In a state known for big, bold flavors, visitors can enjoy memorable meals in unexpected places. Find spicy boiled crawfish, crunchy fried catfish, and other delectable plate lunches at favorite local cafés and hole-in-the-wall joints that offer a glimpse into the Bayou State’s most cherished secrets.
Caribbean cuisine may not be what travelers associate most with Louisiana, but the comforting stews and spicy flavors are right at home in the Bayou State. Husband-and-wife team Angel and Jasmine Lombrage opened The Bullfish Bar + Kitchen in 2019 with a menu that centers around island bites, such as Conch Fritters, Jerk Shrimp, and tender oxtail stew. Delightful renditions of local flavor, like Chicken & Sausage Gumbo and White Chocolate Bread Pudding, mean there’s something for everyone.
Get There: 4001 Nicholson Drive Ste. D • Baton Rouge, LA
Explore: The LSU Lakes • batonrougelakes.org
For springtime visitors in the Bayou State, trying some boiled crawfish is a must, and Cody and Samantha Carroll’s Hot Tails in New Roads has some of the best. This favorite joint of locals specializes in boiled, smothered, and fried crawfish but also features spot-on interpretations of classic Cajun dishes like crawfish boulettes, Blackened Shrimp Remoulade Salad, and Crawfish Étouffée. Brunch guests can gorge on Boudin Omelets and Shrimp and Grits cooked in the New Orleans barbecue style.
Get There: 1113 Hospital Rd. • New Roads, LA
Explore: Great River Road Byway • louisianabyways.com
With many locally owned catfish farms nearby, it makes sense that Mustang Lucy Cafe would feature an unparalleled golden cornmeal-crusted catfish plate, but that’s not all. They serve up helpings of Southern comfort food and are known for an Open Face Burger—hand-formed patties topped with house-made gravy and sautéed onions. Throughout the year, the owners host crawfish and shrimp boils on the spacious patio, and guests can finish off their meal with house-made ice cream.
Get There: 3326 Front St. • Winnsboro, LA
Explore: Princess Theatre • princesstheatreinc.com
It’s been said that true Cajuns can look out at a field of rice and know how much gravy they’d need to smother it. Plate lunch houses like Creole Lunch House in Lafayette specialize in down-home Cajun cuisine that brings folks back to their childhood. From fried chicken and beans to stewed meats and unforgettable sides, Creole Lunch House is a clear winner. The restaurant is also famous for its stuffed breads, which are a Louisiana festival favorite.
Get There: 713 12th St. • Lafayette, LA
Explore: Vermilionville Historic Village • bayouvermiliondistrict.org
During every trip, it’s best to take some time to relax and recharge, and The English Tea Room & Eatery offers such an experience in Covington on Louisiana’s Northshore. With hundreds of teas and a menu replete with all of the fixings for a classic British teatime, guests are invited to linger and chat in this calm oasis. The à la carte menu includes a variety of scones, sandwiches, and other treats, or diners can opt for a full tea service.
Get There: 734 E. Rutland St. • Covington, LA
Explore: Tammany Trace Bike Trail • tammanytrace.org
The banh mi sandwich, introduced to Louisiana by Vietnamese immigrants, is similar to a traditional po’ boy but with different meats and herbs and Vietnamese pickles. At Banh Mi Boys in Metairie, Peter Nguyen serves tasty banh mi filled with hoisin- rosemary braised pork belly and fried shrimp with a sweet Thai chili glaze alongside traditional versions like the Thit Nuong Banh Mi (chargrilled lemongrass pork). Diners looking for heartier fare will find it in vermicelli noodle bowls and Hawaiian Loco Moco.
Get There: 5001 Airline Dr., Ste. B • Metairie, LA
Explore: Jefferson Parish Oyster Trail • visitjeffersonparish.com
The name of this neighborhood specialty meat shop translates to “the good smoke,” and that would be accurate. In 2017, Lester Folse started selling Louisiana’s signature meats—like andouille and boudin—as well as a hyper-local version of andouille called maudlin. Maudlins resemble the spicy smoked pork sausage in flavor but with a significantly larger diameter, about 4 inches. La Bon Boucon also stocks a rotating variety of fresh sausages, like the Honey Bee, a pork sausage with jalapeño and honey.
Get There: 13651 Hwy. 643 • Vacherie, LA
Explore: Whitney Plantation • whitneyplantation.org
For Creole soul food in New Orleans, it’s hard to beat a plate of silky red beans with crunchy fried chicken. Celestine “Tina” Dunbar has been offering up plates like these for nearly 40 years at Dunbar’s Creole Cuisine. While fried chicken plates are a popular option, the restaurant is also known for chicken and sausage gumbo, creamy seafood pastas, and decadent fried seafood platters complete with fried fish, shrimp, oysters, hush puppies, and crab balls, available for lunch and brunch.
Get There: 7834 Earhart Blvd. • New Orleans, LA
Explore: Backstreet Cultural Museum • backstreetmuseum.org
Shreveport may be known for its abundance of Tex-Mex restaurants, but Chef Gabriel Balderas’s El Cabo Verde gives diners a glimpse of authentic Mexican cuisine. Since its opening in 2016, the restaurant has been embraced by the local community for its support of Louisiana seafood and area farmers and ranchers. Some of the menu highlights include pork tamales, Oaxacan Bean Soup, and Camaron al Mojo, a dish of sautéed Louisiana Gulf shrimp with rice and vegetables.
Get There: 1023 Provenance Pl. Blvd., Ste. 210 • Shreveport, LA
Explore: Great Raft Brewing • greatraftbrewing.com
After forming a friendship at the University of Colorado, Marksville native Jonathan Knoll and Coloradan Chris Pahl made Louisiana history in 2008 by opening central Louisiana’s first brewery (and brewpub). Fresh Catch Bistreaux serves an eclectic menu that includes Bayou State staples like Pecan Crusted Crab Cakes and Fried Shrimp Po Boys alongside inspired creations like their Bronzed Red Fish Linguini and Spicy Tuna and Avocado Stack. All of the culinary options pair beautifully with Broken Wheel’s house-made brews.
Get There: 109 Tunica Dr. E. • Marksville, LA
Explore: Dr. Jules Charles Defossé House • Mansura, LA
For a true Cajun crawfish experience, a trip to Cajun Claws in Abbeville is quite worthwhile. Diners will notice the difference with these plump local crawfish and Cajun Claws’ style of sprinkling Cajun spice on the cooked crawfish rather than the mudbugs soaking up all the seasoning from the boiling broth. Be sure to save room for Catfish Bites and a cup of Seafood Gumbo. Throughout the year, other Louisiana seafood delicacies are available, including blue crabs and shrimp, so come prepared for a Cajun feast.
Get There: 1928 Charity St. • Abbeville, LA
Explore: Cajun Corridor Byway • louisianabyways.com
Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou is a short trip from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but with a vibe and history all its own. Locally owned po’ boy shops like Bubba’s II PoBoys in Thibodaux showcase Cajun hospitality and excellent examples of the Bayou State’s most iconic sandwich. Overstuffed fried shrimp po’ boys and the signature Poonie’s “Hot Club” PoBoy filled with grilled ham, turkey, bacon, and Cheddar and Swiss cheeses are always crowd-pleasers, but be sure to try some of the other regional delights like Chicken & Sausage Gumbo and Crawfish Étouffée.
Get There: 212 E. Bayou Rd. • Thibodaux, LA
Explore: Cajun Bayou Food Trail • lacajunbayou.com