to 100 people. The hotel employees were also consistently difficult to deal with regarding this problem, and requests for a reduction in room rate or free night usually fell on deaf ears. The employees and management usually seemed annoyed with the complaints and had a "just deal with it and shut up and leave me alone" attitude, like they were tired of hearing about the air conditioning problem.
Another issue I had with this Holiday Inn was cleanliness. I never stayed in a room that was filthy, but not once did I have one that was extremely clean either. Usually the housekeeping problems related to overlooked details, such as a trash can that had not been emptied, a dirty coffee maker, or, in one case, a table that where the previous guest had obviously spilled a soft drink that was very sticky. On one visit, the housekeeper apparently forgot to stock my room with towels; when I arrived there was not a single towel or washcloth in the room and it took three calls to the front desk to have towels delivered to the room. Like the air conditioning problem, these issues seemed to come up on virtually every stay.
Personally, I would not choose to stay at this hotel again. Had I stayed there only once, I would have considered it an unlucky bad experience. However, the persistent nature of these problems over several years and many visits indicates to me that the hotel’s management is not committed to the property’s upkeep. There are much better choices in town that do not have these problems.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on October 10, 2004
Holiday Inn Holidome
2032 NE EVNGELNE THRW
Lafayette, Louisiana 70501
Hotel | "Courtyard Lafayette Airport"
The Courtyard Lafayette Airport is a standard Marriott Courtyard; if you’ve ever stayed at a Courtyard, you know what to expect here. The property dates from the late 1980s/early 1990s, when Marriott was building Courtyards right and left on basically the same floor plan, so the property does not feature any of the special amenities that some newer, more urban Courtyard locations have. Guestrooms have the standard Courtyard furnishings, with one or two beds, a dresser, arm chair, desk, and sofa with a pull-out bed (in king-size bedrooms only). Overall, the furnishings are nice, but nothing extremely special. Unfortunately the beds have the usual Courtyard thin foam mattress, which I dislike with a passion; the bed alone is one reason I prefer the similarly priced, but somewhat less conveniently located, Hampton Inn Lafayette to the Courtyard. On the plus side, the Courtyard is just a stone’s throw from the Lafayette Regional Airport and a number of the city’s best restaurants and major employers. However, if you’re just passing through the city on Interstate 10 and looking for a convenient place to pull of and spend the night, the Hampton or any of the choices on Evangeline Thruway just south of the Interstates 10 and 49 interchange will be easier to get to.
Like most Marriott Courtyard locations, a small restaurant with a hot breakfast buffet is on the property. The breakfast is not complimentary, but there are two buffet options available. A cold, continental buffet runs about $6, and the full buffet, featuring both hot and cold items, is about $3 to $4 more.
Other features at this Marriott Courtyard are a small meeting room, fitness center, pool, and wi-fi internet access.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 10, 2004
Courtyard by Marriott Lafayette
214 EAST KALISTE SALOOM RD
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
Hotel | "Best Suites Lafayette"
I stayed at the Best Suites Lafayette once in late 2000, when it was brand new. My employer was feeling the need to save the client some money and looked for the cheapest accommodation they could find near the intersection of Pinhook and Kaliste Saloom Roads, and the Best Suites was their choice. While not my favorite hotel in Lafayette, I must say that, for a budget hotel, the place wasn’t half bad. And, while I don’t have the repeat visits to judge the property by that I have at most of the other hotels in this journal, I can say that the air conditioning worked, the room was perfectly clean, the lighting and work areas were more than adequate, and there were no odd smells. If you don’t understand where I’m coming from on this, read the other hotel reviews in my Lafayette journal and you’ll see why these factors are important.
The Best Suites is an all-suite hotel. I had a Superior King suite, which featured a living room, bedroom, vanity/closet area and bathroom. The suite had two small televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, and a mini-refrigerator and microwave unit. The furnishings were rather basic and plain, but the suite was comfortable and the bed had a better mattress than some places I’ve stayed that cost considerably more.
All guests receive a complimentary full breakfast buffet each morning, featuring a decent selection of hot and cold items, such as juices, coffee, and tea. While the free buffet is a nice touch, keep in mind that this a budget hotel and you get what you pay for. The food was edible, but tended to be bland and a little greasy. Unlike some other moderately-priced hotel chains that have a complimentary breakfast served on real plates, with real utensils, glasses, and mugs, everything here is served on disposable plates and utensils. I don’t consider that to be a major negative, but I do think a real plate, fork, knife, and spoon are a nice touch. But again, prices here average $90 a night for a full suite and hot breakfast; a similar suite and hot breakfast buffet anywhere else in town would be at least $30 to $40 more per night.
Overall, my impression of the Best Suites was that it was clean, well maintained, and a decent choice for an affordable all-suite hotel. I didn’t expect luxury, and yet I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable my large suite was. The spacious suite format and complimentary breakfast also might make it a good choice for families with children that desire some extra space and an affordable way to feed everyone in the morning.
Best Suites Lafayette La
125 EAST KALISTE SALOOM
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
Unfortunately, the Best Western Hotel Acadiana ranks up there with the Holiday Inn Lafayette as one of my least favorite places to stay. Have you ever stayed someplace that sounds like it could be great when you read the description online, but then arrive to find out that the hotel has not seen a good renovation in a couple of decades and the staff and facilities are average at best? That’s how I feel about the Hotel Acadiana. Maybe when it was new it really did exemplify the luxury and high level of service that it advertises, but today it appears worn out and has a level of service that leaves a lot to be desired.
One of the first things I’ve noticed each time I’ve been booked at the Hotel Acadiana by a client is the odd smell in the public areas. I don’t know exactly how to describe the odor; a coworker once said it smells like a combination of dirt, mildew, and that "funk" that some nursing homes have. Another described it as smelling like a rat had died inside one of the walls, and they never bothered to exhume the body. I think that description is a bit extreme, and I’m not sure I totally agree with the mildew and nursing home description either, but, however you describe it, the odor is there, and it’s not that pleasant -and it’s been there when I’ve stayed at the hotel in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. My former boss said it was there when she first stayed in the hotel in the early 1990s, so apparently it’s not a new thing and it’s not probably going away soon. In any case, I prefer to stay in a hotel that either has no odor to it, or, if there is an odor, it’s one that evokes a sense that the place is clean and fresh. This smell does not create that impression.
Fortunately the guestrooms that I have stayed in do not have the odor issue. However, the beds in this hotel are some of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever slept in. For a business traveler, there is very little workspace in the room; do not expect a large desk with easy-to-reach electrical outlets or a comfortable, ergonomic desk chair. Also, the lighting is very poor. On one stay, I looked at the light bulbs, and all of the lamps had been outfitted with 40-watt standard bulbs. Not only was the light dim, but it was of very poor color quality and trying to read or work in the room gave me eye-strain problems, especially at night. I’ve also found the bed linens and towels to usually be showing signs of wear and age. For a hotel that advertises itself to be "full service" with "deluxe" guestrooms, I’d expect more.
Overall, I think there are much better choices in Lafayette in the same price range.
Best Western Hotel Acadiana
1801 W PINHOOK RD
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
Restaurant | "Prejean's"
Ranking in a tie for first place with Café Vermilionville as my favorite Lafayette restaurant is Prejean’s. This large restaurant on the north side of town near Evangeline Downs takes traditional Cajun cooking to new heights. Most of the restaurant’s menu is focused on local seafood, including crawfish, Gulf shrimp, crabs, oysters, catfish, and red snapper. You’ll also find regional delicacies such as alligator and frog legs, and wild game selections including Colorado elk, deer, and buffalo. Everything is freshly prepared and almost sinfully delicious. In fact, the food here is so good that I know people in my hometown in southeast Texas who have made the 3-hour drive to Lafayette on a Saturday afternoon just to eat dinner at Prejean’s and then turn around and drive home! You know a restaurant has to be great for people to be willing to spend six hours in the car roundtrip just to go eat dinner.
My favorite entrée at Prejean’s is the Alligator Grand Chenier, a tender white meat filet of alligator tail meat wrapped around a stuffing of shrimp and crabmeat. The whole thing is seasoned, grilled to perfection, and then topped with a generous serving of Prejean’s renowned crawfish etouffee. As with most other entrées, the dish is served with a baked potato, dirty rice, and corn macque choux, a mixture of corn, jalapeno, tomatoes, and seasonings. If you’ve never tried alligator before, this is by far the best alligator dish I’ve ever had anywhere. Alligator meat can be on the tough side, but not at Prejean’s, where it is extremely tender, juicy, and full of flavor. Other favorites of mine on the menu include the seafood platters, good if you’re very hungry and won’t to try a sample of a variety of dishes; Catfish Catahoula, catfish stuffed with shrimp, crab, and crawfish; Red Snapper Pontchartrain (a filet of Gulf red snapper topped with a crawfish sauce); and the Crawfish Half and Half, a combination of crawfish etouffee and fried crawfish tails. Due to seasonal availability, some menu items are occasionally not available; I’ve particularly found this to be true with crawfish dishes in late July and early August when crawfish are not in season and supplies from the previous season are running low. And, if you’re not full from the large portions of delicious food, a nice selection of desserts is available, including regional favorites like Acadian bread pudding; bourbon pecan pie; and Gateau Sirop, a Cajun spice cake.
Complimenting the outstanding food at Prejean’s is the fun and lively atmosphere. Diners are greeted at the front door by a huge stuffed alligator with his jaws wide open, and the walls are adorned with other game. A live band plays Cajun and Zydeco music nightly, and there is a dance floor if you want to get up and work off some of the calories you’ve just consumed. A large bar area with a full selection is also available.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 10, 2004
3480 N.e. Evangeline Trwy. (i-49)
Lafayette, Louisiana 70507
Restaurant | "Don's Seafood and Steakhouse"
Don’s Seafood and Steak House has been a Lafayette institution for over 70 years. The downtown restaurant used to draw huge crowds that formed a line around the outside of the building, waiting to get in (as shown in the many historic photos lining the dining room walls). Today the crowds are smaller, and the average age of the customers older, as the major highways have long since bypassed downtown, and most tourists and travelers just passing through stop at the chain places on Interstate 10 and Evangeline Thruway. But, thanks to a stable base of local fans (and a few from out of town who’ve discovered this gem), Don’s persists. Interestingly, Don’s (along with other Don’s locations in Beaumont, Texas, and several other Louisiana cities) is the last vestige of a Cajun seafood restaurant business run by the Landry family, who’s squabbles tore the company apart in the 1980s and resulted in Houston restaurant tycoon, Tilman Fertitta, acquiring most of the pieces. The Landry’s and Willie G’s restaurants, which Fertitta has expanded into other parts of the country, share their roots with the original Don’s location in Lafayette. However, unlike the modern chain incarnations of Landry’s, which serve "seafood for the masses" and lack the Landry family’s signature recipes, the original Don’s in Lafayette stays true to the Landry family’s concept of fresh Gulf seafood, served fried, broiled, and grilled, and prepared in the traditional cooking methods of southern Louisiana with a heavy dose of Cajun spices.
Walking into Don’s is like experiencing a little bit of a time warp. The quiet, dimly lit dining room, brick walls and columns covered with black and white photos, vinyl-upholstered chairs, and laidback style of the servers evokes a time in the past when eating out was a special treat, not an everyday occurrence. The extensive menu features a wide selection of red snapper, flounder, shrimp, crab, and crawfish entrées, along with steaks and chicken. There are dishes here you aren’t likely to find at any national chain, like crawfish au gratin, a wonderful casserole of crawfish tail meat, cheeses, and a creamy, spicy sauce. Don’s is also well known for their combination dinners, which allow diners to sample a variety of the kitchen’s recipes at once. These dinners are mostly centered on one particular type of seafood, such as shrimp, crab, or crawfish. Ordering the crawfish dinner, for instance, will get you a combination of crawfish au gratin, crawfish etouffee, fried crawfish, and other crawfish items, along with a baked potato or potatoes au gratin and a salad. Portions here tend to be large, but not unmanageable, and are a good value for the prices charged. Service is very friendly, and some employees have been with the restaurant for many years. Food can be a little slower to arrive at the table than what you’d expect in large chain where the kitchen operates as more of an assembly line, but be patient; I assure you, the food is worth the wait.
Don's Seafood & Steak House : Business Office
301 E Vermillion Street
Lafayette, Louisiana 70501
Restaurant | "Café Vermilionville"
Café Vermilionville is one of my two favorite restaurants in Lafayette (the other being Prejean’s). Housed in a historic inn that predates the Civil War by at least 43 years and a modern addition to the back of the original structure, Café Vermilionville occupies a site that has been a haven for hungry visitors for nearly 200 years. Today this once rural outpost on the banks of Bayou Vermillion sits on Pinhook Road, a busy thoroughfare, just a few blocks from Lafayette’s oil center. Archeological surveys on the restaurant’s property have revealed Civil War-era bullets and cannonballs, attesting to nearby battles. In fact, records indicate that Union troops occupied the historic section of the restaurant during the war.
Today Café Vermilionville features a fine dining menu that creatively blends the local Cajun cuisine with modern, refined flavors. Everything is prepared fresh after it is ordered, so do not expect your food to come out quickly. Trust me, the wait will be worth it, and I suggest ordering one of the excellent appetizers, salads, or soups to hold you over until your entrée arrives. In addition to the regular menu items, a selection of daily specials are usually available in limited quantities. On busy evenings, the kitchen does occasionally run out of certain ingredients (that’s just the nature of preparing everything fresh from scratch), so a few menu items may be unavailable at times. Service from the staff has been top-notch on every visit I’ve made to the restaurant, and you can’t beat the quiet atmosphere, which is perfect for a romantic date or special occasion. The quaint dining rooms in the historic front section of the restaurant are especially nice, but the larger, modern dining area in the back continues the quiet, dignified atmosphere.
My favorite appetizers are the crawfish beignets (cheeses and crawfish tail meat blended and fried inside a pastry, and served with a mustard sauce), the roasted corn and crab bisque, and turtle soup (a Louisiana delicacy). My favorite entrée is the Creole-bronzed shrimp, with jumbo bronzed Gulf shrimp on top of a sauce filled with baby shrimp and a white and brown rice pilaf. The five jumbo shrimp are enormous in size (for shrimp) and sautéed in Creole seasonings that complement the flavors baby shrimp-filled sauce. If you love shrimp and Cajun cooking, this is as good as it gets. Other good choices are the pecan- and pistachio-crusted tilapia, grilled chicken Ecrivisses, and Steak Louis XIII. If Cajun cooking and seafood are not your favorites, a selection of beef, pork, chicken, and fish entrées are available in the "Café Vermilionville Redefined" section of the menu. These items are also excellent but are less influenced by the local cuisine. A wonderful selection of desserts is also available to finish your meal.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Café Vermilionville. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Lafayette.
Cafe ' Vermilionville
1304 W Pinhook Road
Lafayette, Louisiana 70503
Blue Dog Café is a great restaurant combined with a unique art gallery featuring the quirky blue-dog paintings of Cajun artist, George Rodrigue. If you’re not familiar with Rodrigue’s blue-dog art, see the link below to his website. Over 150 of Rodrigue’s pop-art paintings adorn the walls of the restaurant, creating a fun atmosphere. These paintings are not for sale; they are actually part of the artist’s personal collection on loan to the restaurant.
In addition to the fun atmosphere, what makes Blue Dog Café a great place is the food. The menu features a number of award-winning Cajun recipes, including my personal favorite, the Chicken Bayou Teche, a stuffed chicken breast topped with a creamy, spicy sauce made with Rotel tomatoes and bacon. Another excellent selection is the crawfish enchiladas, a spicy combination of crawfish tail meat, cheeses, onions, and other ingredients rolled in flour tortillas and topped with a spicy sauce. Virtually all entrées are served with the local favorite side dishes, dirty rice and corn maque choux. For those watching their diet (personally I tend to put my diet, and normal concern for healthy eating, on hold when in this part of the country – Cajun food just isn’t quite the same if it’s not full of butter and fat), the menu identifies a wide selection of dishes that can be made with a lower-carb preparation, and a few "lighter selections," which are the items with the lowest fat and calorie counts on the menu. To round out your meal, a nice selection of appetizers, soups, salads and desserts are available.
While I don’t consider the food at Blue Dog Café to be quite on the same level as Café Vermilionville or Prejean’s, it is still very good. The restaurant is conveniently located on Pinhook Road in the heart of Lafayette’s oil center, putting it close to many hotels and other attractions. Prices here are slightly cheaper than some of my other favorite restaurants in town, making this a great place to experience some very good Cajun cooking at prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet, and I’ve typically found the waiting time for a table at Blue Dog to be much shorter than other restaurants like Prejean’s, where I’ve waited well over an hour before. And Blue Dog Café has something that no other restaurant in the world does – walls covered with humorous paintings of a curious blue dog (sometimes posing with his red, yellow, and other brightly colored dog friends) staring back at you.
Blue Dog Cafe
1211 W Pinhook Road
Lafayette, Louisiana 70503
For the uninitiated, a po’boy is a long sandwich served on French bread, similar to a sub sandwich in other parts of the country. But don’t dare call these sandwiches a "sub" in this part of the country. You see, po’boys are a major part of the cuisine of southern Louisiana. The sandwiches are frequently stuffed with meats like fried shrimp or crawfish, not just the ordinary sandwich toppings of turkey, roast beef, and salami (although you can get those too at some places).
The po’boys at Chris’s are the real thing. Many locals claim that Chris’s are the best in town and most of the rest argue for Old Tyme Grocery’s po’boys (I say it’s a tie). The only po’boy I’ve ever ordered at Chris’s is The Original, an interesting combination of roast beef and other meats, cheese, and gravy. Yes, gravy, like the kind your mother may have scooped out of a jar and heated up on Monday night to go with Sunday’s leftover roast beef. While the combination on a sandwich may sound a little odd to some, the taste is anything but odd. It’s actually quite delicious. This is by far the restaurant’s most popular variety, although many customers also go for the fried shrimp po’boy, which a former coworker of mine was hooked on. Po’boys are served with fries (this is a fast-food place after all), which I’ve usually found to be a little too greasy and salty for my liking.
Chris’s has several locations scattered around town. I’ve only eaten in the one on Pinhook at Kaliste Saloom, which used to be somewhat of a dive. However, on my last visit I discovered that the previous location had been replaced by a newer, modern restaurant just up Pinhook about half a block away. While the new location is much more modern, the atmosphere is much like any other modern fast food place, and lacks the small-town, mom-and-pop feel of the old place it replaced. Not that there’s anything wrong with the new location; it’s just not quite as unique as the previous one. Other locations in town may still have this charm though.
1930 W Pinhook Road
Just south of Lafayette lies the small town of Broussard. In recent years, Broussard has become somewhat of a suburb for Lafayette, but, fortunately, the town has retained much of its downtown area, with oak-lined streets and a number of historic homes. One of these homes now houses Nash’s Restaurant, a wonderful eatery serving a variety of Italian and seafood dishes crafted by chef/owner Nash Barrecca, a third-generation chef originally from New Orleans. The house, which dates from around 1908, has been meticulously restored, and features large porches that almost completely surround the rest of the house (some are enclosed for dining rooms now), high ceilings, wood floors, and antique furnishings. The atmosphere is quiet, tasteful, and romantic, making this a perfect place for a special dinner.
The food at Nash’s is quite good. The menu is almost evenly split between Italian and seafood entrées. On the Italian side, traditional favorites made with veal, chicken, and shrimp dominate, including the excellent Veal Marsala, served with garlic mashed potatoes and a side salad. The seafood menu is a little heavy on fried seafood, including shrimp, catfish, oysters, and a fried combination plate. There are a couple of non-fried seafood items, such as shrimp Creole and crawfish etouffee, but I think your best bet is to order one of the Italian specialties or one of the house specials, which include roast duck, several veal dishes, and several grilled fish entrées. Desserts include two house specialties, bread pudding with rum sauce and peanut butter pie, both of which are very rich and delicious. Also on the menu are the Early Bird Specials, which at $12.95 each, are a true bargain. These specials include a choice of appetizers, salad, choice from at least eleven entrées, dessert, and iced tea or a soft drink. All of this food comes at a price point less than that of most of the entrées. The catch? These specials are available only between 5 and 6pm, Tuesday through Friday, excluding holidays, for dine-in only. The restaurant is very strict about these times too; do not expect to arrive at 6:01 and be allowed to order one of these meals (trust me, I know this after getting caught in traffic and arriving too late once). But, if you plan your schedule accordingly, you can have an amazingly delicious four-course dinner, which would normally cost $30 to $40, for less than $15. Not bad!
Nash’s is a little off the beaten path. However, for the excellent food; classy, historic atmosphere; and good value, it’s well worth the short drive down to Broussard. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday, and closed on Sundays.
101 E 2nd Street
Lafayette, Louisiana 70518
Pat's of Henderson can be a little difficult to find, and it is about a 20-minute drive from Lafayettem, but the drive is worth it, as the food, service, and atmosphere are all great. If anything, the restaurant's off-the-beaten-path location helps to keep it the authentic local place it's always been. Sure, tourists and travelers on the interstate are welcome (the restaurant does have several billboards on I-10), but most of the customers are locals, and that's part of what makes dining at Pat's such a good experience. It's a place where you can be completely immersed in the local culture.
Pat's is literally located at the end of the road. To get there, head east of Lafayette on Interstate 10 and take the Exit 115 for state highway 347. Turn south onto highway 347 and be ready to make a quick left turn onto highway 352 to head east into the small town of Henderson. Continue straight down the road until you cross a bayou; the road ends at a levee and another road. Pat's will be on your left (provided I remember these directions correctly!). The restaurant is sandwiched between the bayou and the levee holding back the Atchafalaya Basin, an enormous swamp between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. In fact, because of the Atchafalaya Basin, it's important when heading to Henderson to eat at Pat's from Lafayette that you do not miss the exit from Interstate 10! Otherwise you'll end up on the bridge (locally known as the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway) over the swamp, and it will be a good six miles before you get to one of the two exits in the middle of the swamp on the interstate where you can turn around and go back.
The food at Pat's is quite good, with a large selection of Cajun-seasoned grilled and fried seafood available. On nice evenings, you can dine on the balcony overlooking the bayou, where the locals frequently go by in their small boats bringing in their catch of fish. You may also see some wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and rabbits. Just beware of the mosquitoes, which can quickly ruin the outdoor dining experience if they're out in full force.
Overall, Pat's is worth the short drive to experience some very good Cajun cooking and the local culture. The restaurant can be a little busy when large groups are present, but I've always found the service to be fast and friendly, and wait times for a table are rarely very long.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 13, 2004
Pat's of Henderson
1008 Henderson Levee Road
District of Columbia County, District of Columbia