Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When Last We Encountered…

our intrepid travelers, they were talking with a tug boat captain in Venice, LA and getting a recommendation for lunch.

“Get back on 23 North and look for the really tall flag pole. Turn right and go as far as you can. Turn right. It’s right there.” What’s there? Black Velvet in Buras, LA.

Now if you are like me, when you hear the words black velvet, you only think of one thing—and its not Black Velvet Scotch. It's Black Velvet Elvis.

So having a few misgivings, I said we could drive past the place and then make a decision. But it turned out to be a fairly new building--in the Midwest I think they call these pole buildings--and the full name was Black Velvet Oyster Bar and Grill.

“Before hurricane Katrina we were The Black Velvet Bar.

“When the storm hit, everything changed in our town. Food was scarce. The people brave enough to come back had no electricity or running water, not even a store to get supplies for 70 miles. We established what would soon be The Black Velvet Oyster Bar in a hastily constructed plywood shed and tarp for shade to get the people out of the blazing sun. We had plate lunches cold drinks and a very short to-order menu.

“People really took to our food and once the SBA loan was approved construction of our current facility was started. A little over a year later we were open for business in a real building!” (

Black Velvet is owned by Byron Marinovich. “Refusing to turn his back on his community and business, Byron lived in a tent for three months before moving into a tiny FEMA trailer and reopened the Black Velvet Oyster Bar….Byron is actively involved in his community and is a volunteer fireman” (

As we got out of the truck and surveyed the vehicles in the parking lot. “I think I’ll be lunching with a bunch of manly men,” I told Chuck. And such was the case. During most of the lunch hour I was the only woman amidst a sea of construction workers and fishermen.

Now you might think that a place that attracts manly men would be rustic in décor. If, like me, you thought that, then you would be wrong. While there is a bar that runs along one wall, the rest of the room resembles a family-friendly restau-
rant. The walls are a soft blue and the shutters, window trim, tables, and chairs are a warm brown. And the walls were hung with framed posters from various local festivals.

Being so close to both the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, it was no surprise that the menu focused on fish and seafood. I was especially interested in the long list of appetizers that included mini-crawfish pies stuffed with spicy crawfish dressing, battered and deep fat fried crab claws, Seafood Kickers (fried shrimp and crabmeat stuffing), jalapeño crab kickers (breaded and fried minced jalapeño and crabmeat), seafood stuffed baked potato, and crab cakes.

I finally decided on a small bowl of seafood gumbo and the crab cake
appetizer. While the menu called this a seafood gumbo, it really was a chicken and sausage gumbo with shrimp added and contained lots of “stuff” in a light roux base seasoned with red and black pepper, thyme, and bay. The roux was less intense that I am used to, but “…gumbo differs not only between Creole and Cajun cuisine, but from region to region. A gumbo prepared along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast (Grand Isle) is made with a light or medium roux and is thin almost like a soup” ( This wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still quite good.

To go with the gumbo, I ordered the crab cake appetizer. We have been traveling for almost four years, and I have tried any number of crab cakes—always to be disappointed. Black Velvet’s crab cakes—while not quite as good as a Baltimore-style crab cake—were the best I have encountered.

While not made with jumbo lump (a la Baltimore), they were still full of white lump crab meat with a minimum of bread or cracker filler. And they were covered with a delicious lightly-cheesy cream sauce that did not obscure the mild and sweet taste of the crab.

Chuck chose the catfish poor boy with a side of fries. First,the sandwich came on one of the best poor boy rolls ever—even better than the Leidenheimer’s used in New Orleans—and the equal to the roll used at Bon Creole Lunch Counter in New Iberia (our favorite place for poor boys).

Second, the catfish came as good sized filets and not thin strips. And the coating was extra-ordinary. We learned that it is a Miller Beer batter and seasoned with Tony Chachere's Famous Creole Seasoning—a can of which I have in my pantry.

We spent a few moments debating about dessert—the triple layer Chocolate Confusion was interesting—but decided to pass.

We left quite surprised. We didn’t expect to find this quality of food in Buras, LA (population less than 1,100) and feel that Black Velvet merits 4.0 Addies.

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

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