This one’s personal. I’ve decided to share with you my personal favorites from throughout Acadiana. You know what I’m talking about – that one menu item in a restaurant that sticks in your mind for days or sometimes even years. The kind of dish that you’ll drive 30 miles or more to get when the mood strikes and you just can’t shake it. There’s nothing to do but go get it.
113 E. Main St.
Years ago, I had one of my all-time-favorite meals at Clementine in New Iberia. It was simple – really simple. It was an absolutely perfect plate of fettuccine and pesto. I’ve never come up with an explanation as to how such simplicity could be so wonderful. But it was – buttery, basil-y, nutty, cheesy and delicious.
Sadly, that dish was shuffled off their menu during one of the changes along the way, but I hold on to the memory of savoring it and enjoying a wonderful evening with friends. Even without the perfect pesto dish, I still love going to dinner at Clementine and have found a new favorite: the bacon-wrapped diver scallops. The scallops come on a bed of wild rice, lightly drizzled with a blackberry concoction and served with maque choux on the side. If you’ve never had scallops served with maque choux, you’ve missed out. There is truly something spectacular about that pairing – and Clementine does it right.
921 Camellia Blvd.
If you’re looking for the best pulled-pork sandwich, look no farther than Cochon in Lafayette. It’s the kind of sandwich you eat one day for lunch – and you can’t stop thinking about it, so you go back the next day, too.
The meat is perfect. It’s moist and tasty. The dab of Carolina barbecue sauce is flavorful but not overwhelming. The bread is divine – seriously, I’m not sure how they do it. And there’s just the right amount of coleslaw, even if you didn’t think you liked coleslaw on a barbecue sandwich.
No matter when you go to Cochon, you cannot go wrong with the smoked barbecue sandwich. It’s on the lunch, dinner and brunch menus. I’m so addicted to it that I don’t ever see myself ordering anything else (although I will admit the brunch menu’s pork grillades and grits are tempting).
Of course, the restaurant is beautiful. The setting is sumptuous. The sleek, contemporary interior is striking. The menu is full of all sorts of other things that are good and may distract you, but the best reason to go to Cochon is that barbecue sandwich.
Co-owners and chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski and chef de cuisine Kyle Waters III do a fine job in serving up an interesting mix of fare, but it’s their tried-and-true humble pulled-pork sandwich that does it for me.
Marcello’s Wine Market Café
340 Kaliste Saloom Road, Suite C
Marcello’s is the perfect spot for a cozy dinner for two. I do my best to go as often as possible. And when I go (unless it’s a Wednesday and I’m in the mood for their incredible osso bucco), I order the Molli. I order it with chicken, but it’s also available with veal. The dish includes pan-sautéed scaloppine with roasted artichoke hearts, garlic and capers in a lemon-butter reduction sauce over pasta. It’s typically served over angel hair, but I prefer it with linguine.
The dish is as close to Italian perfection as I’ve found in Louisiana (except for Irene’s cannelloni in the French Quarter in New Orleans – one of my all-time-favorite dishes anywhere and anytime). In fact, the ambiance at Marcello’s is reminiscent of Irene’s in New Orleans – it’s small, the lighting is low, and the colors are just right. It doesn’t hurt that the service is pretty close to perfect, as well.
With all the wine bottles and the general atmosphere, the truth is that once I step inside Marcello’s doors, I don’t feel like I’m in a strip mall on Kaliste Saloom.
Instead, the whole meal makes me feel much closer to being in a little café on a street corner somewhere that I dream about going. Maybe that’s because sometimes I do dream about going to Marcello’s … and ordering the Molli.
2944 Johnston St.
Sometimes I crave some good Chinese food, and when I do, I’m looking for perfect dumplings and fried rice. Without question, there’s one place in Acadiana that I prefer over all others for my Chinese fix – it’s the Magic Wok on Johnston Street. Yes, it’s hidden in a nook in a long strip mall. Yes, it’s the size of your grandmother’s kitchen. Yes, it serves a daily lunch buffet.
Don’t let any of those deter you. I’m not a big fan of buffets in general, and though I know plenty of people who appreciate Magic Wok’s small buffet, I usually find a way to order from the menu. And I always order the same thing – pork dumplings and chicken fried rice. The dumplings are available steamed or fried, and they’re good both ways.
When the dishes arrive at the table, they’re both steaming hot. The dumplings come with a variety of sauce options. The service is authentically Chinese. A husband-and-wife team runs the shop. The wife is out front, and the husband is in the kitchen. They’re originally from Kunming, a city in southern China – and they’re happy to share their food and culture with you.
Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant
13923 Louisiana Highway 35
Sometimes you just need a good chicken salad sandwich, and the one Suire’s Grocery serves up just before you get to Cow Island when you’re headed south on LA 35 does the trick.
And it should: It’s heaven-inspired.
Years ago, one of the Suire sisters felt like it might be time to add a chicken salad sandwich to the menu. Her mama told her to go pray about it – and voilà: Overnight, God gave her the recipe.
Here’s a prayer of gratitude for that divine intervention.