In a state known for big, bold flavors, visitors will find memorable meals in the most unexpected places. Country market plate lunches, golden fried po’ boys at seafood shacks and hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint briskets offer a glimpse into the Bayou State’s most cherished local secrets.
What do you get when a New Orleans-trained chef comes back to help with the family business on Louisiana’s charming Northshore? Chef Trey Herty brought Louisiana classics like dark roux chicken and sausage gumbo and creamy red beans and rice to the stellar plate lunch rotation at Artigue’s Abita Market. A few more of Trey’s notable dishes include New Orleans-style barbecue catfish and a tender pork shoulder he smokes for 12 hours with locally sourced wild cherrywood.
Get there: 22069 Hwy. 59 • Abita Springs, LA
Explore: Abita Mystery House Museum • Abita Springs, LA
Louisiana is catfish country. From hidden fishing holes to large-scale farming, catfish—fried in particular—is an essential part of the local culinary scene. Prioritizing freshness and flavor, the owner of Catfish Charlie’s, Doug Wood, has made the restaurant into a Monroe fixture. Baskets with cornmeal-crusted American catfish fillets—available thick or thin and crispy—are the most popular item, but creative preparations like Catfish D’Arbonne (served over rice with a rich crawfish cream sauce) are a real treat.
Get there: 2329 Louisville Ave. • Monroe, LA
Explore: Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge • Monroe, LA
From a tiny kitchen tucked inside Mick’s Irish Pub, Chef Aloysius Schroth-Nichols is serving inspired grub at Rum and the Lash. The menu includes a selection of burgers and sandwiches, but the Cheesy Boudin Chimichangas—stuffed with spicy boudin and triple-pepper Cheddar and served with a chipotle mustard—are an incredibly satisfying menu staple. Also, don’t miss the chicken wings, notably the Fermented Buffalo Crispy Chicken Wings and Asian-inspired MoPho Style Ginger Crispy Chicken Wings from chef-partner Michael Gulotta.
Get there: 4801 Bienville St. • New Orleans, LA
Explore: Canal Streetcar • New Orleans, LA
At its heart, Champagne’s Marché is a classic neighborhood grocery store. It boasts a full-service meat department and offers fresh boudin, daily special plate lunches and 16 different types of house-smoked sausages. During Carnival season, the store can hardly keep king cakes on the shelves. These award-winning king cakes don’t ship, so those who want to try them out need to visit Leonville. Bavarian cream-filled and pecan-praline are the most popular flavors, but it’s hard to go wrong.
Get there: 3802 Hwy. 31 • Leonville, LA
Explore: Zydeco Cajun Prairie Byway • byways.louisianatravel.com
One may not expect to find perfectly tender brisket and exceptional ribs in a nondescript building set a few minutes’ drive from Interstate 49, but those visitors will be rewarded. From its sign that reads “No Teeth Required” to its delectable potato salad, Shank Cat’s Bar-B-Que delivers at every turn. This former one-room schoolhouse is filled with memorabilia of owner Edwin “Bobo” Scott’s family and is just the kind of joint road trips were made for.
Get there: 6455 Hwy. 175 • Frierson, LA
Explore: Lake Bistineau State Park • Doyline, LA
For nearly 40 years, Nancy Brewer and Jesse Poimboeuf have run the eclectic and delightful Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau. Visitors will find a mélange of kitchen gadgets, linens, and pantry staples, but Nancy’s baked goods are reason enough to make the trip. In addition to a rotating collection of scones, cookies and Cajun sweet dough pies, her Gateau Na-Na is the star. This buttery torte has a pecan praline filling between two decadent layers of tender sweet dough.
Get there: 296 E. M.L.K. Dr.Grand Coteau, LA
Explore: Grand Coteau Historic District
Louisiana is not all dark roux gumbos and crawfish boils. The menu in north Louisiana follows a more traditional Southern bent, and Chef Hardette Harris loves exposing people to those flavors and dishes at her Us Up North culinary experiences. Small groups can book an interactive lunch or dinner at her dining room in Shreveport’s historic Allendale neighborhood. The family-style experience is tailored to each group but typically includes cornmeal fried catfish, purple hull peas, and her famous hot water cornbread.
About 60 years after their grandfather opened Lafayette’s popular Southside Bakery, Denny and Billy Guilbeaux launched Twins Burgers & Sweets. Now with two locations in the area, Twins is known for its cakes and cookies as well as its juicy hamburgers. The Evil Twin combines two quarter-pound patties, “evil onions” (sautéed onions and jalapeños) and Monterey Jack cheese. A few years ago, Twins—which does a booming king cake business—received notoriety for inventing the savory Boudin King Cake.
Get there: 2801 Johnston St. • Lafayette, LA
Explore: Parish Brewing Company • Broussard, LA
After arriving in Louisiana from Vietnam, Ha Do opened Hi-Do Bakery in 1989. In the decades that followed, the bakeshop earned throngs of dedicated fans for its breads and confections. During Carnival season, the bakery’s king cake (with its fluffy crumb and crunchy sugar reminiscent of the popular McKenzie’s bakery style) is a must-try. While Hi-Do does not ship king cakes, the bakery offers seasonal cakes in the same style for visitors throughout the year.
Get there: 439 Terry Pkwy. • Terrytown, LA
Explore: Barataria Preserve • Marrero, LA
Near the eastern edge of Baton Rouge, Randy Montalbano’s Seafood & Catering has carved out a place for itself among boiled shrimp and crawfish aficionados. Since 2006, the Montalbano family has lovingly grown this seafood oasis and added items to the menu, including fried seafood po’ boys, locally made tamales, and the Baton Rouge staple Sensation Salad (try theirs with boiled shrimp). Don’t leave without perusing their selection of sweets, including Old Time Ginger Cakes from Gonzales.
Get there: 12740 Florida Blvd. • Baton Rouge, LA
Explore: Old Louisiana State Capitol • Baton Rouge, LA
In 2016, self-taught baker Korey Champagne launched Acadian Slice at the weekly Lafayette Farmers & Artisans Market with a rotating slate of seasonal pies. Throughout Carnival season, he offers a King Cake Galette with a creamy cinnamon and pecan filling and topped with candied pecans, almond glaze and Steen’s cane syrup. This rustic pie pays homage to the original but is delightful in its own right. Customers can now preorder his pies for pickup throughout the week.
Get there: 2913 Johnston St. • Lafayette, LA (Saturdays)
Explore: Cajun Corridor Scenic Byway byways.louisianatravel.com
Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse is a superlative example of smoked meats done right. While customers can peruse the selection of andouille, tasso and smoked sausages, they can also sit down in the dining room to enjoy a bowl of gumbo (packed with smoked chicken and andouille), hog’s head cheese or the crunchy and addictive Andouille Chips. Wayne Jacob’s ships its smoky treats across the country (and to some international destinations).
Get there: 769 W. 5th St. • Laplace, LA
Explore: Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, Laplace, LA
This Marksville, Louisiana eatery recently celebrated its three year anniversary of serving the local community and visitors delicious food. Their unique culinary offerings include something for every taste palate and include Roasted Alligator, Pork Osso Bucco, Crab Stuffed Flounder, Cracklin’ Crusted Pork Chop, Redfish Orleans, and much more. Don’t forget to sample Pork Belly’s tasty desserts (including Banana Foster, Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Beignets) and handcrafted specialty martinis.
Get there: 523 Tunica Dr W • Marksville, LA