In this case—everything.
Let’s start with a story. There was this man—we’ll call him Jeff—walking through the Atlanta airport to meet a group of fellow divers for an expedition to the Grand Cayman Islands. He sees his group and notices a woman diver in the group—we’ll call her Alice—standing with her back to him. He comes from behind, spins her around, and gives her a big kiss. Only one problem, this was not Alice but her sister Sarah. But today Jeff and Sarah Laughlin are partners in life along with being partners in business—at the Coffee Depot.
Was watching Guy Fieri the other night (Diners, Drive-ins & Dives), and he described the kind of restaurant they wanted to feature as having “Real People Making Real Food.” That description struck a cord with both of us. We have recently written about Robert Credeur and Chef Benoit Morel (Chef Roy’s Frog City Café) and Gary Paul Roy and Marilynn Paule Fournet Adams (2Paul’s Radically Urban Barbecue)—two pair of local restaurant owner/chefs. So consider today as Part Three of the “Real People Making Real Food” tour of Acadiana with Parts Four through Six coming in the next week.
The café’s website (thecoffeedepot.biz) begins with the words “Welcome to The Coffee Depot. All aboard for a journey back to a time when life was simple and service was sincere. The Laughlin Family invites you to join us at the original ‘Hub’ of Scott, ‘Where the West Begins, and the Friendships Never End’…”
“The Coffee Depot is set in a 130-year-old mercantile warehouse which has been ambitiously and loving renovated by Jeff and Sarah Laughlin and daughter Gabriel with the hope of reconnecting with the many wonderful people in and around this extraordinary place they call home, originally known as ‘Scott Station’” (thecoffeedepot.biz). When you talk with Jeff you quickly learn that he considers himself to be truly blessed that he and Sarah had the opportunity to bring this gathering place to the people of Scott, LA. Even without either of them having restaurant experience, Jeff knew it would work because it was meant to work.
The café is the truly represents the concept of “sweat equity”—the renovations taking two years with the Laughlins doing ninety percent of the work themselves. The space combines warm cypress wood, high beam ceilings, fans, and period lighting.
One wall is dominated by a sideboard that was (with the exception of the four grooved columns) constructed by Jeff and Sarah and upon which are displayed numerous railroad-related items.
Pressed copper-ish materials embellish the area above the order counter and is highlighted by a copper-like train engine. Numerous large windows light the front half of the dining room. The space is as friendly and charming as are its owners.
As we were leaving after the Saturday evening performance (see yesterday’s blog), we mentioned to Jeff how much we enjoyed their take on beignets. “You have to come back and try our Sweet Potato Bread Pudding,” he responded.
So we returned a few days later.
The Coffee Depot serves breakfast and lunch, although they remain open until 7:00 p.m. for coffee and desserts. The lunch menu is rather short with a mix of soups, gumbos, salads, and sandwiches, plus the largest baked potatoes (which can be ordered with a variety of toppings) I have ever seen.
The soup of the day varies. In addition to the chicken and sausage gumbo, which is a regular menu item, the choices were broccoli and cheddar and baked potato. Chuck started with a bowl of the latter; it was delicious (and hearty) and full of potato chunks, bacon, carrot, and celery in a cream base that tasted as if it contained cheese for extra richness. This was truly like eating a loaded baked potato except in liquid form.
He followed this with the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich—thin slices of tender roast beef in rich, savory gravy. This was served on a large bun. With the sandwich came a side of homemade potato chips. We have noticed that many restaurants in this area made chips in-house, and they are a definite im-provement over those from a bag. They tend to be thicker with a deep, toasty potato flavor similar to the Gibble’s Pennsylvania Dutch “dark” chips we enjoyed when living near Philadelphia.
My lunch choice was the LOCO(motive) Cajun Chicken Sub, which contained large chunks of grilled chicken, over which were melted pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses and then embellished with a mildly spicy Cajun sauce.
Now it was time for dessert—the Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Pecan Rum Sauce. All I can say is “WOW.” This was extraordinary. It wasn’t overly sweet—even with the sauce. And the texture reminded us of a very moist cake rather than a dense bread pudding. When I mentioned the lightness to Jeff, he told us that they really worked on refining the recipe, and that the secret was…I’ll keep that a secret.
About a week later we were driving through Scott and decided that anytime is a good time for the Depot’s beignets. So we pulled in at the end of the lunch rush and indulged our sweet tooth—or should I say teeth. As Cheré Coen at visitsouth.com describes them: “…This uniquely Louisiana dessert is a fluffy dough that’s molded into a square and lightly fried, then sprinkled with confectioners sugar. You can find them at the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans and a few other places throughout South Louisiana. At the Coffee Depot, they’re called beignet fingers and are stretched into long strips and fried. Akin to chicken fingers, these beignets are easier to pick up and enjoy and oh-so-delicious.” We, between bites, debated whether they resembled funnel cakes or New Mexico sopapillas or something entirely different. Whatever, they are the perfect afternoon snack.
The Coffee Depot is one of this year’s Acadiana “finds” and earns 4.5 Addies for food and 5.00 Addies for warmth and hospitality.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.