What’s the Catch?
Eating seafood in Acadiana is part art and part science. Although there are quantifiables involving size, price and geography, there are also subjective factors – qualities, questions and personal preferences ranging from which spices are used in the shrimp boil (cloves or not) to the less definable points of ambiance and authenticity.
Any way you cut it, Acadiana is home to some of the best and most original seafood restaurants around.
Deciding upon a local favorite can stir a heated debate in a matter of minutes, but here are a few tried and true Acadiana seafood favorites:
3809 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, Lafayette
Sometimes it’s time to do it up right – and Charley G’s does fine-dining right. From the moment the smell of the wood-burning grill greets you as you enter, you know you’re in for a treat.
Sit back. Relax. Don’t rush this meal, which starts with crusty, warm bread and soft butter at your table soon after you’re seated. Proprietor Charles Goodson is almost always there, ensuring first-class service and food. Both longtime and first-time customers appreciate his attention to detail.
“The menu is always evolving, yet the flavors are wonderfully consistent and decadent,” says Kathy Roy of Lafayette.
Amy Broussard appreciates the romantic ambiance: Her husband proposed to her there, so the romance factor is constant and makes Charley G’s a perennial favorite. But even without that memory, she would still be a fan: “The fish is super-fresh and prepared delicately and creatively,” Broussard says. “Although they usually have some fried choices, grilled is more common and is their specialty – so you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in their food.”
With such daily seafood specials as grouper topped with lump crab over a bed of spinach, it’s hard to go wrong. The attentive waitstaff is well-trained and aims to please. The piano bar offers live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings. But even with such nice surroundings and gracious service, the food is still the star.
Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn
240 Tubing Road, Broussard
Dating back to 1932, Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn knows how to serve good, reliable food.
Many locals, such as Kim Jester and Anna Maragos Kedinger, both of Lafayette, automatically associate Riverside Inn with special occasions. Jester says her family went there to celebrate her birthday every year when she was a kid. Hands down, crabmeat au gratin is her favorite.
For Kedinger, Riverside Inn goes back even further. “My mom grew up going to Riverside Inn every Sunday,” she says. “So the restaurant is a family tradition for us. Whenever we have something to celebrate, we usually end up there.”
However, Kedinger says her most distinct memories of eating at Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn involve priests: “Whenever we would have a missionary priest visit our parish, our family usually would take him out to dinner at Riverside. We would always order the fried alligator and grilled emu appetizer so they could get a taste of our more exotic local flavor. The priest would in turn tell us exotic stories of his travels while doing mission work.”
The family-oriented, unpretentious atmosphere combined with a menu full of good options makes Riverside Inn a great choice for local flavor.
Soop’s Seafood & Steakhouse
8218 Maurice Ave., Maurice
Just because it’s unassuming doesn’t mean Soop’s Seafood & Steakhouse isn’t legendary. It’s a small-town family affair at Soop’s. Nothing is fancy here, but the traditional Cajun fare with an emphasis on seafood makes the drive to Maurice worth it – just be sure to go the speed limit on your way. The town’s earned its reputation for handing out speeding tickets honestly.
Soop’s was recently featured on Andrew Zimmern’s television show, Bizarre Foods, serving up Maurice’s claim to fame – turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with your choice of sausage, corn bread dressing, shrimp or other options). The only problem is turducken isn’t typically on the menu at Soop’s. It is, however, sold by the pound just across the parking lot at Hebert’s Specialty Meats. So bring an ice chest when you come to eat at Soop’s so you can take advantage of the amazing concoctions at Hebert’s.
They keep it all in the family in Maurice. Junior Hebert owns Hebert’s Specialty Meats, and his sisters own Soop’s.
“The food is good, and I like the comfort of Soop’s,” says Stephanie Stielper of Lafayette. “I’m able to relax and be myself.”
When you go to Maurice, you have to slow down anyway. So you might as well stop at Soop’s.
Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant
525 N. Main Street, Washington
These days, most folks don’t happen upon Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant. Only a thousand or so people live in Washington, a quaint city nestled on the banks of Bayou Courtableau. But for them, Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant is the place to go for good food and life’s major events – from rehearsal dinners to civic meetings to graduation parties.
For the rest of us, a trip to Washington offers a welcomed glimpse into the back roads of Louisiana and a pace of life reminiscent of another time.
The trip is worth it for the Sidesaddle Angels alone, an appetizer that sums up these parts of Louisiana – shrimp wrapped in bacon, stuffed with an oyster, battered and deep-fried, served with a rémoulade sauce that’s as close to perfect as rémoulade can get.
The menu boasts a variety of local seafood favorites such as Shrimp Betsy, Gulf shrimp sautéed in a light broth of olive oil, herbs and spices and served with hot bread for dipping, and Catfish Lizzy, a catfish fillet with seafood stuffing topped with crawfish étouffée and hollandaise. Plus, chef and owner Jason Huguet offers weekly fish specials and several not-on-the-menu treasures.
“Chains can’t compete with homegrown talent,” says Jim Janes of Opelousas. “Because of Jason Huguet’s abilities, there’s a packed house here every weekend.”
Shucks! The Louisiana Seafood House
701 W. Port St., Abbeville
If you’re a patient soul and you love good seafood, you must go to Shucks!.
The food is worth it, but be prepared for a wait.
People come from miles around – all over the country, actually – to eat the seafood Shucks! serves. The only way for seafood to get much fresher would be if you could cook and eat it on the boat.
If you happen to need pointers on the proper techniques of slurping an oyster, just ask. Experts abound at Shucks!.
Elizabeth Hamilton of Lafayette has been going to Shucks! most of her life. “Even when it was still in the old Dupuy’s building, we went,” she says. “They’ve got great raw oysters, ice-cold beer in mugs and the absolute best fried oysters in the universe – barely fried in cornmeal, hot and crispy.”
Plus, the staff is fun and friendly.
“It’s a must-visit for out-of-town guests,” she says. “People always love it.”
Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant’s Sidesaddle Angels
4 strips of Hormel apple wood- smoked bacon
8 fresh 21/25-count shrimp, peeled
8 large oysters
1/2 quart buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
4 cups all-purpose white flour
At least 1 cup of seasoned salt of your choice
Start by laying out the bacon and cutting each piece in half, making 8 total strips of bacon. Season the shrimp and oysters with your favorite all-purpose seasoning or seasoned salt. Lay one shrimp across each strip of bacon.
Next, place one oyster in the “saddle” of each shrimp. Wrap the bacon around the shrimp and oysters tightly, securing it with a toothpick.
To make the batter, break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, and beat them thoroughly. Add the buttermilk to the eggs while whisking, and then add the whole milk, just to thin it out a bit. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk until the desired consistency is achieved. Next add seasoning to both the milk mixture and the white flour (about 1/2 cup to each).
Dip each sidesaddle into the milk mixture, and then toss it in the flour until well-coated. Drop each sidesaddle into 330-degree oil for about 3 to 4 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve with homemade rémoulade sauce (recipe on p. 58) for dipping.
Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn’s Shrimp Rémoulade
Make the dressing ahead, and keep it refrigerated until ready to use. This recipe will leave you with more than enough rémoulade dressing to enjoy later with boiled crawfish or fried catfish.
1 quart of mayonnaise (not salad
1/3 cup horseradish
1/3 cup Creole mustard
1/4 cup finely minced garlic
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 pounds seasoned steamed shrimp,
Tomatoes, eggs, pickles, olives and
anything else you want for garnish
Combine the first 8 ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate. Prepare 4 dinner plates, putting a layer of shredded lettuce on each plate. In a mixing bowl, combine shrimp and enough rémoulade dressing to thoroughly coat them. Divide evenly among the prepared plates. Garnish with slices of tomato, egg, pickles and olives.
Special note: Hand-chop celery and onions – do not use a food processor. The dressing will keep for up to six weeks in your refrigerator.
Variations: Rémoulade dressing makes a great sauce for dipping boiled or fried seafood; you can substitute any seafood for the shrimp. It also makes a delicious salad dressing.