Lafayette is the eating center of Acadiana and a sustained argument could be made that it’s the eating center of the entire state of Louisiana.
Even battle-hardened New Orleanians would admit that our Westerly neighbor has us beat in a good number of fields of eating.
I-10 is a warzone. Just west of Baton Rouge we run into a landmark traffic jam. Trucks are blowing radiators, wrecked sedans are littering the roadside and we expect to see George Miller flying over in a helicopter at any moment.
Time to git. We jump off the freeway and hit 190 to take the back way into Lafayette.
Rural Louisiana is dead sexy.
We’ve come to Festival Acadiens et Créoles for the food: roasted sweet potatoes, alligator gyros, grilled pork loin with Steen’s syrup, crawfish tamales, cracklins, fried catfish and chicken and sausage jambalaya are just a few of the dishes offered by the country cooks who are manning the food booths.
Poupart’s Bakery has been in operation since 1967 but we didn’t get hipped to their outfit til the 80s. We start off with a seafood pistolette from the old bakeshop’s booth and are immediately chafed that we’ve only eaten sweet stuffs from this business in the past.
Cajun Unlimited drew our attention next with their fried alligator on a stick. It doesn’t get any more Cajun than walking in a park in Lafayette while listening to Jason Frey, Steve Riley and Dexter Ardoin play accordion while eating fried gator meat.
In keeping with the Cajun tradition of wrenching creatures from the bayous and frying them, Lagneaux’s (est.1969) is offering fried stuffed catfish. It is unfathomably delicious.
Belly space is growing limited but we note that Fezzo’s is serving crab cakes drenched in seafood etouffe. Drenched is the appropriate word here as the dish is really a soup bowl filled with etouffe with a crab cake tucked away inside. Profound.
Charlie T’s Specialty Meats of nearby Breaux Bridge is selling brown, fat-soaked paper bags of cracklins. We’re always looking to see if T-Jim’s of Cottonport can be bested in this category and while Charlie T’s is good, old T-Jim doesn’t have anything to worry about from these rivals.
Dessert? Shrimp etouffe in puff pastry from Poupart’s Bakery.
Happily glutted and with the shadows beginning to grow long in Girard Park we make our way to the exits. Outside the grounds on a narrow blacktop street a group of elderly folks are two stepping to the strains of music coming from the park.