This past year for Christmas, Alphonse the Crawfish was gifted a ticket to Cajun Food Tours in Lafayette, LA. Alphonse has lived in Cajun Country his entire life, and has eaten his share of good food, but the idea of a Cajun Food Tour intrigued him. “What an interesting way to see the town and discover new food,” he thought. So, we all packed up in Tay Tay Guidry’s Chevy Tahoe and off to Lafayette we went.
We drove up to the meeting spot off Pinhook in Lafayette and immediately saw a big, orange bus for Cajun Food Tours. It was very inviting and we knew that we would have a good time, tout suite! Marie Ducote Comeaux was next to the bus waiting with a smile. The bus held Alphonse and 13 of his closest friends very comfortably.
Before we knew it, we were off on our first adventure. Marie explained how she came up with the idea of the Cajun Food Tour after experiencing a few tours in other cities and realizing that Lafayette did not have one. Wanting to share our unique culture with the world, Marie decided to leave her job as a history teacher and administrator and buy a bus. Seven years later, we were heading down Pinhook learning about the origins of the City of Lafayette.
The first stop on our tour was Cajun Market Donut Company for boudin kolaches and cake donuts. Upon entering the establishment, we were greeted by a uniquely Cajun look and our choice of coffee, hot chocolate or cappuccinos. We made our way over to be seated and were served a boudin kolache and two types of cake donuts.
Alphonse is normally big on sweets, but after hearing so much about the boudin kolache, he decided to take a bit real quick. The bread was soft and the distinct flavor of the boudin made its way through. It didn’t take him long to finish off the kolache, leaving him staring at the two cake donut pieces before him. “Mais, I never heard of a cake donut,” I heard him say, as he took a bite. We all immediately knew why it was called a cake donut. The texture and look of the donut was as expected, but the flavor was elevated to cake level. We liked what we tasted, quickly finished off the donuts and washed it down with our French Vanilla Cappuccinos. Before we knew it, Marie called out “Allons Manger!” and back to the bus we went.
The next stop on our tour was NuNu’s Fresh Market in Youngsville. As soon was we walked in, we saw a sprawling grocery store with everything one could imagine. Marie soon let us know that we were not in a grocery store. We were in a meat market, that happened to have a grocery store in it. The group made our way to the back of the store and we soon found out why they consider it a meat market first. Delicious cuts of meat, seasoned, marinated and stuffed every which way! Out came boudin, syrup sausage, cracklins and chicken patties for us to sample. Alphonse got so excited, I saw him raise his arms up into the air and do a little dance. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think the syrup sausage was my favorite… or was it the cracklins? Or the boudin? I can’t decide. On the way out, we passed by one of the most comprehensive liquor selections I have ever seen in Cajun Country, before behing handed a free bottle of Nunu’s special seasoning. “Allons Manger!,” said Marie and off we went.
On stop 3, we got Hook’d Up… literally. Marie pulled the bus around to Hook’d Up Bar & Grill. It was the first stop on our tour with a bar. Upon entering, about half of the tour group headed directly to the bar, before being redirected to a nice table set up for the group. Alphonse decided he wanted a Bahama Mama (he was feeling tropical he said), while other people ordered some Canebrake beer and Bloody Marys. Soon came a tray of fried catfish with tartar sauce. Alphonse loves some good catfish, y’all. He dug in right as the plate hit the table. The catfish was tender, juicy and delicious. By the time we snapped a photo, there was only a little piece of catfish left on the plate.
Alphonse finished up his Bahama Mama just in time for Marie to call out “Allons Manger!” We were starting to get this process down by now and back to the bus we went.
Now by this time, I think some people were starting to realize they were getting satiated. But, no good Cajun stops eating just because they aren’t hungry. We have to finish all the delicious food on our plate, even if it hasn’t hit the plate yet… We knew we were only half way through, and duty compelled us to continue our sampling of the very best of Acadiana.
Next up, Fezzo’s of Broussard!
As the Cajun Food Tour bus made its way into the Fezzo’s parking lot, we knew it was going to be good. The building was brand new and looked really fancy. Fezzo’s is up to 3 locations, we were told. Upon entering the building, we were greeted with a downhome feel with a modern Cajun look.
We were seated while being told about the delicious margarita that Fezzo’s had created. They topped their margarita with a shot of satsuma rum. I had never even heard of satsuma rum before, but Alphonse had heard from some of his friends. Some of the people in our tour group decided to mix the satsuma rum into the margarita, while others drank it off the top.
Next was our food selections, consisting of fried alligator and Fezzo’s Monteray Jack Oysters. Y’all. C’est bon! I didn’t think I was going to eat much of it, but once I tasted the fried alligator, I changed my mind and cleaned my plate.
“Allons Manger!,” summoned Marie and we all loaded ourselves back onto the bus. Somehow, the bus was still holding strong under the increasing weight of it’s occupants. “Where could we be going next?,” we wondered. The answer came soon enough. Marie explained that everyone has their favorite foods in Cajun Country, but nearly everyone will tell you that the best fried shrimp poboys come from Olde Tyme Grocery. What I didn’t know, though, was that Old Tyme Grocery also runs BJ’s in Broussard. They have the same fried shrimp poboy, and since BJ’s was just down the street, we pointed our bus in their direction.
Marie parked the bus and we went into BJ’s looking forward to those poboys. The place was busy! Everyone was enjoying their poboys with a smile on their face. Alphonse even ran into some friends from down the street. They have camps next to one another in Toledo Bend. It’s a small world, isn’t it? Realizing that a group of 14 people at lunch time probably wasn’t going to find a table, we decided to bring our sampler back to the bus and relax. Once back to the bus, Marie passed out very generous portions of fried shrimp poboys. Some people were brave enough to eat the whole thing, bread and all. I admit, I decided to take a bite of the whole poboy, but then finish off the shrimp individually. It was heaven. The bread was soft and delicious, but let the full flavor of the fried shrimp come through. “That’s why these are the #1 in Lafayette,” said Alphonse. Thank you Captain Obvious.
Allons Manger! Off we went on our way to our final stop on the Cajun Food Tour. Although everything had been super delicious, I was not sure how much more I could eat, so knowing we were on our way to our final stop was a comforting thought.
The sixth and final stop definitely made us feel like we were in the original Acadian settlement. We pulled up to Vermilionville! Many people do not know of the restaurant in Vermilionville and even less know that you can eat there without having to pay to get into Vermilionville. You can enter through the gift shop and head directly to La Cuisine de Maman.
Now, the first thing we thought of was how perfect of a name this was for the final restaurant on our stop, considering that RealCajunRecipes.com’s tag line is “La Cuisine de Maw-Maw!” We entered a historic Acadian-style home, and what lay before us, but an all you can eat Cajun buffet.
The irony was not lost on me that the one day in my whole life that I was at La Cuisine de Maman with a delicious Cajun buffet before me was also the day of my life that I was stuffed to the gills from a Cajun Food Tour. Alphonse said we are gonna go back though, and that will be another great adventure in itself.
We all took a seat at La Cuisine de Maman and were brought each a cup of chicken and sausage gumbo and a piece of bread pudding. Again, a perfect way to end the tour. Eating gumbo at a restaurant, even in Cajun Country is never a guarantee. You can’t fool a Cajun when it comes to gumbo. No way, no how. Every gumbo from every kitchen is unique, and finding it in a restaurant is quite a feat. Yet, Marie did it. The gumbo was the best I have eaten outside of my grandma’s kitchen. The sausage was smokey and delicious and complimented the dish well. How full was I? Not full enough not to eat every bite. I immediately adjusted my belt to make more room, and moved on to the bread pudding. How can anyone say no to bread pudding? I figured I’d just deal with it later and eat it all, which I did. I wasn’t disappointed. Alphonse and I love our sweets.
After 3.5 hours and 6 food stops, the tour was wrapping up. We were all so happy with our full bellies, I don’t even think Marie had to “Allons Manger” us back ot the bus. A short drive later, we were back to our meeting spot and free to continue our culinary adventures on our own time. Alphonse and I drove back to Kaplan to take a nap in his crawfish hole.
If you had asked me if I would find value in a Cajun Food Tour, growing up in Cajun Country myself, I would probably have expected to eat familiar foods that I already knew about. But, I admit that this was not the case. I found myself learning the history of the city, the people and the food while Marie narrated our tour. Things I thought I knew were not quite right and I was able to renew my appreciation for our people and culture. Acadiana is a unique place with a unique history and I’m very grateful that Marie is doing her part to uphold our traditions and properly introduce our food and culture to the world — the mission statement of Real Cajun Recipes itself. Thanks Marie, your passion is making a difference, one Cajun Busload at a time.