ith talk of inflation and recession dominating the news cycle, saving a few shekels is on a lot of people’s minds. But how can we go about a day in Bayou land without partaking of a delicious culinary treat? Thankfully, the inhabitants of Acadiana have access to an unending list of eateries where good and affordable food can be enjoyed. Sure, there are restaurants offering a more nuanced approach to cuisine with higher prices to boot. For those who appreciate and can afford that approach, more power to you. But for our purposes, as famed Louisiana Chef Paul Prudhomme is reported to have said, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”
The restaurants featured for this year’s installment of cheap eats possess the same quality. Food lovers will leave with a full belly and tantalized taste buds. Read this story, plug these restaurant locations into your GPS, pump some gas in the vehicle, roll onto Interstate-10 and follow the cheap eats food trail.
Best Beef on a Bun
Be warned, stepping into Frosto in Crowley will induce “Back to the Future”-esque emotions and amp up carnivore impulses. The eatery opened in the 1950s and built a loyal following with hamburgers, ice cream, flurries, sundaes, malts and shakes.
“When the place opened, they were doing hotdogs, root beer and ice cream. When my grandmother took the business over hamburgers were added to the menu,” explained third-generation owner Brandon Trahan. “We make the patty, season it, hand form it and go from there.”
Fans of the hamburger will enjoy Frosto and prices are nice to boot. A must-order burger is the half pounder which is eight ounces of a Coastal Plains Meat-produced burger, grilled and prepared with a Creole aioli, lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onions on a toasted brioche bun for a grand total of $8.99. One of the restaurant’s top sellers is the Old Fashioned which is a four-ounce patty grilled and served with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, which costs $4.69. Trahan recommends the Cajun and Lola (named after his mother). The Cajun burger is a four-ounce patty tweaked with a Cajun-style seasoning mix then cooked. The burger is dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onions and starts at $5.19. Meanwhile the Lola is a five-ounce, seasoned ground beef patty dressed and served on a toasted brioche bun with the starting cost at $7.29.
“Freshness is what we pride ourselves on. We do nothing out of the box. But the meat is farm to table,” said Trahan.
By the way, the décor is right out of the ‘50s from the booths to the pictures on the wall. Trahan said the restaurant has stood the test of time by providing good food at affordable prices. Great flavor and a time warp experience can be found at Frosto.
228 North Ave. G • Crowley
Local roast beef, ham, Provolone cheese, jalapeño mayo, lettuce and tomato served on bread inside a 1950s-era burger parlor equals perfect.
Poultry placed in buttermilk, hand battered and fried, then served with a lettuce mix, tomatoes, purple onion, blue cheese and pecans makes a mouth happy.
Ice Cream Cones
This restaurant has been serving ice cream (chocolate, vanilla or swirl) and all things good and cold since it opened in the mid part of the last century. They know what they are doing.
Best Comfort Food
Based on his food orders, Seafood Palace owner David Papania thinks he runs out of gumbo every day. Conventional gumbo eaters tend to devour a bowl of scrumptiousness on cool and cold days. Papania’s recipes for chicken and sausage and shrimp and crab gumbos have diners disregarding food eating norms in Lake Charles.
“We start with a good roux and good ingredients,” said Papania who had a lot to say about how the dish was originally prepared at the restaurant. “The recipes are kind of my inspiration.”
A small bowl of either gumbo costs $8.50 while the bigger bowl is $14.50. A cup of potato salad — a necessity — is $3.50.
“For sure during the first cold fronts, we sell out of gumbo,” Papania said. “But our gumbo sells all year.”
Which one do customers order more of?
“Actually, they sell about equal,” Papania said.
Other dishes at Seafood Palace that warrant attention are the fried catfish, boiled shrimp, boiled crabs and appetizers like fried pickles, corn nuggets, crab jalapeños, duck tenders, gator boulettes and fried gator.
“Our secret to running our restaurant for over 20 years is good food, good service, a clean restaurant and good prices,” Papania said.
Seafood Palace is the type of restaurant where those with big bank accounts and those with smaller ones gather and become a community.
“When you eat here, you are eating with friends and family, even if you don’t know the folks at the next table. It makes me happy to see people of all sorts come in here and leave happy,” Papania said. “You come as you are no matter if you’ve been fishing, hunting, or just walked out of the business office.”
2218 Enterprise Blvd. • Lake Charles
Little morsels of crawfish mixed with spices and then fried into balls that are a great appetizer or part of a Louisiana-inspired tapas plate.
Grilled Fish with Steamed Broccoli
If you are a health-conscious person but still crave flavor, this plate of grilled catfish delicately seasoned and a side of broccoli is spot on.
Seafood Palace’s version is simple — lots of golden fried shrimp, great bread, lettuce, tomato and mayo. A cold beverage completes the meal — more specifically, beer.
Best Wing of a Yardbird
Westlake Wings and Chinese Food
In the middle of Westlake is a restaurant whose regular customers can be compared to people who may have seen Bigfoot. Both groups share a common trait. Unless asked, they will not tell you about the experience. Westlake Wings and Chinese Food has been open since 2018, but surprisingly has become a food find for many people. Those who have been eating at the restaurant just do not tell others about it. Maybe it is because they don’t want to deal with lines of new customers hungering for chicken wings. The restaurant is owned by Danny Dieu, who moved to Westlake following the closure of his family’s Gretna Vietnamese restaurant Kim Son.
Westlake Wings and Chinese Food is known for fried chicken wings: original, hot, salt and pepper and honey spicy. The wings are served with fried rice and an egg roll for $10.99. The Dieu family is not necessarily interested in talking about their eatery or their food. In essence, they are letting their kitchen talent tell their story. Diners are willing to wait in line for the food, which includes boneless chicken, chicken with broccoli, shrimp with veggies, shrimp fried rice, salt and pepper shrimp and salt and pepper fish. Chicken plates cost $9.99, shrimp plates cost $10.49, wing plates cost $9.99 and egg rolls are 99 cents each. But don’t be surprised when you visit and see large bags with huge aluminum plates filled with chicken wings being carried out of the building. Westlake Wings and Chinese Food sells their main attraction starting with a 10-piece but offers platters for 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 chicken wings.
Westlake Wings and Chinese Food
831 McKinley St. • Westlake
Inside the soft and fluffy roll is the flavor mix of ingredients and spices the Dieu family regards as a secret — it’s a good one nonetheless.
Eating this delicious dish of rice, meat, peas, carrots, onion and other goodies makes a person wonder what else in life they may have missed out on.
$6.29 per order
This is a famous appetizer in many Asian eateries. The ingredients used to make the rangoon are fresh and perfectly fried.
Best Momma-styled Cooked Plate of Food
Lunch plate meals are $12.50 every day except on Friday which is seafood day and the price increases to $14.50.
Annie Mae’s on the Bayou
If your soul is weary and the belly is making embarrassing noises due to hunger, there is a restaurant in downtown Franklin where lovingly cooked vittles can be found. Annie Mae’s on the Bayou is where chef and owner Felicia Mitchell prepares the kind of meals that bolster Acadiana’s culinary reputation. Mitchell prepares affordable meals in the morning and afternoon that are just delicious. When you walk into the restaurant — which is located on Bayou Teche making for a picturesque eating experience — a board with the day’s menu choices awaits. This is not a tease, but the menu can include: stuffed bell peppers, red beans, baked turkey wings, rice dressing, pork roast, baked chicken, candied yams, smothered okra, fried chicken and étouffée.
“We opened in July 2019,” said Mitchell. We do down home bayou soul food. Folks can’t get food like this at home.”
Cooked okra, pork roast and fried chicken are dishes Mitchell gets excited about preparing.
“Oh yes, my okra means a lot to me. I love to smother it down. I will do okra and sausage; and okra, sausage and chicken wings,” she said.
Regarding her pork roast, Mitchell explained, “People love it. We have a rub and stuff the roast with garlic. I also have some delicious ingredients that are secrets I won’t share.”
People drive from all over the region for the fried chicken.
“I could cook it every day and run out,” she said.
Prices fit the food that is served, but more importantly, visitors are given love.
“People love our place. How I know it, they come back and are faithful. I love doing what I do. But nothing we cook can be good without the passion and love we bring into the kitchen,” Mitchell said.
Annie Mae’s on the Bayou
103 Wilson St. • Franklin
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then this morning meal is the way to get going — eggs, grits, sausage and a biscuit.
Mrs. Mitchell prides herself on putting love in everything she cooks. A bit of her fried chicken is proof this woman’s heart oozes love.
White Beans and Fried Pork Chop
Served at different times during the week, the white beans and fried pork chop are country soul food that will fix whatever ails you.
Best Slice to Make Things Nice
Central Pizza and Bar
In downtown Lafayette, there is a place where a person considering their budget can find a slice of pizza, stupendous ambience, and fun people. Central Pizza and Bar is the kind of eatery where skateboarders and business folk gather for lunch, the midafternoon, cocktail hour and late at night. With a floor plan featuring open windows allowing a diner to look outside on Jefferson Street, sitting at a table on the sidewalk, or casually sitting at the bar, Central Pizza’s ownership want to promote comfortable downtown pizza eating.
“Pizza is like the great equalizer of foods,” said restaurant owner John Peterson. “And getting the size slice that is affordable is what we are all about.”
Peterson has worked with his partners and basically hit the proverbial home run with their dining experience as a pizzeria. Slices change daily but cost $5. The restaurant’s pizza pie menu, with prices ranging from $16 to $20 includes the: margherita, suprema, Paulie, meatball, Smoke Show, carne and veggie.
“In here four people can come in an order a pizza pie up to $20 dollars and get some beers and for the night they may have spent $50 bucks,” Peterson said. “Part of the mission at Central is to combine deliciousness and affordability along with our cocktail program.”
Peterson appreciates that many visitors have told him Central evokes a feeling of eating in establishments known for pizza pie culture.
“We hear that a lot. People come in and eat and feel like they are in New York, New England or Chicago. We specifically wanted to create an environment like that,” Peterson said.
A showstopper is the margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil and costs $16. The Smoke Show with mozzarella, fontina, smoked chicken thigh, smoked sausage, pineapple and pickled jalapeno for $18 is another fan favorite.
Central Pizza and Bar
423 Jefferson St. • Lafayette
337-534-0887 • eatdrinkcentral.com
Roquette Man Salad
Simply put, the arugula and mixed greens topped with feta, dried tart cherry, pistachios and blood orange vinaigrette is just awesome.
Wood-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
$10 per order
Any dish with bacon in it is good. Pecan-smoked bacon, dried tart cherry, parmesan with a tasty aioli will make any vegetable delicious. These sprouts are kicked up a notch.
$10 per order
Here is a starter with no frills but lots of unforgettable taste. Garlic butter, parmesan, tomato sauce, pistachio pesto and roasted garlic ricotta.