Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Eat, Drink, and Talk Loud…

You’re Among Friends!”

So says the menu for Cajan’s Eatery in Scott, LA, which has become an almost weekly stop during our stay near Lafayette, LA, and is where we make Stop Four of the “Real People Making Real Food” Tour.

The owner, Jan-Scott Richard “…was drafted to play indoor soccer for the Tallahassee Scorpions…As a side job, Jan found the job of his dreams…in an upscale downtown deli...(and) he soon realized that making sandwiches and friends was a natural talent for him. After several years of hard work, he purchased that same restaurant…What could be better??? LOVE!” (from the restaurant’s menu). That’s when Jan-Scott met Diana, got married in Scott, LA, and made Scott their home. Oh, one more thing, they opened Cajan’s (Not Cajun’s. Cajan’s for Jan-Scott.) Eatery.

And if you drive by Cajan’s anytime between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., you will find the parking lot full—usually full of really big trucks.

And you know that these folks aren’t here because of the décor. That is unless you consider the large sunny-side up eggs or giant hot dog painted on the windows décor. Or you consider yellowing photos of fifty’s era diner patrons or old baseball memorabilia (below) to be décor.

Sure, we come for the food, but also because this very small (max seating of thirty-five) café is as comfortable as the proverbial old shoe. And I think Jan would take that as a compliment.

There is a set daily plate lunch (Monday—spaghetti and meatballs, Tuesday—meatball stew, Wednesday—fried pork chop, Thursday--Chef’s Special, Friday—seafood) and on a recent Friday the plate lunch was shrimp stew with rice and gravy, corn maque choux, cole slaw, and a roll. Way too much food! But there is also a long menu of burgers, pressed sandwiches, and poor boys and over the course of the past six weeks we have had the chance to sample a number of these menu items.

That same Friday the sandwich was the Crab Burger which should not be confused with a crab cake on a bun. Crab burgers, like their cousins the shrimp burger and the crawfish burger, are small bits of crab meat which are blended with bread crumbs and seasonings then formed into a patty and then fried—often deep-fat fried. If the idea of eating something with a high bread quotient on bread doesn’t sound appealing—don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. When properly fried, the patty develops an appealingly crisp exterior with a moist and soft interior. This came dressed with onion, lettuce, and tomato and their mildly-spicy, homemade chipotle dressing.

Cajan’s is the home of the “Scott Dog”—a truly different take on the noble hot dog. The dog is split lengthwise and grilled; then placed on a standard long bun and spread with a mild chili. The assembled sandwich is then pressed like a Cuban. Very original and quite tasty.

I finally had the opportunity to try a sandwich that has intrigued me since our initial visit last year—the Tuscan Turkey. This pressed sandwich contains lightly-smoked, deli-type turkey, American cheese, balsamic onions, lettuce, and tomato on sourdough bread spread with an herb and garlic mayo. The balsamic vinegar gave the onions both a tart and sweet flavor that went well with the smoked turkey. While I would have used a different cheese—maybe Swiss—this still was a good sandwich.

Chuck has been craving a cheesesteak, so one noon took a chance and ordered Cajan’s version. This sandwich had a lot going for it. The shaved beef was nicely chopped rather than being served in slices. The onions and peppers were seasoned with a Cajun/Creole mix while on the grill. And the white cheddar cheese melted through the pieces of meat so that each bite tasted of cheese.

But there was a problem. Soft bun syndrome—a common affliction in these parts. This sandwich called out for a good Amoroso’s of Philadelphia roll.

But what really keeps us coming back are Jan-Scott’s hamburgers. These are your old fashioned thin patty burgers that are cooked on a very hot flattop so that the crust is seared and has that magnificent beefy, charred flavor. Nothing fancy here—just a burger done right.

On one of our visits, Chuck scoured the menu looking for a double cheese-burger. “Do you have a twin burger?” he asked Jan. “No, but there's no problem doing one for you.” No big deal. You want it—we’ll do it.

But my favorite item is the Dixie Burger—the same thin patty with pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickle with the chipotle dressing that came on my crab burger. Somehow, all of the different components mesh together into a savory and juicy whole. This is one of my all time favorite burgers.

Granted, Cajan’s onion rings will never be “Ode-Worthy” and the fries probably come frozen from a bag. Still, this 4.0 Addie eatery remains one of our favorites.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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