Pull Over for Prejean’s
Lafayette staple marries kitschy atmosphere with authentic cuisine
BBQ SHRIMP INEZ: Fresh from the Gulf shrimp simmered in Abita Turbodog beer and Worcestershire sauce served with toasted bread points for dipping.
If travelling on the Evangeline Throughway either to or from I-10, Prejean’s Restaurant in Lafayette will rise up along the side of the road amid lots with neat rows of trailers and trucks for sale. The parking lot is always jammed and Cajun music can be heard in the parking lot. Upon opening the door patrons will be obliged to cross a faux wooden bridge over a faux bayou complete with faux Cypress trees to get to the hostess stand. This assumes that you can even get into the building instead of waiting your turn outside on one of the collection of weathered, repurposed church pews.
Once inside you will see “Big Al,” the 14-foot alligator once a native of the Louisiana’s Grand Chenier swamp. He now reigns supreme over his brethren , consisting of taxidermied alligator garfish, catfish and other swamp critters in the middle of the dining room, the backdrop for which is a beautifully rendered mural of Bayou Chene by Cajun artist John Pourcio. The vibe is unapologetically kitschy, no doubt the intention to lure you, the tourist, in. While this ploy may send the uninitiated running elsewhere, fearing an “inauthentic” experience, resist the urge. Real deal, serious Cajun food is to be found here in great abundance.
In 1980, with the help of friends, Robert “Biker-Bob” Guilbeau built Prejean’s on a patch of Interstate-side farmland he had inherited from his grandparents, Walter and Inez Prejean. The idea for the area’s first-ever theme restaurant came to him while working in the steam fields of California and visiting Mexican eateries that were much more than restaurants: they captured the complexities of their culture through authentic food, artifacts, decor, traditional live music, dancing and a welcoming relaxed atmosphere.
To make his dream a reality Guilbeau started with the comfort food of his youth as they were rendered by his grandparents’ kitchen — boiled shellfish, deep dark gumbos teeming with seafood and game, buttery étouffée and vibrant sauce piquante. He layered on items gathered from garages and dusty area stores, checkered tablecloths, a sweeping dance floor, live music and, ultimately Big Al.
" about the chef: Chef de Cuisine Ernest Prejean, who started as a dishwasher in 1993, lays out an abundant menu where it is hard to go wrong. "
Make sure you try the Alligator Cheesecake-smoked alligator sausage and shrimp with cream cheese
Prejean’s is a place that’s probably not so great for a first date but perfect for a memorable time with children or an extended family.
Live Cajun music begins nightly at 7 p.m. and continues until about 9 p.m. You will also be serenaded over brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 11 a.m. to 1 p. m, and we’re not talking about no-name wedding bands, either. The background music beckoning you to Prejean’s expansive dance floor comes via Woody Daigle and the Cajun Five; Gurvais Matte and the Branch Playboys; The Clarence Denias Band; and Les Freres Michot. All stars in their own right.
Prejean’s Restaurant | 3480 NE Evangeline Throughway Lafayette | 337-896-3247 | prejeans.com
4 Dishes to Try
Carencro Kicking Shrimp
Crisply coated with panko then tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce and served over Sriracha cabbage slaw with a sweet chili sauce drizzle.
Two gigantic shrimp are stuffed with pepper jack cheese and grilled tasso, then wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon. They are then breaded, fried and served atop Crawfish Cardinale cream sauce.
Tout Que’ Chose
Get fried frog legs, crawfish tails, mushrooms, alligator, popcorn shrimp and crawfish boudin balls.
Smoked alligator sausage and Gulf shrimp with cream cheese and seasoning that’s baked in a Parmesan and panko crust. The dish is finished with crawfish Cardinale cream sauce.