Blue Dog Cafe: Art and Awesome Dishes in Lafayette, Louisiana

Which came first, the art or the restaurant? Guests at Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette, Louisiana, will enjoy fabulous cuisine while they learn the answer to that question.

During this time of social distancing and isolation, we still have to eat. And we still want to patronize local restaurants that we love, helping to keep them in business. We urge you to check the websites of the restaurants we’ve reviewed and to consider eating local as a way to help our communities.

Location: Blue Dog Cafe, 1211 West Pinhook Road, Lafayette, Louisiana

Menu: Artist and original owner, George Rodrigue enjoyed thriving friendships with renowned Louisiana chefs Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, and one of his most famous paintings, painted in 1979, is “A Toast to Cajun Food,” so the items on Blue Dog’s menu are no surprise, especially when you consider the restaurant’s location. Just how truly delicious everything tastes has become the reason diners return again and again.

Boudin balls and seafood wontons are popular appetizers promoted as shareable and “for the table.” Crabcakes and fried catfish can also start a meal at Blue Dog. Gumbo and crab bisque are regular soup offerings, and each of the three salads can be ordered with shrimp, crab or oysters.

Po boys, shrimp and grits and crawfish enchiladas appear on the list of entrees, alongside steaks, pasta, chicken, pork and burgers. However, the seafood and catfish dishes bring out the best of Blue Dog’s cajun seasonings and preparation methods. I ordered fried catfish topped with crawfish etouffee served over rice (called Catfish Blue Dog), and it was one of the best dishes I had during an entire week in Louisiana — and that’s saying a LOT. Collard greens and purple hull peas are two of the popular side choices reflecting a regional twist.

Beignets, bread pudding and fruit cobblers headline the dessert options, along with chocolate cake and cheesecake.

Thoughts: George Rodrigue fulfilled a longtime dream when he opened Blue Dog Cafe in 2000. The cafe in Lafayette, as well as a similar one in Lake Charles, Louisiana, have walls covered in his art featuring the character that became his signature symbol, a blue dog or dogs with stark, staring yellow eyes. Rodrigue’s blue dog emerged from a Cajun mythical creature called a loup-garou, which would be similar to a boogeyman in other settings. These blue dog paintings really captured the imagination of art collectors and made Rodrigue famous when they first appeared in the 1990s. A mealtime experience at Blue Dog Cafe is both a gastronomic and a visual treat. The food is wonderful, and the paintings are both fun and intriguing.

In addition to being an artist and a restauranteur, Rodrigue is known for his generosity to art departments of Louisiana schools. His donations, which began in 2009, have already topped $2.5 million for art supplies, scholarships, and arts education projects.

Rodrigue was able to enjoy the fulfillment of his dreams until his death in 2013. Since then, his two sons, Andre and Jacques, and his friend for many years, Steve Santillo, continue to operate the restaurants.

George Rodrigue was born in New Iberia, Louisiana, only a 30-minute drive from Lafayette. He was raised in the heart of French and Cajun traditions and culture with those images, sounds, and tastes running through his mind and body. His art and the recipes used in his restaurants resonate with the locals and capture the hearts of visitors. The price collectors are willing to pay for his paintings has risen dramatically since he died, with most going for between $25,000 and $35,000, but you have the opportunity to view a number of them while you eat a wonderful meal at Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette. When the restaurant reopens for dine-in guests, it will also be providing live entertainment several nights each week.

Price range: Appetizers range from $3-12. Soups and salads are $7-15, and entrees are $11-34. Desserts are $7 or $8.

Blue Dog Cafe is currently offering its dinner menu for carry-out only.

Disclosure: The reviewer received a complimentary meal as part of a press trip sponsored by Lafayette Travel.

Connie Pearson

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