5@5 - Five Reasons to Eat in Louisiana
February 16th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Eatocracy is in New Orleans this week getting ready for the second edition of our Secret Supper. We'll be sharing the people, purveyors and places that make this such a significant food town, and hope you'll join in with your questions, memories, restaurant suggestions and general bonhomie.

(Editors' Note: We originally ran this piece on August 29, 2010 - the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Given our current locale, we deemed it worth revisiting.)

To pay our own culinary tribute to the New Orleans spirit, we rounded up a celebrated group of people from all walks of Louisiana's living tradition to share their own stories on why the region's food culture should not - and will never be - washed away.

Five Reasons to Eat in Louisiana

1. Terrance Simien - Creole musician (pictured top left)

"The Louisiana dish that seems to define me and my Creole people, other than gumbo, a Creole staple, is a sauce piquant.

Piquant means spicy in French. This dish was special in our house when I was growing up because, of course, my mom did most of the cooking and this was the 'men's' dish. There was this excitement in the air when I knew Daddy would be cooking a sauce. The men would gather at our camp to kind of do their thing, a little separated from their wives. We used farm-raised meats like duck and rooster, Gulf shrimp and homemade sausage. We also used wild game that we caught hunting. Two to three different meats or shrimp, cooked slow in onions and garlic to make a gravy. Add the tomato sauce, a dozen men laughing and talking a lot of nonsense in French and you've got an experience like no other!

Since our touring takes us all over the world, I like to have a taste of our local cuisine before I hit the road, so to speak. Even if it's just a link of boudin or a shrimp and oyster po' boy. It kind of holds me over for a two- to three-week tour because no matter how good the food is in other places, and trust me, they feed the musicians well when we roll into town, it doesn't always have the 'kick' we've got down here!"

2. Donald Link - James Beard award-winning chef of Cochon, Herbsaint and Calcasieu (pictured center top)

“I was a little concerned the first time I saw a soft shell crab. My dad had taken me out of my first day of fourth grade to go trawling for shrimp near the Gulf of Mexico. It was the opening day of the season and it took precedent over the first day of school.

After a few hours of bouncing around on hot humid Gulf waters, we pulled up our first drag, and in it was a couple soft shell crabs. I was very confused - I couldn’t figure out what had happened to it, I thought maybe it was sick.

That’s the day I was taught the true value of the soft shell crab and how it was a special crab that when cooked, you could eat the whole thing - I couldn’t believe it. I learned that day that this one of the best tasting foods in the world."

3. Capt’n Sammie Faulk - Charter Fishing and Hunting Guide (pictured right top)

"My favorite fish is a flounder. The best is a medium-sized one, about one to one-and-a-half pounds - scaled, gutted and the head removed. I cut it down the dark side and cut it back along the bones - and push it in like a baked potato. Then I stuff it with fresh shrimp and crab meat caught locally. I like to dice a potato and fill the cavity with it too - all seasoned with Cajun spices. I grease a pan and cook it in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then I pour a little Italian dressing on it and let it sit for a few minutes, and it's ready to serve.

Louisiana flounder fish is great. There's usually a fall and a spring migration when the flounder are a little thicker. The fall is coming up and the fishing should be amazing. I fish any little cuts and openings along the banks - you can see the shrimp jumping and the flounder popping. It's unbelievable what you can catch with a regular trout rod. They can be a truly fierce fighter. It's wonderful to feel that bite and the run, then to catch it in the net. You can almost taste it while you're pulling it in the boat."

4. Dan Cameron - Prospect New Orleans (pictured left bottom)

“I have a vivid memory of my first post-Katrina po' boy. It was January of 2006 and most places were still closed, but Verdi Mart on Royal Street was open for business, and I went down and ordered some fried oyster and clam combos for me and my friends.

Maybe it really wasn't an exceptional po' boy in itself, but I remember crunching into that French bread, and tasting the cornmeal and shellfish, and tears of happiness started rolling down my cheeks. I understood in that moment that if I could have this incredible taste sensation, then I was reconnected with New Orleans in the most primal way imaginable.”

5. George Rodrigue - Cajun artist (pictured center bottom)

"No doubt – shrimp and oyster gumbo with white rice, topped with filé; potato salad on the side.

I can truly say that gumbo is my favorite Cajun dish. I remember waking up to the smell of my mother in the kitchen making a roux. Real Cajun gumbo is dark, with a rich roux, and when you’re making it, the whole house smells. If I woke up to that, I knew we were eating gumbo for the next two days. We had three basic gumbos: chicken with andouille sausage; shrimp and oyster; and wild game - but the shrimp and oyster has always been my favorite."

And, as a lagniappe...

6. Ralph Brennan - Owner of The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (pictured right bottom)

"When people think Louisiana cooking, they usually focus on the French and Creole food in New Orleans. Of course, this is my home so I'm a little biased, but what many people forget is that Louisiana cuisine goes well beyond New Orleans. The breadth and depth of the food here is closer in scale to that of an entire country than of just one state.

In southwest Louisiana, you're in Cajun country and the food tends to be spicy – like a crawfish étouffée. I'd suggest checking out Prejean's in Lafayette. They have a fantastic Louisiana crawfish and alligator sausage cheesecake, which is a savory, not sweet delicacy.”

In north Louisiana, the cooking tends to be what most would consider more typically 'Southern' - like barbecue. There's a place in Shreveport called Podnuh's that you have to try for barbecue. A little further east, Natchitoches is home to Lasyone's Meat Pie Restaurant - a must stop for anyone in the area."

What's your favorite taste from the Gulf Coast? Share your memories in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Cuisines • Hurricane Katrina • New Orleans • News • Think

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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. louisiana maritime lawyer

    Great story!!!

    September 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  2. every day

    Hey.it's a good article,it's helpful for me,I've learned a lot from your blog,welcome to my blogevery day.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  3. Jim

    The grits at Luke's restaurant.... drool comes out the side of my mouth like Homer Simpson when I think about them.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Tony

    Boudin in Opelousas, a po-boy from We Never Close, A Hurricane from Pat O'Brian's, a steak from Charlie's Staek House, basically anywhere in The Big Easy will give you good food by following a decades old formula, plentiful servings of good food at a decent price.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  5. jillmarie

    Even our comments made back in August are recycled!

    February 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  6. Jdizzle McHammerpants


    We got 'F's for this in High School English.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  7. mbelk

    I love Louisana food, I just recently tried alligator. The spices are really good.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  8. Rick

    ANYWHERE! If you don't like spice, stay home!

    August 31, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  9. mattski

    One reason – Cajun Food. Go to Prejean's in Lafayette and leave the tourist areas behind.

    August 31, 2010 at 6:55 am |
  10. Charlie

    Thanks CNN for showcasing my home state's culinary treasures. If you are raised up down here, you suffer from cuisine nostalgia no matter where you live. There are great restaurants all over the world. Eating is not just preparing a meal here. It is a social occasion. Once again, thanks for putting the Bayou State in positive light.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:57 am |
  11. conch

    raw oysters @ Acme, muffaletta @ Central, crawdad ( sorry folks – that's the FL talkin') etoufeé @ Sammy's, fried oyster po-boys @ johnnies, anything @ Cid Del Mar ( gone now?)
    love that state of LA!

    August 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  12. Mike Regan

    Best meal I ever had was the andouille crusted redfish at Emerils. Fantastic food and excellent service. Can't wait to get to New Orleans again.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Charlie

      Take the 2 hr drive up west on the I-10 from New Orleans to Breaux Bridge, La (Ali Landry's Hometown) Great Cajun dining and also 15 minutes further is Lafayette.

      August 31, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  13. NativeInDC

    No doubt the food is the best anywhere. I crave it and look forward to my visits with the purple pill in hand... So many small little places that the normal tourist will never see without a local guide, but i have to give a lot of credit to the servers who make the places special. Whether it is a small hole in the wall where they treat you like one of the family or one of the high end Brennan's places where it seems like 4 people are always there attentive to one of your needs, You can't find that level of ambiance or service anywhere else. My favs Kenner Seafood and Clancy's

    August 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  14. aubrie

    I was in New Orleans this past February and I had a rabbit stew that was to die for. I was rather surpised to see it on the menu of an upscale restaurant, as I always thought of it as more of a pastoral or country dish. It was heavenly. I mean lick your spoon kind of heavenly!!

    August 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Can't believe I have yet to try rabbit. Sounds good! I never see it anywhere (on a menu).

      August 31, 2010 at 8:47 am |
  15. Lou

    I consider myself having traveled enough to give an opinion on a city's cuisine and by far New Orleans is one of the best I've tasted, in my opinion it doen'st have anything to envy the great cuisines of Spain and Italy, sorry french food, you're just pretty on a plate. Just about anywhere you go, excellent food, ambiance and service are the standard.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • Charlie

      Thanks for the compliments.

      August 31, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  16. RITA

    Seafood gumbo, red beans and rice, po-boys, chickory coffee, Central Grocery muffalattas, beignets, boudin!

    August 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Stop Rita Stop! I haven't had lunch yet!

      August 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        What time zone are you in?

        August 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Way past Central time zone.

        August 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Charlie

      Don't forget, King Cake during Mardi Gras Season. Gambinos Bakery, Yum!!!

      August 31, 2010 at 2:05 am |
      • Amanda

        Yeah ya right!

        September 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  17. ed widener of metairie,la (son of Bill Boos)

    Across the Huey P Long Bridge from Jefferson Parish on the Raceland Hwy is MOSCA'S Italian/creole/cajun Restaurant. The Mosca family has cooked the best food in the Nuawlins area for over 60 years. Try their Italian shrimp w/ shell on, their blue crab salad in the shell, baked Italian chicken,homemade spaghetti w/ meatballs.(Mary and Johnny are the hosts)

    August 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  18. RichardHead

    Ding,Ding.Ding-You are so right Brother!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  19. mikeB

    SHUCKS! Oyster bar in Abbeville, south of Lafayette, Old Tyme Grocery poboys, Poche`s Bridge Market in Breaux Bridge. Draw a 60 mile circle around Lafayette and you can`t go wrong.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  20. justpeachy

    I lived in Lafeyette twice growing up, one of my favorites is Jambolaya with chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp, but the gumbo (anykind) is the best. You can't get really good gumbo anywhere else, I like it spicy enough to make me just break a sweat with an ice cold beer chaser.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  21. mikel

    Shrimp & oyster po-boys from Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette. Patton's Hot sauasage from Bogalusa. Anything fron Pat's Fisherman's Wharf in Henderson. Crawfish from Lousiana Crawfish Time in Lafayette. I could go on and on! Yum!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  22. RichardHead

    Best Fried chicken i EVER ate-Willie Mae's Scotch house! Little Carrie knows how to do it right. Glad people helped to bring them back!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm |

    I have to agree. Prejean's is awesome. Anytime i'm down that way we have to go. If you've never been, you need to if your in the area. Cajun food is a class of it's own, but you better have a taste for spice.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • justpeachy

      I agree

      August 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  24. Petey

    New Orleans is America's great geo-gastronomic contribution to the world. It is to the world of cuisine what jazz is to music.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  25. jck

    Great story!!!! Anyone interested in enjoying some of these incredible meals and experiencing Louisiana culture at its best should checkout louisianaculinarytrails.com – 7 food trails throughout Louisiana that will make you drool! Download the guide for 149 ways to eat like a local. Hope to see you on a Louisiana back-road...

    August 30, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  26. jillmarie

    The best dining experience I ever had was at Brennan's in New Orleans. It's where Banana's Foster was invented. The service was the best I've experienced anywhere, and I've been to wonderful places like Le Cirque (second best experience!). The food is phenomenal.

    August 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Great service definitely makes an experience a memorable one!

      August 30, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  27. JGex

    Really? The only comment is from some nitwit who fails to grasp the uniqueness of the cuisine of the Southern region and intent of the story during the 5th anniversary of Katrina? Yeah, well my Dad can beat up your Dad.


    August 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Get a life. And You're welcome.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:44 am |
    • RichardHead

      Sorry,No Bitch Slapping Dad's allowed on this website!

      August 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  28. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    Fishing in Alaska is better. Trust me. It's just not as warm and it's more than a little out of the way. And Sarah Palin lives there. I was raised up there. I couldn't see Russia from my house. But if you can see Big Diomede Island from Little Diomede island 23 miles away in the Bering Sea off Nome coast. One is Russian property the other US. That was not off topic at all. X)

    August 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
    • aubrie

      Granted .... fish in Alaska is awesome, but to bad they don't know how to cook it. Very bland. Louisiana may not have the quality now, but they sure have the know how!!!

      August 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        This is true. I don't really care for salmon, just like to catch it. Usually gave it away. Too fishy. But I like HOMEMADE smoked salmon. I have a recipe that includes Dr. Pepper in the brine.

        August 31, 2010 at 8:46 am |
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