Thursday, July 21, 2011

When a Cajun Recommends It...

My seafood platter didn't last long enough to photograph!
My accordion playing buddy knew we were gonna go visit our son in and around Lafayette, LA and suggested three or four restaurants owned and operated by local Cajuns. One of those was Soop's in the town of Maurice just north of the city of Abbeville near the Vermillion River. Bernie suggested a big bowl of gumbo. He didn't say which kind of gumbo, but said,"Dose folks sure know how to make 'dat gumbo... So, get 'da big bowl!"

We both knew mom and pop restaurants like Landry's and Don's Seafood and Piccadilly were excellent, authentic Cajun fare that was very affordable back when, even for someone like me and Bernie. But those venues became so popular that they had to lose something when something gained was so big. They all hit the corporate big time, which I applaud, but over time those restaurants changed.

I remember working for the university food service to pay my way through school basically washing dishes at lunch and dinner, five days a week. Because I worked there, I could eat all I wanted regardless of my meal ticket restrictions. Getting and eating great "coonass" food wasn't the problem. It was keeping my weight in check and my body physically fit.

I use to go to the local hospital and give blood at least once a month to have the bread needed to take out my girl friend or to eat out with the guys. One of those restaurants was "supposedly" the original Piccadilly in the Oil Center section of Lafayette which was within walking distance from the campus. Their crawfish etouffee was incredible. Roux based and patiently cooked to a rich, beautiful dark brown, it was not just mushroom gravy spiced with peppers. The portions were huge, the crawfish were plentiful... and the plates were very affordable. One of the black guys I worked with at the university restaurant was a cook, who also worked at the Piccadilly and turned me on to it, though he never gave me any culinary lagniappe.

I always found it interesting being from New Orleans, where everyone wrecks the English language, to hear African Americans speaking in Cajun French. Even when they spoke English, you could barely understand them because they seemed to accent all the wrong syllables! It was something to behold.

Occasionally, I would walked in the opposite direction of the campus, into downtown Lafayette and dine at "supposedly" the original Don's. When I did, I had trout or stuffed flounder with an etouffee crab or crawfish sauce.  The restaurant was a bit more "expensive" than Landry's or Piccadilly, so I didn't go often.

Many times, you can't tell a good restaurant from the looks of it on the outside. I used to tell my California friends, when they visited New Orleans, to look for the venues that had clam or oyster shell parking lots. It's a sure bet the food is authentically local. But, no more. Katrina pretty much put an end to that concept.

Anyway, Soop's a great find and we highly recommend it. And, not only the gumbo. Thanks Bernie!

No comments:

Post a Comment