Say “Louisiana,” and your salivary glands may instinctively kick into overdrive.
Cuisine and the Bayou State go hand in hand. Heck, volumes have been written about New Orleans grub alone. So, traversing the Louisiana landscape inevitably includes close encounters of the culinary kind.
We figuratively stick our fork into a quartet of suggestions:
If you prefer a foodie focus to the alcohol-fueled festivities of the French Quarter, Cafe Amelie provides a refuge.
Although it opened in 2005, this critically lauded cafe, known for its light Creole and Cajun cuisine, is seasoned with New Orleans history. Its namesake, Amelie Miltonberger, gave birth to Alice Heine in 1858. The child grew up in the adjacent townhouses and eventually became the first American princess of Monaco. The restaurant sits, appropriately enough, on Royal Street.
Guests step inside its elegant, quaint dining rooms to experience French-inspired Southern traditions. Both its shrimp and grits and its chicken and sausage gumbo are well-known. Fingerling potatoes and asparagus flank a brick of seared salmon, a small cup of horseradish cream on the side. The organic pork chop is served with grits, green beans and maque choux, a southern Louisiana version of succotash with corn and andouille sausage.
Casual midday bites include the house muffaletta and cochon de lait sandwiches. French doors open into the courtyard, where the lunchtime crowd can enjoy the rich greenery and gurgling iron fountain. You can even bring your dog.
912 Royal St., New Orleans. 504-412-8965, cafeamelie.com, @CafeAmelieNOLA.
Sandwiches are serious business in New Orleans. That makes Cochon Butcher’s popularity even more impressive. Yes, you’ll fork over more cash than you would at the average deli, but the devoted say it’s worth it.
White bread bookends the pork belly sandwich, which adds the crispness of mint and cucumber. The experienced also praise the buckboard bacon melt, a grilled creation with an ample amount of buckboard bacon mingling with collard greens and Swiss cheese. Duck pastrami sliders and macaroni and cheese also help keep the lines forming. And Le Pig Mac, complete with two all-pork patties and special sauce on a sesame seed bun, gets marks for its name alone.
Check the restaurant’s social media pages for specials. Of course, it’s the Big Easy, so expect a full bar. And Cochon Butcher cures meats and sausages in-house, so consider grabbing some flavor to go.
Atlantans who can’t go as far as New Orleans can check out the recently opened Nashville location.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans. 504-588-7675, cochonbutcher.com, @cochonbutcher.
Strawn’s Eat Shop
A Shreveport institution, Strawn’s dates back to the early 1940s. Since 1988, owner Buddy Gauthier has kept a watchful gaze on the classic diner experience.
Customers sit on red vinyl stools at the bar, where the kitchen staff serves no-frills breakfast, lunch and dinner. Others congregate at tables, wolfing down the three-meat football omelette, bountiful burgers and specials such as Southern fried chicken.
Prismatically kitschy murals jazz up the walls, including an image of former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The latter proclaims, “I cannot tell a lie about Strawn’s pie.”
Strawn’s fans swear by it, too, particularly the strawberry ice box pie. A painting of a jumbo slice hangs on the restaurant’s exterior. Inside, the staff dumps handfuls of strawberries into pie crusts, then adds gobs of whipped cream from large vat-like bowls.
There are a pair of additional family-owned locations — one more in Shreveport and another in Bossier City.
125 E. Kings Highway, Shreveport, La. 318-868-0634, strawnseatshop.com, @StrawnsEatShop.
Linking the words gourmet and hot dog may seem like an oxymoron to some. But this Lake Charles eatery begs to differ, and so do its devout dog lovers. At Botsky’s, you will run across hipsters aplenty against a backdrop of exposed brick. Customers who want to build their own dogs choose a core protein — either a beef, turkey or Kobe beef hot dog, or an alligator or smoked sausage. Rabbit sausage and foie gras bratwurst have been known to pop up on the specials chalkboard. Toppings push the boundaries. Think fried egg, macaroni and cheese, pineapple and a whopping list of others. Don’t forget regional add-ons, like Cajun sauerkraut and a rotating special shrimp étouffée option. The staff gives specialty hot dogs fun and funky monikers. It’s hard to ignore something dubbed the Slawdog Millionaire. Sweet potato and regular hand-cut fries may just make the perfect companion for a dog resting in its bun.
104 W. Pujo St., Lake Charles, La. 337-491-1155, www.facebook.com/Botskys.