A splendid bayou view, complete with a “beware of alligators” sign and Spanish moss hanging from the trees, complements a meal of both Cajun and Creole favorite dishes at Restaurant des Familles in the Mississippi River Delta region of Louisiana. Pirates no longer fill their treasure chests in Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Preserve, but you can certainly enjoy delectable seafood and unique culture in this corner of Jefferson Parish.
Location: 7163 Bataria Boulevard, Crown Point, Louisiana, between the French Quarter in New Orleans and Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Menu: Appetizer selections include calamari, crab cakes, crabmeat, and crab boulettes along with the famous Boudin (Cajun sausage) boulettes and alligator-stuffed mushrooms with Alligator Sauce Piquant. You can also order a dozen grilled oysters with herbs, Cajun spices, garlic butter, and Parm-Reg cheese.
Bowls of Turtle Soup, Chicken & Sausage Gumbo or Seafood Gumbo are served with a house or potato salad.
The Seafood Platters are deep-fried shrimp, catfish, oysters, or crabs, and a platter of the entire selection with gumbo. Upon request, you can get the platter meals grilled instead of deep-fried.
Seafood Pasta comes with a cream sauce, herbed butter and cheeses, or a spicy garlic-butter sauce.
Entrées include deep-fried softshell crab with crawfish tails, a redfish with sautéed mushrooms, blackened catfish, BBQ shrimp, crawfish with the holy trinity of vegetables smothering it, chicken topped with a citrus glaze, baby back ribs, glazed salmon, rib-eye steak or filet mignon.
Creme Brûlée, New York Style Cheesecake, Pecan Pie, and White Chocolate Bread Pudding are offered for dessert.
Thoughts: Jefferson Parish, next door to New Orleans, is the home of the Barataria Preserve in Jean Lafitte National Park where the Intercoastal Waterway, bayous, Mississippi River, and Gulf all play a part in the production of the nation’s number one producer of oysters. The Louisiana Oyster Trail, created to showcase local artist’s work in the culinary and the visual arts, features oyster artwork throughout the parish. Restaurant des Familles displays Simon’s art on their front lawn.
There is a simple difference between Creole and Cajun food I discovered. Creole cooking uses tomatoes, and Cajun doesn’t. For example, the Creole style of jambalaya, also called “red jambalaya,” includes tomatoes in the recipe. Cajun jambalaya contains no tomatoes and is cooked a little differently. Cajun-style is more common in the southwestern and south-central Louisiana.
The New Orleans Cookbook
The Dooky Chase Cookbook
The base of most of the Louisiana regional cuisines that gives it the distinctive flavor and aroma is the holy trinity of vegetables – onions, bell pepper, and celery. The front yard of Restaurant des Familles is actually a working garden that supplies the kitchen with the holy trinity vegetables. Raised beds of deep green, plump Jalapeño peppers, golden yellow pear tomatoes and fresh herbs were ripe and ready for picking when we visited in late June.
We were seated for our meal overlooking the verdant back yard nestled along the bayou. The restaurant building is in the authentic Acadian architectural cottage style where the rooms are laid out on either side of a central hallway. The entire back wall of the restaurant made up of windows presents a scenic view to everyone in the dining room. Tiered levels assure that there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
While waiting for lunch to be served, I eagerly scanned the marsh to spot an alligator. No live alligators appeared during lunch, but some ended up on my plate as an appetizer.
Two very generous portions of appetizers set before us were fried calamari and alligator-stuffed mushrooms. Alligator is a staple on the menus in this part of Louisiana and was served in a flavorful tomato piquant sauce. I preferred the fried calamari as the alligator seems to be an acquired taste. It had the texture of flaked tuna fish with a flavor more like fish than chicken.
Jalapeño-Cheddar Grits, an unlikely combination of grits and shrimp, was artistically presented in 3-D. The colorful, spicy, creamy, and chewy textures were not only eye-catching but scrumptious.
My husband’s Seafood Platter was a feast of deep-fried catfish with a red sauce and a tartar sauce for dipping along with jambalaya. Jambalaya is a combination of sausage, seafood, and rice that is cooked altogether until the rice is done. My Seafood Platter included a delectable deep-fried soft-shelled crab, shrimp, Boudin ball, a giant Louisiana oyster, and steamed asparagus.
Boudin balls (boulettes) are a classic food staple in the Cajun culture. Boudin is pork sausage made with rice and seasoning and deep-fried. These savory yummy little balls can be eaten with your fingers and consumed in two bites.
Although our favorite desserts were offered, we couldn’t eat another bite.
The dining experience at Restaurant des Familles was the perfect introduction to famous Louisiana cuisine. The uniqueness, variety, and style of dishes were most appealing.
Price Range: Appetizers range from $9-15; cups of soups and gumbos are $6-8 and bowls are $11-15; salads are $14-19. Seafood platters range from $15 (catfish) to $41 (seafood platter with gumbo); pasta dishes range from $17 for the chicken to $32 for the combo; entrees are $22-34. Desserts are $8.
Disclosure: Restaurant des Familles hosted the author at their restaurant for the introduction to Creole and classic Cajun foods.