Food is an intricate part of Cajun culture. Food in Louisiana is almost a religion. That’s why you hear onions, bell peppers and celery referred to as “The Trinity.” Here are a few of my favorite Lafayette restaurants.
The 7 Best Lafayette Restaurants
1304 West Pinhook Rd. //(337) 237-0100
Café Vermillionville was built around 1835 and it’s one of the oldest amongst the Lafayette Restaurants. It functioned as an inn for traveling salesmen in Vermillionville, Lafayette’s original name.
According to local legend, the building is haunted by a Civil War-era Union soldier shot by a local Cajun because he made a pass at the Cajun’s wife. There’s also a young female ghost.
The building is a classic Cajun structure, built of 12-inch cypress lumber. It still has bousillage, a mixture of mud and Spanish moss used for insulation, in the walls.
There is a beautiful courtyard are for outside dining, as well as several rooms inside. Poncho Veron opened it as a restaurant in 1981. Today his son, Ken, and his wife, Andrea, are in charge.
When we visited on Halloween, Ken and Andrea met us costumed as vampire versions of the 250-year-old original inn owners. The servers were all in costume. Our server was “Jean Lafitte.” We sampled some of the appetizers, including the Alligator Dijon, marinated, deep-fried alligator tenderloin served with dijon mustard aioli and fried pickles, and their Crawfish Beignets.
For my entrée, I choose Oysters Herbsaint consisting of crispy oysters, herbsaint cream, prosciutto, sautéed spinach, and parmesan, served over fettuccine. This is not only a great dining experience but a step back into Lafayette’s history.
1904 W University Ave // (337) 593-8006
Laura’s II is famous for Creole food. Madonna Brussard and her mother opened Laura’s II in 2000. She was following in her grandmother, Laura Williams Broussard’s, footsteps.
Madonna’s mother, Miss Dot, passed away, but Madonna keeps the tradition unbroken. Laura’s II was featured on several Food Network shows and the Travel Channel.
She told us how it began. “My grandmother was one of the first to open a soul-food restaurant out of one side of her house in 1968.
There was a fire in 1975, and she reopened in a trailer. In that little trailer is where we started serving almost everybody. My grandmother was cooking for you if your parents sent you to school in Lafayette in the 70s.
It still feels like my grandma’s kitchen. You know, your grandma cooked food on Sunday, and you ate. Well, every day was Sunday for my grandma.”
When her grandmother was cooking, many of the customers were on a rushed lunch hour and needed to grab their lunch and run, so they served the food in styrofoam boxes. You pick an entrée and two sides at the counter.
You can take it to go or sit in the restaurant. Madonna said the two most popular items are the Turkey Wings and the Fried Pork Chops. Rice and gravy are one of her grandmother’s recipes.
I had the Fried Pork Chop with sides of creamed corn and mac and cheese, plus some of that rice and gravy. I have to say; Grandmother knew how to cook.
That was some of the most flavorful gravy ever. It brought life to normally bland rice. Definitely a must try amongst the Lafayette Restaurants.
2601 SE Evangeline Thwy // (337) 703-3410
David Meaux began the company as Rank Wildcat Spirits, creating a unique French-style rum out of his home.
His Cajun ancestors settled in this area, and his father bought a piece of timberland that is still the source of wood used to create the aging barrels. They made the rum from local sugar cane.
This was the second licensed distillery in Louisiana. As the business grew, David brought his old college friend, Tait Martin, on board as the company as President & CEO.
They changed the name to Wildcat Brothers Distilling and purchased a local, historical property called Gator Cove. It had been a restaurant and a popular place for crawfish boils. Today, it houses the new equipment, but they still give a place of honor to David’s early homemade still, Lulu.
Their rum has won multiple awards. You can take a tour or a two-hour distilling class at the distillery.
1111 St. John Street // (337) 269-8878
Boudin is a unique Louisiana find amongst the Lafayette Restaurants. The origins trace back to the early Greeks and possibly even earlier, but boudin, as we know it today, goes back over two centuries to the Acadians, who the English forced out of Nova Scotia. Many migrated to the bayou country of Louisiana.
Families adapted to the resources they had. Pigs were common, and early Cajuns used all but the squeal.
The original Johnson’s Grocery Store was a small grocery owned by Mr. Wallace Johnson that opened in 1937 in Eunice, LA. His wife, Louise, developed a recipe adapted from her family’s traditions for boudin. They closed their store in 2005.
The Johnson’s daughter- and son-in-law, Lori and Greg Walls, opened Johnson’s Boucaniere in Lafayette in 2008.
Greg told us they originally planned to use the old family recipes but couldn’t find them until they were remodeling and moving some of the old machinery from the original grocery store.
To get the machinery out, they had to remove a door. When they took the door off, they found a bundle of the old recipes hidden behind it. That culinary treasure is in use today at Johnson’s Boucaniere.
Greg told us about the tradition of boucaniere. “It’s a slaughtering of the hog. When there was no refrigeration, the entire community would get together, and each person would have one station. One would make boudin; one would smoke sausage.
They used the whole hog. They would share it among the entire community.”
Greg showed us where they smoke their meat in large smokers behind the restaurant. When he opened the doors to show us, the smell of the smoked chicken and pork drifted out. It smelled so good you could almost taste it.
Johnson’s Boucaniere is small compared to the rest of Lafayette Restaurants and has only outdoor tables, but it’s a place you can get an authentic feel for what life for Cajuns was like in an earlier time. Try a delicious locally made soft drink called Swamp Pop with your boudin or smoked meat.
631 Jefferson Street // (337) 232-0070
All dining in Lafayette is not Cajun food. Pampalona Tapas Bar moves away from typical Cajun food with its Spanish cuisine.
There’s a hint of Cajun in dishes like their Crawfish Croquettes served with smoked Gouda, panko, and almond sauce. After all, you are in Cajun County.
Their most unusual menu item is Absinthe. This licorice-tasting green drink had been banned for many years because they once believed it to be hallucinogenic.
214 E Vermilion St // (337) 233-9449
The French Press is one of those Lafayette Restaurants that earned a place in Urban Spoon’s “Top Breakfast Restaurants” a few years ago.
Chef Justin Girouard, who has been nominated for a James Beard award, creates some unique dishes. There’s Sweet Baby Breesus, consisting of buttermilk biscuit sliders with bacon, fried boudin and Steen’s Cane Syrup.
His grits are so cheesy and creamy that they’ll convert the most hard-nosed northerner who thinks they don’t like grits. I enjoyed his French Toast stuffed with cream cheese and banana and topped with a berry /champagne compote.
The décor at The French Press is very New Orleans French Quarter.
215 E Convent St // (337) 234-2422
It’s a cross between a juke joint and a honky-tonk. You enter through an alley on the side of the Blue Moon Guesthouse, a modest frame home that was moved to this location in 1900 using mules and logs.
You’ll feel a Zydeco, County Cajun or other group blasting out from the stage. Some couples are dancing. Folks mill around the very-dark yard or sit on the back porch of the guest house, clutching a Bud or a mixed drink from the small bar.
Everybody is having a good time. It might be small, dark and in the backyard of the guesthouse, but Southern Living magazine named the Blue Moon Saloon as one of the 100 Best Bars in the South.
Spend an hour or so listening, dancing and sharing a few drinks, and you will agree. (Editor’s note: The acoustics are such that you will feel the music as well as hear it. Having been there twice, as Justin Wilson would say, “I gha-rawn-tee it.” “Passing a good time” is a common Cajun expression.)
Lafayette Restaurants: Conclusion
In the early 20th century, they downplayed Cajun Culture. Thankfully, a resurgence of interest in the food and culture has turned that around. Lafayette Parish is the heart of Cajun Country and proud of it.
Visiting other destinations in Louisiana? Check out our other delicious guides:
- 10 Best New Orleans Cajun Seafood Restaurants
- 10 Best New Orleans Seafood Restaurants
- 10 Best Shreveport Restaurants
- Best Louisiana Food
I’m Kathleen Walls, former reporter for Union Sentinel in Blairsville, GA, currently publisher/writer for American Roads and Global Highways. I live in Middleburg, FL but travel extensively, mainly in the U.S. I’m the author of travel books, Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways, Finding Florida’s Phantoms, Hosts With Ghosts, and Wild About Florida series, and several novels. All available at my site, katywalls.com/.
Publications I write for include Travel the South, Roadtrippers, Travel Awaits, World Footprints, Snowbirds and RV Travelers, Family RVing, Deep South, Florida Country, and more. My photographs appear in many publications. I also do videos. I’m a proud member of International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers (IFWTA), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).