Of the 39 U.S. cities and counties named for French and American statesman Marquis de La Fayette, Lafayette, Louisiana is the place that will show you the best time.
Located about 128 miles west of New Orleans on the Vermilion River, Lafayette is home to a blend of Cajun and Creole cultures, brought to life in the city’s artwork, music, and especially, food. With Lafayette at its center, Cajun country sprawls through several South Louisiana parishes and includes a constellation of towns like Eunice, St. Martinville, New Iberia, and Breaux Bridge, all worth the drive.
The region’s cuisine is prized for specialties including crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and gumbo spiked with garlicky andouille sausage, but it’s most famous for boudin, links of spiced pork and rice that are reason enough for a road trip. Here’s how to work your way through the best of Lafayette dining in 24 hours.
Breakfast at Edie’s Biscuits
1400 W Pinhook Road
For early birds, the sweet spot to be is Edie’s Biscuits, known for sunrise morning hours and oversized fluffy scratch biscuits. Edie’s divides its menu into sweet and meat, with options like blueberry and cinnamon roll and catfish egg and cheese. The fried chicken biscuit is earth-shattering.
Late morning snack at Scratch Farm Kitchen
406 Garfield Street
When it’s time for a late morning snack, head to Scratch Farm Kitchen, a farm-to-table cafe downtown. Maybe share a Pretty Plate, the kitchen’s fresh and natural version of the traditional plate lunch. Pick a protein, from smoked tofu to eggs and chicken, and enjoy whatever’s fresh — might be limas, broccoli salad, grilled zucchini, or oyster mushrooms. Or, just sit with a Vietnamese coffee and a muffin and soak up the artsy good vibes.
Lunch at Dwyer’s or Cafe Coachella
323 Jefferson Street; 1224 NE Evangeline Thruway
The meat and three plate lunch special is so deeply ingrained in this area’s gastronomic vernacular that there’s an actual Lafayette plate lunch trail where roadway meets foodway. Places like Dwyer’s Café downtown, open since 1965, where a steam table in the back simmers with smothered chicken and pork chops. If it’s Tuesday, braised calf tongue in gravy is an especially popular dish. On the Northside, Cafe Coachella is the right choice, a haven for soulful Southern cuisine. Meat might be chicken stew, fried pork chops, or stuffed turkey wings, rounded out with red beans, smothered potatoes, mac and cheese, and okra.
Afternoon coffee at Reve Coffee Roasters
200-A Jefferson Street
Stave off a nap with a coffee from Reve Coffee Roasters, a locally owned cafe that roasts and distributes its own beans. Belly up to the coffee lab for a specialty drink like the Bourboneaux, a blend of barrel-aged cold brew, pecan syrup, orange peel, and orange bitters. Or try Golden Days, a turmeric-laced ginger tea spiked with coconut and chili and sweetened with honey, hot or cold. Pair with a homemade pastry of the day to complete a golden afternoon stop.
Early evening drinks, fancy (Palmyre) or dive (Turtle’s Bar)
201 Settlers Trace Boulevard; 1377 Henderson Levee Road
When cocktails come with flower petals, the bar is set high. Lafayette’s swankiest place to see and be seen is the Palmyre, a funky setting with peacock prints and red velvet wing chairs. Take a deep dive into the composed cocktails, powered by top-shelf booze and fresh juices and garnishes. Mezcal lovers will appreciate the smoky Johann Goes to Mexico, bright with a balance of citrus, sugar, and bitters. There’s an array of beer on draft, world wines, and bubbles, which pair beautifully with the bowfin caviar service or the beef tartare.
For a very different experience head to Turtle’s Bar, a local watering hole extraordinaire. Situated in a rustic shack on the Henderson Levee overlooking the Atchafalaya Basin, Turtle’s is no frills all the way. This is the place for ice-cold beer, straightforward libations, and if it’s a special night, pudding shots. A super friendly crowd makes it even better.
Dinner at Vestal
555 Jefferson Street
There are plenty of great dinner spots in Lafayette, like Pamplona for tapas and Jane’s for French cuisine. But reserve a table at Vestal for a one-of-a-kind experience, where chef Ryan Trahan is playing with fire, literally. Much of the menu sizzles on a 14-foot fireplace central to the restaurant, with impressive results. Even so, the numerous raw preparations shine, from Gulf oysters to white fish ceviche with salted strawberry and tuna crudo with ponzu and smoked chili. Sample small plates like hearth-roasted onion soup, a grilled wedge salad, or oven-roasted cauliflower with bacon jam, and for the main event, steak lovers will swoon over wagyu or a 16-ounce ribeye perfectly caramelized by fire. There’s also a whole grilled fish and a smoked brisket lasagna, which is the stuff of dreams.
Late Night at Blue Moon Saloon
215 E Convent Street
Dance off some of that food at the Blue Moon Saloon, where a range of live music is featured Wednesday through Sunday. Afterward, head to Mel’s Diner, a classic 24-hour diner. Share an order of the wets with cheese — fries swimming in brown gravy topped with cheddar — devour a catfish po’ boy, or red beans and rice, available seven days a week, not just Mondays. Breakfast is served around the clock, for anybody ready to start again.
Barbecue and boudin at Johnson’s Boucaniere
1111 St. John Street
On your way out of town visit Johnson’s for one of the best meals you’ll have in Cajun Country. Open for breakfast on Saturday and brunch on Sunday, this Lafayette institution serves incredible boudin and smoked meats. Go simple with a smoked meat plate or try the Parrain Special, a boudin-stuffed grilled cheese. No time to sit and eat? Stop at the Best Stop in nearby Scott and fill up a cooler with boudin to bring home.