Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“And Every Visitor to Acadiana…

should eat a po-boy like the one at Bon Creole Lunch Counter.... Overstuffed with shrimp, crawfish, catfish, or soft-shell crab, they’re big enough to share” (from Louisiana Culinary Trails).

We had planned to hang around Franklin and enjoy lunch at one of their local restaurants. But after our encounter with Franklin’s answer to Officer Krupke, we had second thoughts (see yesterday’s blog). So we got back into the Big White Truck and headed north five miles toward Baldwin. Deciding that this was still too close to the long arm of the law, we kept going north toward Jeanerette.

As Chuck is driving, I am looking through the Louisiana Culinary Trails brochure. I didn’t find any listing for Jeanerette, but read the above quote about a spot in New Iberia. Since those two brief sentences contained three phases bound to pique our interest—“lunch counter,” “overstuffed,” and “they’re big”—it was on to New Iberia.

Fortunately, the Lady Who Lives in the Dashboard (the GPS) found the restaurant without incident. Bon Creole is housed in a cinder-block building whose front is painted with a faded mural and is located on a side street near the railroad tracks. The minute we saw it—and the packed parking lot—we knew this was our kind of place.

Jamie N. posting on yelp.com is on the same page with us: “The outside of Bon Creole is painted in a wildlife mural, and the parking lot is jammed with the cars of Cajuns either doing the overstuffed zombie-walk back to their automobiles or the crazy-eyed mad dash to dunk themselves in roast beef nirvana. The inside doesn't allow for much seating, so get there early and cozy up to the jackalope or mounted deer heads along the wall.”

This is another of those “order at the counter” places. In addition to the po-boys, the menu includes: gumbos—seafood or chicken and sausage; salads—shrimp, grilled chicken, and chef’s; seafood baskets—shrimp, crawfish, catfish, oysters, soft-shell crab, or seafood combo—with fries, salad, and a roll; burgers—hamburger, cheeseburger, and shrimp, crawfish, or catfish; and plate lunches. This being Tuesday, the plate lunch specials were pork roast or meatloaf. Each came with mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and cabbage casserole.

As Chuck and I are reading the menu above the counter, we keep telling other customers to go ahead. When two guys approached (one of regular size and one more beefy, but not fat), I asked if they had eaten at Bon Creole before. “You’ll love it.” the smaller one responded.

“Is a whole po-boy large enough to share?” I ask. The larger man laughs and says: “Oh yeah. Even I can’t eat a whole one.” Decision made—we’d share the whole crawfish po-boy with sides of fries (for Chuck) and potato salad (for me).

With our order placed, we could have taken a stool at the counter running down one side of the counter room. Instead, we went into the small dining room next door. With its rough-hewn wooden walls and corrugated metal “porch roof” over our table, the atmosphere was definitely Cajun cabin. For a moment, you could believe you were sitting on a porch watching Bayou Teche meander by.

Soon came the call of “Chuck” and someone came with a white paper bag containing our lunch. No frills here. Sandwiches come wrapped in white paper which then becomes your place mat. Plate lunches come in a three-section styrofoam box. Napkins? Use the roll of paper towels on the table.

The fries were very good coated fries with just a hint of Cajun seasoning. The potato salad was amazing. Eric W. Ramsey in his review on urbanspoon.com said that “the potato salad is the best I've ever had.” I might not go that far, but this was a superior restaurant potato salad made with a combination of whole, with a bit of mashed, potato chunks, eggs, and chopped scallion. And NO pickle! It was the chopped scallion that sent this into another dimension. It added just enough essence of onion-like taste without the overwhelming flavor that can come from raw onions.

Now for the po-boy. Let’s just call this a monster of epic proportions. Size is one thing. Tasting good is another. And this crawfish poboy was great. The description “overstuffed” isn’t adequate. This baby was filled with lettuce, tomato, and lots of small and lightly-coated tails. The roll was flawless with a nice crusty exterior and a chewy interior. We both agreed that this poboy was better than that served at Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette, and Olde Tyme’s is considered the gold standard for Acadiana.

One of our considerations when awarding Addies is value for the money. Our monster po-boy with fries, potato salad, two ice teas, and $1.50 for the tip jar came to $20.00. Bon Creole Lunch Counter gives you true value for the money and deserves a 5.0 Addie rating.

I leave you with another comment from Jamie N. on yelp.com: “Why are you still reading this review? It's Po-Boy Mecca. There is nothing else you need to know. Go. Now. RUN.”

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