A spicy mixture of Cajun and Creole and by extension French, Spanish, African, Native American and, like a good jambalaya, most any other tasty bits that have flavored the Pelican State’s culinary culture through the centuries. Your mouth’s watering, isn’t it? Gumbo, Étouffeé, shrimp creole, red beans and rice, boudin. Dining in Louisiana is a special treat to be savored and it isn’t all Cajun and Creole. So sure, you know about Antoine’s, Commander’s Palace, Prejeans, Café du Monde, and others. But here are a couple of newer exemplars of Louisiana’s culinary culture you might not know about, along with several exquisite classics.
Turkey & the Wolf
No surprise that venerable culinary authority Bon Appétit magazine chose a New Orleans restaurant as the best new restaurant of 2017. The big surprise is that it’s a sandwich shop. One that’s also been lauded by the James Beard Foundation, Food & Wine and other all-star culinary entities.
Turkey & the Wolf is the heartfelt culinary lovechild of Mason Hereford who named his new eatery after a turkey sub sandwich he regularly ate growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia. At his own establishment you’re more likely to find a ham version, dressed up similarly to the turkey original, with thyme-and-dill mayo, sharp cheddar, cranberry sauce and arugula on a French roll. Other Turkey & the Wolf creations include a fried bologna sandwich with hot English mustard, lettuce, mayo and American cheese that’ll put to shame that pathetic thing you may still eat occasionally as a culinary exercise in nostalgia for your childhood days. And then there’s the Collard Green Melt – slow-cooked collards, swiss cheese, pickled cherry, pepper dressing and cole slaw on rye bread – that could make vegetarianism a palatable idea for even the most vociferous carnivore.
Turkey & the Wolf has a half-dozen sandwiches at any one time and a handful of non-sandwich items like a fried pot pie (with tarragon buttermilk) and deviled eggs. There are also five or six cocktails. There’s nothing fancy about Turkey & the Wolf. It’s just a casual, fun place to get one heck of a sandwich. Behind that simple singular fact lie others – the operation smokes its own ham and bacon, a local cures the bologna, and family recipes are involved. Bon appétit!
Turkey & the Wolf, 739 Jackson Ave., New Orleans, 504-218-7428, www.turkeyandthewolf.com
Another hot, newish New Orleans restaurant, Compère Lapin has Nina Compton, James Beard Award for Best Chef: South nominee and one-time Top Chef TV show competitor, at the helm. Compère Lapin’s been heralded in Food & Wine, Zagat, New York Times, and many more publications. Located deep in hip, swanky The Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery, Compère Lapin offers a fine-dining experience in an elegant atmosphere where Compton, a native of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, and crew work up a tasty mix of Creole- and Caribbean-inspired culinary creations with a little French and Italian thrown in. The menu has dishes that range broadly from a Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot to Italian soup Stracciatella with mango, hazelnuts and ciabatta bread; Cold Smoked Tuna Tartar to Roasted Half Chicken, rice and peas; and beyond. The restaurant in the Warehouse Arts District of New Orleans also has a first-class bar that’s received its own share of media glory.
Oh, and the name? It’s pronounced “kom-pare la-pan” and translates to ‘brother rabbit,’ referencing a mischievous rabbit from Caribbean folktales.
Compère Lapin, 535 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, 504-599-2119, comperelapin.com, @comperelapin
Creole cuisine done right. Juban’s has the most coveted appetizers you’d expect in Louisiana – Shrimp Cocktail, Gulf Crab Cakes, a Louisiana Oyster Carousel, Smoked Salmon, Frog Legs Vacherie and more. The dinner menu is replete with delicious seafood dishes, each with chef Joey Daigle’s own special touch. But there’s also the celebrated Two Birds entrée featuring marinated Muscovy duck breast, boudin-stuffed semi-boneless quail with white bean cassoulet, arugula and a Creole cane glaze. And steaks and pork chops; soups and salads; desserts like bread pudding and fresh fruit cups. Plus, there’s always a very reasonably priced four-course prix fixe option available.
Juban’s is an elegant eatery with the equally elegant Atrium Bar located just a few miles out I-10 E from downtown.
Juban's, 3739 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, 225-346-8422, www.jubans.com
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant
A well-known down-home iconic Louisiana restaurant is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant has earned the “Famous” tag on its logo and the “Soulful Louisiana Creole” it uses as a tagline. Located in Natchitoches, about 55 miles northwest of centrally situated Alexandria, Lasyones serves up a lot more than just meat pies and crawfish pies, though that’s what they’re best known for. They also have some mighty tasty Shrimp and Stone Ground Yellow Grits, Crawfish Étouffeé, Gumbo and Red Beans, Rice and Sausage, just to name a few of their “Southern Specialties.” But they also have hamburgers, ham-and-cheese sandwiches, Po-Boys and more.
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant is a friendly, casual eatery in downtown Natchitoches, which, by the way, is named after a Native American tribe that settled there and is pronounced “NACK-a-tish.”
Lasyones Meat Pie Restaurant, 622 Second St., Natchitoches, 318-352-3353, lasyones.com
Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail
Speaking of pronunciations, be sure to get this one right. Here in Cajun country it’s “boo Dan.” And lots of folks do love them some boudin. The eminently snackable sausage-like finger food is usually made with varying amounts of pork meat, liver, rice, onions, parsley and salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic powder, all stuffed into sausage casings. The exact ingredient list can vary according to taste. Boudin can be found all over Louisiana but the southwestern part of the state is perhaps most famous for it and the folks in these parts have created a whole “trail” that radiates out about 25 miles north, south and west from boudin central in Lake Charles where some mighty good boudin can be found at Abe’s Grocery and at Sonnier’s Sausage & Boudin, among other places.
Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail, www.visitlakecharles.org
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