Food in Lafayette, Louisiana: What to Eat and Where To Savor The Cajun Flavor

If you're a food lover or culinary traveler, chances are you've picked up on all the buzz about the amazing food in Lafayette, Louisiana. The bayou city on the Gulf of Mexico knows how to show you a good time, and that always includes the food. How could it not be a great food city with a hot and saucy French Acadiana culture and some of the freshest seafood in the world? Add a dollop of entertaining food activities, a healthy dash of Cajun spice - and let's not forget a fruity frozen daiquiri to go - and you've got a recipe for some serious fun! Lafayette was the first stop on our recent Gulf Coast Road Trip through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and it started the trip off with a bang. So what kind of foodie and boozie fun can you get into in Lafayette? Here are 11 ideas to get your party started. 

 

1. Boudin

Sweet Baby Breesus, The French Press, Lafayette, LA

Carnivores and pork-lovers rejoice! Lafayette, Louisiana is the epicenter for all things boudin (boo-DAN), the glorious regional sausage this part of Louisiana is known for. Though there's really no Cajun boudin recipe - there are as many variations on boudin as there are family traditions behind it - they all start with the same two ingredients of pork and rice. Some stuff it into casings, other shape it into balls. Shape isn't important, it's the size that matters, and more is always better!

 

Where to Try It?

  • Johnson's Boucanière - Get it on the side, or in a sandwich smushed between cheese for a stuffed grilled cheese!

  • The French Press - Try the Sweet Baby Breesus - buttermilk biscuit sliders with fried boudin balls, thick bacon, and Steen’s cane syrup.

  • McIlhenny's 1868 Restaurant - We had some of the best boudin sausage links here, a perfect blend of pork, chicken, rice and seasoning.

  • The Cajun Boudin Trail - Boudin is such a local favorite it has its own Trail! The Boudin Trail lets you discover the best boudin and other regional foods like pork chop sandwiches, beef jerky, cheesy boudin balls, specialty sausages, cracklin, smoked meats, plate lunches, stuffed chickens, or chili dogs. Along the way, you'll get a feel for the interesting history and local culture behind the making of boudin, and the boucherie - or local butchers - that once united communities during harvest season. Download your Trail Map and go!

  • The annual Boudin Cookoff - There's literally a boudin for every mood and palate, so if you love venturing off-the-beaten-path in search of authentic local food - spend a few days exploring and sampling some of the traditional and creative regional foods that they’re baking, smoking, or frying around Lafayette. If you're planning a visit in October, check out the Boudin Cookoff in October, the annual event that brings the area's top boudiniers together to show off their skills.

 

2. Gumbo

Whether you like yours tomato-y, seafood-y, or with a touch more green - that’s filé (FEE-lay), the spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree - gumbo is one of the famous Louisiana foods you have to try when you're here. Of course, the best part is always the conversation that ensues about how so-and-so's grandmother made it best!

 

Where to Try It?

  • Prejeans - The Seafood Gumbo with shrimp, crawfish, and crabmeat is incredible. Or try their three-time world champion Chicken & Sausage Gumbo.

  • Charley G's Seafood Grill - The Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo is hard to beat for great local fare.

 

3. Po'Boys

The Po'Boy is THE traditional sandwich of Louisiana, where there's a po'boy for every taste. Named for the local dock workers back in the day who survived on cheap meals, the sandwich typically has fried local seafood like shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab stuffed in a fresh roll with chopped lettuce and tomato. Good ones have the freshest seafood and the freshest rolls.

 

Where to Try It?

  • Old Tyme Grocery - Get the Shrimp! Widely considered some of the best po'boy sandwiches around, their traditional Shrimp po'boy is a thing of beauty. It'll spoil you for anyplace else.

  • Pops Po 'Boys - It may not be as traditional, but these have to be the most creative po'boys you ever ate! The Banh Banh Shrimp and Delcambre Dandy (crispy gulf shrimp, arugula, tomato, lemon caper sauce) got our attention. They even have a veggie option.

 

 

4. The Plate Lunch

You gotta love it when a good-time town like Lafayette still holds on to a slice of American life known as the "plate lunch", especially in an age when many under the age of 30 have no idea what it is or why it ever existed.  A close cousin to the meat-and-three restaurants found throughout the South, the history of the local plate lunch houses here - as in many places in early America - is rooted in the marriage of rustic, homestyle cooking with the convenience of the buffet line. As early as the late nineteenth century, cafeteria-style lunchrooms appeared throughout America, introducing patrons to self-service and the steaming lunch counter. The plate lunch is as Americana as anything, a retro souvenir dished up on a single plate for lunch. We can't think of a better way to savor local food!

 

Where to Try It?

 

 

5. French Bread and Pastry

Everyone knows Louisiana is largely French, but it's not until you're there that you truly realize it. The French culture is inextricably woven into the cultural fabric of Louisiana, touching everything from the language to the food. You may not think of bread and pastry as it's own food group (gasp!) and why is that? Because most of us don't get to France as often as we'd like to savor an authentic French baquette or a colorful and perfectly baked macaroon. 

 

Where to Try It?

  • Poupart Bakery - Breads, pastries, and French roast coffee are authentic and delicious at Pouparts Bakery, where since 1967, this traditional French boulangerie has been a Lafayette institution and the only authentic French bakery in Acadiana. The eclairs and colorful macarons are divine. And they're open for lunch - try the homemade bisque. Poupart Bakery, 1902 West Pinhook Road, Lafayette, LA

 

 

6. Craft Beer 

Craft beer lovers have some serious options when it comes to tasting local craft brews, and two local distilleries are making really good beer!

 

Where to Try It?

  • Cajun Brewing Company is Lafayette's first microbrewery in downtown Lafayette, born from a home brewing group of friends who called themselves the Dead Yeast Society. The brewery opened in 2015, and today produces great tasting, craft brewed beer. Try the signature "Cajun Wit" and other favorites like Bayou Brunette and Freetown. Their downtown Tap Room with 15 rotating taps, the "Front Door", is open Wednesday through Saturday 2pm-8pm, and they give free tours. Cajun Brewing Company, 206 Rayburn Street, Lafayette, LA

  • Bayou Teche Brewing in nearby Arnaudville started brewing in 2009 with a single mission - to craft beers that complement the cuisine and lifestyle of Cajuns and Creoles. We love that! After converting a discarded rail road car on their family farm into a farmhouse brewery, local brothers Karlos, Byron, and Dorsey Knott set about honing their craft and today Bayou Teche produces so many styles of beer, it's hard to know where to begin. Fortunately they're masters at pairing them with local foods, which is why you need to visit and taste for yourself. Check out 24 taps of innovative ales and lagers at their Tap Room and Beer Garden near the banks of the Bayou Teche river. Open daily. Free public tours on Saturdays. Bayou Teche Brewing, 1106 Bushville Hwy., Arnaudville, LA

 

 

7. Fresh Shrimp

If you've never had shrimp fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, this will be a big treat. The flavor is guaranteed to raise your shrimp expectations to new heights. If you don't want the heads on, get them cleaned before you buy. Leaving them on will impart a stronger flavor, which is good or bad depending on your particular taste!

 

Where to Try It?

  • Bon Temps Grill - Their Grilled Chili Butter Shrimp over mashed sage sweet potatoes was a nice twist on a traditional scampi, and served with collard greens with smokey ham pieces made it even better.

  • Delcambre Seafood & Farmers Market - Down the road from Lafayette in the coastal town of Delcambe (DEL-kum), local shrimp boats returning with the day's catch can supply salivating foodies with fresh shrimp by the pound, right off the boat! Or visit the Delcambre Seafood & Farmers Market on the waterfront for fresh, local produce, wild-caught Delcambre Direct seafood, and homemade food and farm products. Delcambe Direct Seafood.

 

8. Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a Louisiana-origin dish derived from the Spanish and French influence in southern Louisiana. The stew consists mainly of meat and vegetables mixed with rice and traditionally includes some sort of sausage such as andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crawfish, or shrimp. What's the difference between jamabalaya and gumbo or etoufee? Unlike gumbo, there's no filé powder or okra in jambalaya, and etoufee typically has no sausage.

 

Where to Try It?

  • Johnson's Boucanière - They serve their country-style barbecue ribs with the most amazing sticky jambalaya! YUM!

  • T-Coon's - Home-style "Zydeco" cooking, a fusion of Cajun and Creole influences. We went for the jambalaya special.

 

 

9. Crawfish

Beaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Louisiana

No matter what time of year you visit Lafayette, there's bound to be a huge festival going on (we're talking people from around the world celebrating for days) everything from the exciting French heritage and lively Cajun music, to eating a never-ending array of local food. One summer-long culinary celebration in particular - EatLafayette - takes place from June through September. With over 100 locally owned eateries ranging from Cajun, Italian, Mediterranean, Asian, BBQ and everything in between, there's something for everyone's taste buds.

 

Where to Try It?

Crawfish Pot Pie from Bon Temp Grill, Lafayette, Louisiana
  • Bon Temps Grill - The crawfish pot pie was a hearty portion (the whole pie) with a beautiful flaky phyllo crust.

  • McIlhenny's 1868 - The shrimp and crawfish étouffée we had at McIlhenny's 1868 Restaurant was incredible! Served over Louisiana rice, it had plump pieces of both shrimp and crawfish and diced trinity (sauteed onions, carrots, celery) that was still chunky.

  • Prejean's - The fried crawfish here was the best we had - fresh, plump and lightly fried.

  • Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival -Foodies will especially love the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival - held the first full weekend in May - for everything crawfish! There's over three days of food, fun, music, and more crawfish than you can poke a stick at prepared every way imaginable: fried, boiled, étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie, jambalaya and crawdogs - along with other Cajun & Creole favorites.

 

Chargrilled oysters at Don's Seafood, Lafayette, Louisiana

10. Oysters

Oysters. You either love 'em or hate 'em, and if you love 'em, what's your favorite way to eat 'em? Raw, chargrilled, fried, steamed, or stewed? There are as many great places to eat them in Louisiana as there are ways to top them.  

 

Where to Try It?

  • Don's Seafood - Their flamegrilled raw oysters were fresh and excellent.

  • Half Shell Oyster House - Freshly shucked throughout the day and served 6 different ways.

 

 

11. Drive-Thru Daiquiris

One of the strangest and yet so wonderful experiences a foodie (or boozie) can have in Lafayette is the beloved Daiquiri-To-Go, a phenomenon as simple as it sounds. Louisiana's use of the straw as a litmus test to the state's open container law has turned Drive-Thru Daiquiris into a favorite booze experience. Served in generous sized styrofoam cups, the wayside Drive-Thrus stay legal by fixing a piece of tape over the straw hole, and handing you the straw "on the side". Pull up and choose from hundreds of flavors of frozen daiquiris, and pick it up at the window. If the straw comes out of the paper and into the cup before you stop driving, you're busted. 

 

Where to Try It?

  • We had some good daiquiri fun at Frankie's Daiquiris in Lafayette with their most popular flavor known as Frankie Says Relax! Frankie's Daiquiris, 110 14th Street, between West & East Bound Streets, Hwy 90/Evangeline Thruway, Lafayette, LA

 

12. Catfish

Louisiana catfish is a mild-flavored white meat fish that lends itself perfectly to po'boys, but eaten on its own makes a spectacular meal. Locals like to blacken it, which if done well with not too much spice, is delicious. You needn't overdo it with flavorings on catfish. They may not be pretty to look at, but there's nothing better to eat locally in south Louisiana.

 

Where to Try It?

  • Prejean's - The Blackened Catfish at Prejean's was possibly the best catfish we've ever had, served with étouffée over rice and corn macque choux.

  • Mandez's Seafood Bar & Grill - We were just passing-by and stopped for lunch and were glad we did, great fried catfish!

 

13. Not Local, But Gotta Have! 

Every place has food that may not be native to the area, but somebody decided to go there, and succeeded.  Who knows what influences came to Lafayette at one time, and left their food behind. As for the Hot Dog? We don't know, and don't care. But every place across America needs a good hot dog joint. All three of these places have some of the best food in Lafayette.

Dat Dog, Lafayette, Louisiana

Hot Dogs

  • Dat Dog - For lovers of artfully crafted hot dog cuisine, you've gotta grab a Dat Dog. Let your love of the hot dog arts decide which combo is right for you!

Tacos

  • Taco Sisters - This hip, happening place is turning out some really fresh flavors wrapped up in tacos, burritos, and bowls.

Tapas

  • Pamplona - We love tapas and Pamplona presented both traditional and creative dishes, all of them excellent.

 

 

Have you been to Lafayette yet? what foods and drinks did you love the most?


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