When exploring any new place the best advice is to go where the locals go to eat. As we continue our culinary tour of Southwest Louisiana we want to share with you some restaurants and food venues the locals love. In Lake Charles, Louisiana there is some amazing seafood and Boudin here.
The Gulf Coast seafood in Louisiana is so prolific that everyone has to up their game if they want any chance of staying in business. The people of Lake Charles have always known the value of locally sourced ingredients and down-home cooking makes this part of Louisiana so special. In no particular order here they are.
Casual, delicious dining at Steamboat Bill’s
Steamboat Bill’s Seafood Restaurant is a local icon, with three locations in Louisiana, we visited the Lakeshore drive establishment in Lake Charles. Lunch here can be busy because of the quality seafood offered. Businessmen, farmers, ranchers everyone was here ordering boiled, fried and stuffed shrimp, Po-boys, full on dinner platters, Cajun fried seafood, and my favorite the Shrimp Pistolette. Unique to Louisiana cuisine the Pistolette is roll stuffed with shrimp or crawfish (seasonal) and a delicious savory sauce, then either fried or baked. These delicate little pastries are pillowy light and have that sweet and savory fresh seafood flavor that only local shrimp can offer.
If Pistolettes aren’t enough for you, try the spicy boiled shrimp platter. I don’t know how they manage do this with each piece, but the fresh shrimp are cooked to perfection. They were tender and removing the shell was so easy. The platters come in 1/4 pound to 1 pound sizes in 1/4 pound increments, and the cocktail sauce has the Cajun kick; not too hot, just enough to compliment the shrimp. All of the restaurants have the same menu, so no matter which one you visit you won’t be missing out on anything.
Fresh Shrimp Platter at Steamboat Bill’s
For more than 50 years Pat’s of Henderson has been the go-to place for authentic Cajun cuisine at a reasonable price. The fresh Gulf seafood is a must and if fried soft shell crabs are on the menu get them. The menu is seafood centric, and just about any dish can be prepared any way you want, fried, broiled or grilled. The gumbo is great but if you want to go truly local, try the frog legs or tender alligator!
Pat’s Of Henderson offers delectable fresh Gulf seafood
A relative newcomer to the Lake Charles restaurant scene, Restaurant Calla has already earned high ratings from locals and visitors alike filling the inviting open style dining area to capacity on weekends. And here is why: heading up the kitchen is Chef David Sorrells formerly of the French Laundry. A modern yet comfortable space, Restaurant Calla offers up Louisiana style Tapas, and larger plates. One of the highlights here are the Blue Crab Beignets, and the desserts are all winners. The use of local and sustainable products here are part of chef’s philosophy without being pretentious. Go to the web site for the latest menu offerings. I just had a look and chef is serving grilled pork belly over cream polenta with pickled onions.
Restaurant Calla’s Roasted Pork Belly Over Creamy Polenta
Bayou Rum Tasting Bar
Founders Tim Litel, Skip Cortese and Trey Litel come from varied backgrounds. But they all have one thing in common; a desire to produce a Louisiana sugar cane premium rum. Bayou Rum is the largest privately owned rum distillery in the United States. Bayou Rum does everything on site beginning with obtaining their Louisiana raw sugar, to fermenting, aging and bottling in-house.
Owner Trey Litel explains the Bayou Rum aging process
Tours of the facility are available (check the website for information) a rum tasting bar and gift shop are also here. I tried 3 offerings, the Silver, Satsuma (orange) and Spiced rums. My favorite was the Silver with a smooth, clean taste. The Spiced rum goes very well in eggnog, which I had during Christmas, and the Satsuma would make a refreshing summer drink mixed with club soda and a twist of lime over crushed ice. Although Bayou Rum may be a new rum producer, in my opinion they have it right. Well worth a visit and certainly a tour and taste.
The sign says it all !
A family run affair, B & O makes fresh Boudin both plain and smoked along with cracklins fresh everyday. Boudin is easily Louisiana’s favorite finger food, in fact it is served for breakfast lunch or dinner. Upon entering the store you’ll see a display case with everything that B&O makes fresh. Their Boudin is unique to their store, and although Boudin have basically the same ingredients, every producer makes it in a different way, so no two are alike.
When B & O says, ” We make it fresh”, they mean it!
Smoked or plain, the Boudin here is a true comfort food
During our visit a steady stream of neighborhood folks kept coming in and ordering Boudin and Cracklins. B & O says “We make our own” and you can taste it. This is a great stop on your tour of the Lake Charles and surrounding area. You get to see how it’s been done and not changed for decades. Note: B & O is part of the Boudin Trail a great foodie tour by the Visit Lake Charles folks. This a really fun way to explore this beautiful and unique part of Louisiana. You can also find them on facebook at http://on.fb.me/1G2KJWC.
Fresh Gulf Blue Crab at the Seafood Palace
Another local seafood favorite is the Seafood Palace in Lake Charles. It’s the kind of place that the local people like to keep a secret, and I know why. The Blue Crabs are fantastic, sweet and cooked to perfection. I will admit I did need a little bit of coaching on how to get the most meat out of one, but I can say I mastered it and it was well worth the effort. This place is all about the fresh Gulf Seafood, you can have your shrimp, crawfish, crab, frog legs, fish, oysters prepared just about any way that you want, fried, boiled or grilled. And if you prefer chicken, yes they have that too, but trust me you want to come here for the fresh seafood. For menus, specials and what’s in season you can find them on Facebook .
Boudin Balls and Bacon Wrapped Boudin at LeBleu’s Landing
LeBleu’s Landing is a full service butcher that prepares Cajun specialties all in house. This immaculate store is stocked with southern specialty foods that you’ll have a hard time finding anyplace else. Some of the offerings I found where Cajun pickled eggs, Pecan butter and I just had to bring home some house made Cajun seasoning for my own use. A do not miss are the Boudin balls a specialty here. LeBleu’s is also an important stop on the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail for some authentic and hard to find food unique to Cajun country.
I had to buy some of this Cajun Seasoning “powdered gold”
Our “Redneck Yacht” awaits!
The Christmas lights cruise compliments of Redneck Yacht Rentals LLC and owner Chris Carroll was a blast. Chris has thought of everything to keep you warm and cozy. We pushed off after dark to view the Christmas lights, and it was a little but on the chilly side, but we were provided with nice warm blankets, hot cocoa, music and heaters. It was really quite peaceful motoring out in the dark to take in all of those grand homes decked out in the lights.
The peaceful view from Lake Charles of the Christmas lights
As we slowly passed along the shoreline the lake was as smooth as glass, and the homes glowed in holiday celebration. Going by pontoon boat is how to do it, because the roadway we paralleled was jammed with holiday traffic checking out the decorations. Seeing the holiday lights of Lake Charles from the water is a must do during the holidays, it’s a special and unique experience. Facebook for the most up-to-date information.
Fricassee Café and Bakery
After leaving Lake Charles Louisiana on our way to New Orleans, we stopped for a lunch in at a hidden gem out in the beautiful Louisiana countryside in the Lafayette area . Located about 70 miles east of Lake Charles, Fricassee (pronounced “Fri-ca-say”), is a cute jewel box of a restaurant in a historic home. Don’t let the distance fool you, it’s really easy to get to, and it would be a mistake to miss out on stopping here for the perfect meal. Some of the dishes will have a gentle Cajun or Creole influence, but none are overpowering. Ask your friendly server.
Crab and Corn Bisque at Fricassee Café & Bakery
If it’s on the menu, you have to try the Corn and Crab Bisque. It is easily one of best I have ever had. Thick not starchy and the aroma was heavenly. I also had a club sandwich on a croissant with turkey, local ham and bacon which proved perfect. The cakes here are made with premium ingredients just like mom used to make. With frosted, fat wedges of Hummingbird, Coconut, Red Velvet, Carrot and Chocolate, the dessert case was just overflowing with temptation. I don’t know how they do it, but I would absolutely try anything on this menu. Every dish is served with care and the kitchen takes pride in what they produce.
Avocado Stuffed with Chicken Salad from Fricassee Café & Bakery
The cakes at Fricassee are perfection
The combination of owner-chefs, great service, outstanding food and a beautifully restored historic home along with outdoor dining if you want, make for a true Cajun comfort food experience. Fricassee is simply a well rounded restaurant that pays attention to all of the details, and you can taste it. Find them on Facebook .
Although our tour of Lake Charles Louisiana was food centric, I realized during our travels that there is so much more to do here. There are water sports, boating, golfing, hiking and just about any outdoor activity you can think of. And if fresh Gulf Seafood is your thing, you have to put this on your to do list: Lake Charles has an amazing Crawfish Festival in April . Visit Lake Charles Louisiana to enjoy the people, countryside and waterways, delicious food, and the southern hospitality that makes this place so special. Photography by Kurt Winner unless otherwise noted.