Cajun afternoon

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With the smell of pies beginning to fill the car and lunch beginning to settle in our bellies, we began our trek toward Houston. We weren’t quite done with Cajun country, though.

We already trusted Jim Romero to give good directions. We also trusted his opinion on food, so when he sent us toward Billeaud’s grocery, we knew it would be a treat.

We easily found our way to Billeaud’s, a Shell station and grocery store in Broussard, LA. Had we known then what we know now, we would have been better prepared. Billeaud’s has a lovely selection of prepared meats, especially boudin, boudin that gave an A+.

We weren’t prepared with a cooler, but we were prepared for a snack for the road, so we picked up a sack of wonderfully crisp and meaty cracklins. Cracklins are interesting to me as a fan of pork rinds. Where pork rinds are crisp and fluffy with a light taste of pork, cracklins are dense, filled with crunch and meaty flavor.

With two great meals behind us, a car filled with pies, and a nice sack of cracklins, it was time to start scoping out restaurants for our next visit. We are all huge fans of Louisiana artist George Rodrigue, most famous for creating Blue Dog. Lafayette is now home to the Blue Dog Cafe. We were too stuffed to eat there this time, but we did stop by to check the place out.

The restaurant is a nice open space decorated, of course, with prints and paintings by Rodrigue. We want to return during milder weather and try for the best seat in (back of) the house — a gazebo complete with ceiling fans and a larger-than-life Blue Dog standing guard.

After having made such an effort to get off the beaten path and seek out distinctive local places, why would we choose to visit a restaurant that appears more corporate and clearly depends on a gimmick? The answer lies in Rodrigue’s art. Not the iconic dog that inspired the place, but Rodrigue’s other work, his Cajun paintings. Rodrigue began his career painting the oak trees of Louisiana. Later, he began to add scenes of Cajun life. Even if the restaurant is big and fancy, we trust Rodrigue’s Cajun soul.

Finally, it was time to say farewell to Cajun country and head to Texas. Even arriving in Texas, we weren’t done with the swamp. Our good friend and my co-worker, Crabby Squirrel, had told us to stop at the rest area just over the Texas state line for a special treat.

He was absolutely right. We were in that sliver of Texas that is swampy like southern Louisiana. In addition to a mini Library of Congress containing what must be brochures for every single attraction in Texas, the rest area features a boardwalk that runs several hundred feet into the swamp. We saw fish, turtles, and grasshoppers that were as long as your hand. We could have spent an entire day watching life go by in the swamp. Alas, the rest area was closing, and we had to push on toward a date with Houston and good Tex-Mex.

Billeaud’s Grocery
111 E Main St
Broussard, LA 70518
(337) 837-6825

Blue Dog Cafe
1211 W Pinhook Rd
Lafayette, LA 70503
(337) 237-0005

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