In much of Southwest Louisiana, alligators outnumber people, residents still live off the land to an impressive degree, and local cuisine is well-loved and much applauded. In fact, the Lake Charles, Louisiana area features a type of southern cuisine not experienced anywhere else. From cracklins to boudin to crawfish boils, SW Louisiana’s authentic cajun food is truly an attraction in its own right, and worthy of your time during any trip to the region.
Start on the Boudin Trail:
My part of the world has wine trails. Lake Charles as a boudin trail. Without this resource, visitors will surely miss some of the best of this local specialty. What is boudin, you ask? It’s a local sausage made with a variety of meats and seafood (pork seems most popular, but shrimp and crawfish isn’t unusual), mixed with rice and signature spices. Boudin is usually in links, but sometimes served in boudin balls, which can even be stuffed with cheese. Below, we list some of our favorite stops along SW Louisiana’s Boudin Trail:
B&O Kitchen and Grocery: This roadside stop has been in the family since it began 35 years ago, and used to be a one-stop mercantile. Now, they specialize in their family recipes. Visitors can pick up boudin, of course, but can also find guadidaun sandwiches (a pulled pork type meat with boudin ball on the bottom, in a bun), smoked meats, jerky, and cracklins (fried pork rinds with meat still on the skin). Location: 3011 E. Burton Sulphur, LA
LeBleu’s Landing: Get hot cracklins here, as well as meat ranging from gator to headcheese. Location: 202 Henning Drive Sulphur LA
Restaurants serving authentic cajun food:
Restaurants serving authentic cajun food in SW Louisiana can be found in all price ranges. We found great cajun fare in both Lake Charles’ top resorts and in roadside dives…and everything in-between. Here’s where to go:
Pat’s of Henderson: Pat’s is located in an unassuming building by a car lot. Don’t let this dissuade you! Owner Pat is from, you guessed it, Henderson, Louisiana, where her family has been in the cajun cooking game for generations. In fact, our server was the daughter of Pat’s head cook, who has been cooking for the family since Pat was a girl. Prepare to leave Pat’s well-fed: we recommend the stuffed red snapper (it’s stuffed with shrimp and crawfish, of course) and the catfish bites, but the gumbo is out of this world as well! In fact, at Pat’s, visitors can take home a starter kit of their own roux, which is made to create their classic gumbo. Location: 1500 Siebarth Dr Lake Charles LA
T-Boys (on the Creole Nature Trail in Creole, LA): This roadside diner looks a little rough, but the women who run it are friendly and welcoming. We loved the fried fish and shrimp here, and the crab cake po-boy was great, too. They make great fries and onion rings, and all their seafood is locally sourced.
Seafood Palace: You can tell Seafood Palace is a local favorite by the packed parking lot just about any day of the week. Their specialty is probably their boiled crawfish baskets in season (spring, primarily), but they also serve boudin, oysters, shrimp, catfish…you name it.
Jack Daniel’s: Located inside L’Auberge, one of Lake Charles’ two premiere casino resorts, Jack Daniel’s looks like an upscale Texas roadhouse-type chain. However, the young, talented head chef here enjoys creative control over his dishes, and does a great job blending more traditional Texan foods like burgers with cajun specialties like crab cakes and red snapper. Location: 777 Avenue L’Auberge, Lake Charles LA
Disclosure: I experienced the above restaurants as a guest of Lake Charles, for the purpose of review. All opinion remains my own.