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Travel: Ragin’ Cajun

Our dining critic blazed down Louisiana’s Boudin Trail where the best food isn’t found in fancy restaurants, but at the local corner store.

Still, I’m particularly fond of Acadiana’s numerous small towns and all their charm. Like boudin, each is different in taste, texture, and sensibility. Twenty miles north of Lafayette, Opelousas (pronounced op-uh-LOO-sus) is known for its many Zydeco dance halls and large Creole population. The self-proclaimed “Queen of the Bayou Teche,” New Iberia casts a dreamy, genteel glow of antebellum, Victorian, and steamboat gothic homes. It also resides a mere 15 miles from South Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Only 10 minutes east of Lafayette, Breaux Bridge is a rollicking town that still reflects its wilder, outlaw past—though a bit tempered, the locals will quickly point out. Known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” this burg celebrates the famed local critter with an annual crawfish festival during the first full weekend of May, drawing more than 250,000 visitors.

My personal favorite, however, is St. Martinville. Seventeen miles southeast of Lafayette, this sleepy town sneaks up on you. Established in 1714, the town was settled by French expatriates, Spanish soldiers, and French aristocracy fleeing their country’s revolution. Nicknamed Petit Paris, the town was known for its cultural refinement and used as a resort for Creole families from New Orleans.

Though many remnants of those high times are gone, St. Martinville is currently undergoing a renaissance, as it slowly reclaims its glorious past.

Old St. Martin Square—a tourist favorite—is anchored by the St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, one of the oldest churches in the state, established in 1765. The Bayou Teche seems to dictate the pace of St. Martinville as it lazily flows and gurgles past the town square. Many shops and restaurants have recently popped up along the square, including the intimate Maison de Ville, a delicious and glorious example of Creole and Cajun cuisine, exuding an elegant and refined taste. St. Martinville recently reopened its famed opera house and is soon planning to open an African-American museum, celebrating the region’s cultural diversity. The best lodging option is the homespun charm of Bienvenue House, an antebellum gem (circa 1830) featuring balconied guest rooms, French flavors, and rustic décor. Hostess Leslie Leonpacher’s authentic regional gourmet breakfasts include such devilish temptations as sunshine eggs over brie, eggs benedict with tasso, and cranberry pancakes drenched in homemade orange syrup.

As one can attest after a visit to South Louisiana, eating might be the region’s most popular pastime. (Second only to drinking, of course.) Brian and I were hooked after our first taste of boudin. We loved its rich, dark flavor. We enjoyed the various textures. And, of course, we loved the price ($2 for a gut-busting link). As we stretched out across the truck hood, stomachs protruding and rumbling with pleasure, we agreed that our trip to Acadian Country could possibly get better than this—unlike our Old Milwaukee redneck brothers—but we doubted it would get much simpler or tastier. A fair assessment for Acadiana as well.

Just the Facts
What you need to know before you go.

Acadiana is known for its cuisine. But its most popular dish—boudin—is best discovered at country stores and meat markets across the eight-parish region. Here are some recommended stops. God help you and your stomach if you make it all the way through this list.


The Best Stop Super Market
Hwy. 93 N., Lafayette

Comeaux’s Grocery Store
1000 Lamar St., Lafayette

The Corner Pantry
801 Foreman Dr., Lafayette
Don’s Specialty Meats and Grocery
Hwy. 726 and I-49 Frontage Rd., Carenco
Earl’s Food Center
510 Verot School Rd., Lafayette
Guidroz’s Food Center
1301 E. Simcoe, Lafayette
Mhire’s Grocery
7212 Johnston St., Lafayette
Poche’s Market and Restaurant
Hwy. 31, Breaux Bridge
Ray’s Grocery
889 E. Vine, Opelousas

Bienvenue House
421 N. Main St., St. Martinville
Alida’s Bed & Breakfast
2631 SE Evangeline Thruway, Lafayette
Boudin Bus Tours
Call Leslie at the Bienvenue House to set up a tour, 888-394-9100.

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