Monday, April 4, 2011

This is the Story of Two Local Legends…

resting on their laurels.

“Dwyer's (Café) is a Lafayette landmark that goes back to 1927. It was then that Mr. and Mrs. William Stinson first opened a café. Twenty years later, Stanley Dwyer became their head cook; and in 1965, Mr. Dwyer bought the place. Today it is in a new location, and Stanley's son Mike runs it. Having been a downtown fixture for so long, it is the place citizens of Lafayette come to meet and greet, especially in the morning.... It's the hot lunches we love. Dwyer's is a meat-and-three affair; the daily meats including such expertly-cooked stalwarts as smothered pork chops, lengths of pork sausage, roast beef with dark gravy, and chicken fried steak with white gravy. One day in the winter, Mike was pitching crawfish fettuccine, a fabulous cross-cultural Franco-Italian-Cajun noodle casserole loaded with high-flavored crawdads” (Michael Stern on

When we arrived at just after 1:00 p.m., the café was almost empty with only a few diners sitting on the outside patio and almost no one inside. Since Dwyer’s is famous for their plate lunches, we promptly went to the cafeteria line in the back to peruse the day’s offerings. The entrees on deck that day were roast pork, baked turkey, BBQ ribs, fried catfish, and hamburger steak. For the “three” in the meat-and-three you could choose from potato salad, white rice, rice dressing, smothered cabbage, English peas, yams, corn bread dressing, rice pudding, and bread pudding.

Two problems. None of it sounded all that appealing and most of the meats looked dry from sitting on the line too long. Time to change plans. We’d find a seat and order from the regular menu. Well, the regular menu wasn’t all that exciting either with choices limited to burgers, chicken sandwiches, fried seafood items, salads, soups, and a few “down home” entrees.

From the entrees list, Chuck had the chicken fried steak with two veggies. The battered beef had a good crisp crust and was topped with an run of the mill white gravy. The sides were mashed potatoes that tasted as if they came from a box and were super bland and watery. As his second side he had the English peas (not to be confused with English mushy peas which start with dried peas) which were reminiscent of Del Monte canned peas. Now I don’t much like peas to begin with, but I especially don’t like canned peas.

With little enthusiasm, I ordered the fried catfish sandwich with an order of onion rings. The onion rings were good and the serving was enough for Chuck, me, and a third party. A little thick but lightly battered.

It was with my sandwich that I learned an important plate lunch house lesson. Don’t order something from the menu that contains a food item also on the plate lunch line. The catfish on my sandwich had obviously been sitting long enough to become dry—and cold.

We were disappointed. Dwyer’s has a host of fans on, urbanspoon. com, and and we were looking forward to this visit. But only on the strength of the onion rings to I have Dwyer’s even a 2.0 Addie rating.

On to Legend Number Two—the Palace Café in Opelousas. Any number of people told us that, should we be in Opelousas, we had to eat at the Palace Café. So one Saturday found us traveling from Point A to Point B through Opelousas just at lunch time.

Our first clue that something might be amiss was, upon walking through the doors, noticing that the café was virtually empty at lunch hour on a Saturday. Other than a family group of six eating hamburgers and a solitary diner at another table, no one was there.

The second clue was the café’s shabby appearance. The wallpaper was peeling from the walls, the floors looked none too clean. The whole place looked old and tired. Still, we have eaten some great food in less than great surroundings. And could all of those people telling us that we should go there be wrong? Well, yes they could.

We had plans for dinner that night so we both decided to “eat light.” Chuck started with a cup of the chicken and sausage gumbo which was good—not great, but good—and came with the chicken still on the bone.

He flirted with the Italian Salad, until he learned it was made with chopped olive salad (he is not a fan of olives except on a muffuletta) and feta cheese.
So instead, he ordered the chef’s salad. Now the server didn’t ask, and Chuck didn’t tell, what dressing he preferred, so this came drenched in a very powerful oil and vinegar dressing. This oil was no EVOO. This was your lower grade olive oil. There were some strips of cold cut variety ham and processed cheese and some chunks of dry roast beef atop a heap of iceberg lettuce.

All the blogs mentioned the Palace Café’s fried chicken salad so that was my choice. I wish it hadn’t been. I know that they normally make this by tossing lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped pickle, and fried chicken together with mayo. I didn’t want all of that straight mayo, so i asked for ranch dressing instead—on the side, not tossed with the fixings. I got the same pile of iceberg (I don’t expect frisee or arugula, but maybe a little romaine or chopped red cabbage would have been nice) on top of which were small pieces of cold fried chicken. By cold, I mean really cold. Right out the refrigerator cold. This may raise the Yuk-O-Meter higher than pineapple on a pizza. The best thing about this salad was the commercially made salad dressing.

What a disappointment. If you are ever in Opelousas, LA, don’t eat here. I can’t even muster enough enthusiasm for the gumbo to award even one Addie.

No comments: