Answering a Call
Area 337 in Lake Charles celebrates vibrant Latin flavors
Photos by Joseph Vidrine
Latin foodways are on full display at Area 337 (facebook.com/area337), one of Lake Charles’ newest restaurants.
Dominican Republic-born restaurant owner Gus Garden celebrates Puerto Rico, Columbia, Honduras, Venezuela and his homeland with plates full of flavor, color, meat and love.
Owning a restaurant is more than just a desire for Garden. This 33-year-old decided to find his way back to happiness by opening the restaurant.
Garden’s work life began when he was a teenager with stops in Miami, Puerto Rico, Virginia and many Central and South American countries.
He realized cooking and serving the public was a calling. That realization hit him after almost five years of working in the petrochemical industry.
“Part of me was empty. I want to make people happy and meet their expectations,” he said.
So one day, Garden decided to quit his job with steady income. He sold lots of personal items and even cut his Netflix subscription to save money. Eventually, Garden found a weathered building in Lake City’s mid city area which had a restaurant history that included fried chicken and soul food, along with a few other interesting ventures over 40 years.
Now, with vibrant colors, Latin-styled art, salsa music, a beautiful bar with all the elixirs needed for domestic and Caribbean favorites, Area 337 is — simply put — hot and saucy.
The menu will entice.
Kan Kan pork chops, a Puerto Rican-inspired dish, has caught many diners’ attention as well it should. When the large plate of fried pork loin chop (strap of belly and the skin still attached) comes to the table with a serving of mofongo and fried plantains, a person will realize pork is appreciated on the islands.
Garden’s staff also prepares a Venezuelan staple dish called Pabellon Criollo which is shredded beef served with rice and black beans and fried plantains. This dish finds its way to many customers after they see it in other patrons’ tables.
The churrasco (grilled skirt steak) is one of the restaurant’s favorite plates. So much so that Garden has steadily ordered more skirt steak each week since the eatery opened earlier this year.
A staple base in the soups, stews and sauces prepared at Area 337 is sofrito (a combination of cilantro, garlic and fresh tomatoes). The natural ingredients in this sauce bolster the flavor of the final dishes.
Garden, his wife Yuliana, and his mother Rhina Rosado all lead the efforts of the restaurant staff. Their intentions are to make sure the flavors of their Latin heritage are shared on the plate and in the service provided.
“You will feel like you’re eating in the Caribbean,” said Garden. “A lot of our work is influenced by the food my grandmother used to cook in the Dominican Republic.”
A huge meat-dominated Columbian dish with rice, red beans, fried pork belly, fried steak, fried egg, avocado, chorizo, and ripe plantain.
A Dominican-styled whole fried red snapper.
Pollo con taijada
This Honduran fried chicken has become a Lake Area favorite.
Carne Frita Encebollada
Fans of pork cracklins will relish this plate of fried pork chunks.
Arroz Y Frijoles
A Latin kitchen is only as good as beans and rice exiting the kitchen. Area 337’s version is ethereal.