An Outsider’s Guide to Cajun Country
Louisiana’s Cajun Country is undeniably moody; moss-draped Cypress grow out of the middle of swamps and flooded rice fields stretch to the horizon. This twenty-two-parish region of south Louisiana is also one of the most culturally and culinarily rich regions of America. Folks dance to live Zydeco bands on Saturday mornings and local delicacies like crawfish and boudin are a way of life.
If you’re oblivious to the wonders of boudin—a mixture of pork, liver, Louisiana rice and seasoning stuffed into a sausage casing, intended to be squeezed straight from the casing into your mouth—you’re not alone. “I figure that about 80 percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most of the rest is polished off in the car,” wrote Calvin Trillin in his boudin-focused essay “The Missing Links.” “In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state; it usually doesn’t even get home.”
My unofficial Cajun Country tour guide, Bill Thomas, has a particular reverence for the region’s history and its particular culinary treasure. “Cajun people live off the land. From rice to pigs, everything the Cajuns grow is represented inside the casing of boudin,” explains the Louisiana native. “It’s so good you're gonna have to go home and change your jeans,” adds Bill while driving past miles of rice fields and crawfish ponds, my college buddy and her mother chuckling in the back seat.
Bill is a man who has eaten his weight in boudin in search of its apotheosis. And so I trust him to guide me to the best boudin as well as the best crawfish and to-go frozen daiquiris in Cajun Country. Here’s what we found:
Boudin stop #1: Johnson’s Boucaniere
This “boucaniere,” or smokehouse, is known for its grilled cheese stuffed with boudin and slathered with housemade BBQ sauce. The barbecue—including smoked pulled pork and brisket—is damn impressive, as is the potato salad. But if it’s unadulterated boudin your after, Johnson’s intensely meaty and peppery version is served steaming hot on white butcher paper. [Pro tip: Don’t overlook the “boudin balls” at Cajun Country’s myriad boudin stops. They consist of boudin taken out of its casing, dredged in breading and deep fried.]
1111 St. John St, Lafayette, LA 70501
Boudin stop #2: Best Stop Supermarket
This supermarket and butcher shop sells everything from crawfish dressing-stuffed chickens to boudin egg rolls (that’s boudin and pepper jack cheese encased in a wonton wrapper and deep fried.) If it’s straight-up boudin you’re after, the cashier will weigh it out on a scale and hand it to you wrapped in butcher paper; eat it immediately at one of the tables outside accompanied by a bag of golden brown cracklins. The boudin here is incredibly rich and flavorful thanks to a healthy portion of liver and paprika in the meat-and-rice mix.
615 Hwy 93, Scott, LA 70583
Boudin stop #3: The Mowata Store
The fresh eggs at the Motawa Store come from the owner’s farm down the road, as do the figs and berries used in the homemade jam. Don’t think twice about taking a package of the smoked beef jerky sticks home in your luggage—your clothes are going to smell like a smokehouse, but it’s well worth it. The boudin at Motawa is the lightest in color and most refined of all the boudin we ate on our journey. Less liver and spices in the mix allow for the pure pork flavor to shine through.
30283 Crowley Eunice Hwy, Eunice, LA 70535
Daiquiri stop: Geaux Cup
Yes, there are drive-thru alcoholic daiquiri shops in Louisiana. These shops distribute frozen, grain alcohol-laced beverages served in a Styrofoam cup to drivers (or, we hope, passengers) across the state. Geaux Cup has 35 different daiquiri flavors on its menu, ranging from the “F**k Up” to the “Cajun Stinger.” Bill ordered my friend’s mother a “Sex on the Bayou.”
19033 Crowley Eunice Hwy, Crowley, LA
Crawfish stop: Dwight’s Restaurant
Crawfish season is November to June; but peak season is late March through April. Dwight’s, a decidedly no-frills joint where the Abita is cold and the crawfish is piled high on a platter with potatoes and corn on the cob, is Bill’s go-to for quality crawfish. "Getting the fat out of the crawfish head is like finding the G-spot," explains Bill.
4800 Johnston St, Lafayette, LA 70503
Live music stop #1: Fred’s Lounge
Fred’s is a magical place where locals have been coming to two-step and jitterbug to live Cajun music since 1962. Fred’s is only open on Saturday’s from 8am to noon, which is a most appropriate time to drink and dance your ass off according to local Acadians.
420 6th St, Mamou, LA 70554
Live music stop #2: Cafe des Amis
This brunch spot features live Cajun bands and dancing every Saturday morning. The crawfish omelette, topped with crawfish étouffée and crawfish au gratin, is to die for.
140 E Bridge St, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
Live music stop #3: Whiskey River
Overlooking the gorgeous Cypress-Tupelo swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin, this dancehall turns up on Sunday afternoons with live Cajun and Zydeco bands. If an older gentleman offers to show you how to two-step, do take him up on his offer. After all, you never know the next time you’ll be at a swamp-adjacent dive in the heart of Cajun Country.
1365 Henderson Levee Rd, Breaux Bridge, LA