Travelers who enjoy crawfish and or Cajun and Zydeco music, a visit to the town of Breaux Bridge is mandatory. Restaurants in this town were among the first in Louisiana to offer it on their printed menus, the crawfish etouffe, now common in southern Louisiana was invented here and the annual Crawfish Festival is held in the first week of May. You haven’t seen a festival like this one before; features a crawfish eating contest (current record is almost 56 pounds!), a crawfish queen, crawfish races and much more.
The Breaux Bridge Visitors center is located at 514 East Bridge in downtown.
Food and crawfish aside – this day starts out with music and doesn’t stop!
Where else can you visit a small cafe completely crowded from wall to wall with dancing people, folks hitting the washboards with thimbles and a Zydeco band blasting out the hits…all this and its only 7:45am on a Saturday morning! This is the Cafe Sydnie Mae (formerly Cafe de Amis) in the small town of Breaux Bridge (140 E Bridge St).
The building has quite the history dating back to its construction in 1890. It originally was a general merchandise store, has survived several fires and for a number of years caskets used to be manufactured up stairs. Artwork changes on a rotating basis – check the website for schedule of upcoming live performances.
Arrive when they open on the weekends to avoid waiting outside. What are called Cajun “vielles” or social gatherings around food and music used to be held in private homes when the communities were more agricultural based. Today they are held in restaurants and cafe’s and a visit here on a Saturday morning is a good example of this. Several locals tend to frequent this every weekend and are always found on the dance floor.
Once inside move your body like everyone else is doing – warm up on the dance floor and then hit the menu for a plethora of cajun cooked dishes. Incidentally Breaux Bridge bills itself as the Crawfish Capital of the World; this is a good place as any to order several related dishes including crayfish etouffee or crawfish au gratin. Several types of bread pudding offered. Visit: www.cafesydniemae.com
Pont Breaux Jam sessions at the nearby Coffee Break on Saturdays are awesome…this is local flavor at its best! Musicians walk in to a side room at their leisure and start playing in a circle with tambourines, a few guitars, and fiddles.
This is intimate Cajun music at its finest and rawest; it is completely mesmerizing, is something you want to surround yourself with more of and one can easily whittle away a morning here reading and listing to this live music.
Even more cozy is when its pouring rain outside. Pick up a coffee, desert or other drink at the counter next door and meander to this side room for the music. Tables and chairs are setup as needed. They are located at 109 N Main Street.
Vermilionville is next up, an authentic village of how life would have been for Acadian settlers from about 1765 to 1890. French speaking Acadians originate from Nova Scotia Canada and came to this part of Louisiana after being put in exile by the British in 1755. Eighteen structures are on site including a number of restored original homes. However aside from the physical uniqueness of the site, the real highlight here are the costumed interpretive “villagers”. You find them in the church, in the blacksmith yard, cooking, building furniture or playing music. They are trained in their professions and you can actually see them at work. Better yet, talk to them and and you will discover a wealth of historical information.
We found more music here; Merlin Fontenot (passed away in 2017 at the ripe old age of 93) was a well known self-taught Cajun fiddler with a penchant for music and gab. He made his first fiddle at the age of 8 out of a cigar box, using wire from a screen door for strings and pine tree sap for the bow’s rosin. He played the Grand Ole Opry several times and also backed up several famous old time country music singers.
Even more music? Yes!… after visiting with Merlin we found a bunch of folks playing a circular Cajun Jam session – it was refreshing to see all ages participating from kids to grandparents. Be sure to also pick up the bilingual walking tour guide. It provides insights about the trees and buildings. Website in both English and Frenc: www.vermilionville.org
Olde Tyme Grocery makes and ideal lunch stop – located at 218 W. Saint Mary in Lafayette. Strategically located near the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, this grocery specializes in poorboy (po’boy) sandwiches. These are submarine type sandwiches native to Louisiana containing meat or seafood and are usually fried.
Hilton Lafayette & Conference Center is centrally located at 1521 West Pinhook Road, minutes from both the airport and downtown. Check out the large pool in the back. There is also a lounge/dance club on site.
Randol’s Dance Hall serves up some of the best crayfish we’ve eaten – they are cooked in a delicious spicy broth. Ca c’est bon! That is Cajun and Creole French for “its good!”. Choose from 3 or 5 lb platters – either as an appetizer or as the main meal. Yes, we had the crayfish platter for the appetizer and then another 3 pounds as our main meal! Don’t only trust our palate on this – they have taken first place at the world’s annual Crawfish Etouffee cook-off.
They raise all crawfish and crab themselves as well as grow their own herbs. Fresh food is key here (produce and seafood are delivered daily), and as with any culinary treasures, is a big part of the excellent quality of the food. Seafood is a large part of the menu. A variety of live bands (Cajun & Zydeco music) and a large dance floor also make this a popular destination. What is nice here is that the dance floor and live music are separated from the main dining area by large glass windows so you can enjoy your meal in relative peace without having to talk “over” the music. Visit: www.randols.com