Trip report time!
In Eunice, we didn’t need to eat outside Blackpot Camp, but en route to Lafayette, mid-morning on a Friday, we stopped in Opelousas at Billy’s & Ray’s (or is it Ray’s and Billy’s) for boudin balls and cracklings. There were plenty of roadside places to stop, but this one was packed at 10:30 AM and had a well-used drive-through window (!!), so it just seemed like the place to be. We each got one boudin ball (no cheese, although we were told later that the cheese-filled version is even better) and split a tiny paper bag of cracklings. The boudin balls were wonderful–the sausage was spicy, they were coated in sort of a fried-chicken-type light batter, and thank God we only got one each. The cracklings were very nice as well, just deep-fried bits of pork meat with fat attached–sadly, we couldn’t even finish the tiny bag we got!
After we rolled into Lafayette, we had our first meal (more of a heavy snack) in the form of a shrimp po’ boy at Old Tyme Grocery. We weren’t super hungry so the two of us split a half sandwich, which was more than enough to keep us going through the afternoon. We were very impressed by the quantity and quality of the shrimp on this sandwich–the bread was fine, not great, and there wasn’t much else beyond iceberg lettuce and some sauce, but the shrimp more than made up for any shortcomings.
We had a tough time finding any decent place to eat dinner in downtown Lafayette–most places seem to be open for breakfast and lunch only. We didn’t feel like dealing with anything like fine dining, so ended up at what we thought would be a place with bistro-ish food, Blue Dog Tavern. Unfortunately this place was fairly cavernous (and air-conditioned within an inch of its life–I had to wear my jacket the entire time we were there), not cozy at all, and with fairly mediocre food. The best thing we had was the crab and corn chowder, which was actually quite good, but the entrees were pretty blah (uninspired renditions of crawfish etouffee, etc.) The menu on the website seemed a lot more interesting, but when we got there…meh. The beer list was also deeply boring, which–sadly–was the case pretty much everywhere in Lafayette.
The next morning we headed for Johnson’s Boucaniere, introduced ourselves to owner Greg, and got the promised back-door tour of the smokehouse, which was really pretty impressive. I would love to have one of those in my back yard! While the menu at Johnson’s is very old-school, based on the original grocery that Greg’s in-laws ran, the design of the restaurant definitely betrays the fact that its owner is an architect–modern, yet very comfortable, with a great porch. We sat out there to eat our breakfast, a couple of delicious grilled cheese biscuits, one with boudin and one with sausage. I thought the sausage in particular was superb. The biscuits were very fine as well (the cheese was basically pump cheese, which I later heard is what passes for cheese all around the area–so don’t expect anything gourmet). The girl behind the counter was sweet enough to make me some decaf coffee on the spot since they didn’t have any ready, which I really appreciated. I really would have liked to get another meal here later on also, but we didn’t really have an opportunity. Thanks very much to Greg for the hospitality!
After that breakfast we thought we could fit in just a bit more. My travel companion had a hankering for baked goods, so we headed over to Poupart’s Bakery for some more coffee, a sweet potato biscuit (fabulous), and something that I can only describe as a cronut, although it had another name that started with a K but now escapes me. While there we ran into one of the bands we’d danced to the night before at the Blackpot Festival…this is a small town!
Lunch and dinner on Saturday was the fine fare cooked up at Blackpot–if you have any opportunity to go to this festival, do it for the chow alone, even if you’re not into the music (which is super!). There is a big cook-off that happens all day, in which dozens of mostly amateur chefs do whatever they can do best in a big cast-iron cauldron heated over a propane burner. We were amazed by the level of creativity and deliciousness–this was way more interesting than any restaurant could ever be. We sampled braised venison, all kinds of slow-cooked pork, chicken sauce piquant, duck stew, fish gumbo, and something resembling Cajun haggis that was pork sausage cooked in a pig’s stomach. Wow! The best part was hanging out with the cooks as they got started around 11 AM, showed us what they were making, handed out cups of home-brewed beer, and passed around samples of all kinds of goodies (including some links of boudin from Johnson’s!) to fill you up before the contest food was finally ready, around 4:30-5 PM. At that point festivalgoers were lining up to get servings of everything they could fit in, and it was fabulous.
Finally, on Sunday morning we headed over to Breaux Bridge for brunch at Cafe Des Amis. I could not resist an order of beignets to start, and when they showed up neither one of us could resist eating every single one in the generous bowl we got. It is hard to say anything bad about a beignet, so I do recommend them. For entrees we had a crawfish-stuffed cornbread topped with etouffee, and I had a biscuit with crawfish gratin and poached eggs. It was all very good, particularly the eggs and the cornbread–the one down note was the bowl of cheese-andouille grits that came on the side–gummy and with the same nondescript processed cheese. Saturday breakfasts at this place are supposedly jammed due to the music on offer, but on Sunday at 10:30 AM there were only a few tables filled, and service was quick. I guess people were still in church!
All in all an excellent trip. We would love to return!