Magic in Morgan City
Rita Mae’s Kitchen turns 23
If you’re the kind of person that likes to “Go big,” and then immediately take a nap, you won’t do much better than the Rita Mae’s Platter.
We live in a world beset by a never-ending barrage of restaurant review websites. Each site purporting to have all of the information you need to make the right choice, to make the perfect pick. Not that they are without value, there is a benefit in being able to find out seemingly everything you need to know about a place with just a simple search. But, sometimes you just get lucky driving down I-90 and run into a place like Rita Mae’s Kitchen.
On the road home to New Orleans from Lafayette, we were in the mood to catch some local flavor when we crossed into Morgan City. Following our stomachs, we turned onto Federal Street and somehow drove right past Rita Mae’s and kept going. Sure, there are signs up out front, but it’s a pretty unassuming place. However, the gods of cuisine wouldn’t deny us the Southern delights of Rita Mae’s — one of those great spots you can’t wait to tell your friends about when you get home. Something — likely our stomachs — told us to turn back and give it a go.
You feel like you’re walking into your friend’s house right at dinnertime when you enter Rita Mae’s. Three quaint rooms hold just enough tables and chairs to make the restaurant seem cozy. Locals chat with one another across the room about the day’s business, and say hello to friends who stop by for something to go. There’s a sign on the wall instructing diners not to use the sugar packets to stabilize the tables. Photos of friends and family adorn the walls — some old, some new.
Our eyes were drawn to the big board advertising the day’s specials. I couldn’t believe my eyes. So much so, that I had to double check that the whiteboard wasn’t the appetizer menu. Once the ebullient waitress informed me that yes, those specials were full plates, I realized that a fried shrimp plate, with tater tots and a biscuit was only going to set me back — five bucks. Game on. The sizable shrimp were lightly breaded with a touch of spice. Delicious.
Melanie followed suit, ordering the crawfish tails, french fries and a biscuit, also $5. Our friend Eddie, ordered off the menu, selecting the pork chop and red beans and rice entrée. Eddie wouldn’t share the pork chop, claiming it was too good, but after bartering one of my shrimp, he did give me a taste of the red beans and rice — a dish I haven’t been able to replicate at home ever since.
Rita Mae’s, which opened in 1993 and recently began its 23rd year of operation, has expanded its $5 special to include lunch. Recent lunch specials include crawfish étouffée with potato salad and mustard greens, or one could get fried chicken and macaroni and cheese with seasoned corn on the side. Yum.
Rita Mae’s hasn’t forgotten about the early birds, either. For those who like to greet the day with a hearty breakfast, Rita Mae’s offers the Hungry Man’s Breakfast, which features grits, eggs, a couple of slices of bacon, a couple of sausage patties and a biscuit. The kitchen also serves up pancakes, which will cover your plate, and bacon.
If you’re looking for a reason to get to Morgan City, other than this institution, the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival takes place right down the street from Rita Mae’s in Lawrence Park on Sept. 2 through 5. You should stop on by. It’ll be worth your time.
Rita Mae’s Kitchen
711 Federal Avenue