Dining with Swedish visitors along the River Road in Plantation Country
On my father’s side, his paternal grandparents emigrated from their native Sweden to New Orleans in the early 1900s. In the early ‘80s my father undertook the task of hunting down his many distant relatives back in Sweden, forming meaningful relationships with them, traveling across the pond for annual visits, and opening his New Orleans-area home to any member of the family who wanted to accept his hospitality.
Though my beloved father died in 2006 my siblings and our children strive to keep those relationships thriving. Due to generous laws mandating five weeks of paid vacation for all citizens and the encouragement to travel abroad, one group or another of Swedish family members visits Louisiana at least once a year.
My cousin, Eskil Algeus seems to have made it his life’s work to share the distinctive culture of Louisiana and enthusiastic hospitality of his extended family with his Swedish countrymen. Through Eskil I am able to see Louisiana through fresh eyes and I cherish the opportunity to share our customs with him and whatever friends he brings along. On his most recent visit, he showed up with five friends in tow and we spent a day at Whitney Plantation in Edgard — immersed in the emotional exploration of the realities of slave life on a working plantation.
Upon departing the plantation, everyone was drained so we repaired to B & C Seafood Market & Cajun Restaurant in nearby Vacherie.
Due to its location near several plantations B & C sees its share of tourist traffic but the menu offerings are kept honest and local. The non-descript, low-ceilinged brick building serves as a fresh fish-and-Cajun market on one side and a casual diner with table service other. The dining room is filled mostly with picnic tables covered in checkered oilcloth. Taxidermied critters stare back at you from the walls and there’s a casual, blue-collar vibe. On any given day, there are plate lunch specials as well as a regular menu that seasonally adjusts to offer alligator, crawfish, shrimp, turtle, oysters, frog legs and soft shell crabs, plus several kinds of fish including garfish.
The Swedes are universally eager to try absolutely anything they cannot get back home. In an effort to try everything exotic to them our party of seven ordered numerous dishes: The Cajun Sampler platter with crawfish kickers (a zesty fritter), fried alligator, boudin balls and hushpuppies; crabmeat-stuffed jalapeños; several varieties of gumbo served with potato salad; a dozen fat, boiled crabs; Tommy’s Special — grilled catfish with onions, bell pepper and sweet fire pickles; and a seafood steak sandwich (crab, shrimp, crawfish patty on open face French bread, topped with shrimp sauce). Our krewe would have ordered boiled crawfish, too, but they were out of season.
B & C Seafood Market & Cajun Restaurant
2155 Highway 18, Vacherie
The Fatty Shack
13527 River Rd., Luling
A little further to the south in Luling, The Fatty Shack offers daily plate lunches featuring simple, well executed homestyle dishes — smothered pork chops with dirty rice, butter beans with shrimp and “dirty river” roast beef poor boys. Like many of the humble eateries found on River Road, this one is open only for lunch — except on Fridays when evening specialty dinners allow Chef Christian DiCarlo to show off his classic culinary training. On those evenings one might find brilliant, deeply flavorful beef short ribs, one braised, the other sous vide, lobster risotto with spicy lobster tempura, infused pan -eared snapper and white chocolate panna cotta with fresh cherry sauce and basil.