Sam’s Southern Eatery–Bossier City, LA

Sam’s Southern Eatery
2910 Barksdale Blvd.
Bossier City, LA
(318) 658-9980
Sam's Southern Eatery

Sam’s Southern Eatery


Sam’s Southern Eatery is a chain of Cajun style restaurants based in Shreveport, and which consistently shows up on restaurant review sites as a readers’ favorite. There are several locations in the Shreveport area, and they appear to be individually owned although linked to the chain through the supply of shrimp they receive as well as following the same recipes for cooking the food.

One feature pointed out to me that made this location unique was its sale of freshly made home made cakes. The regular menu appears to be the same at all Sam’s locations, although I did notice some differences between this restaurant and the one I had previously tried in Oklahoma City (the OKC restaurant served fried rolls and this one did not).

When I went to this location in the evening hours it had already run out of some items. They had run out of red beans and rice, and they initially said they were out of gumbo but then said I could have the gumbo but they were out of the rice that went with it (I gladly accepted this offer).

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo without rice

The Gumbo was my main order, and it was a very good one. They were out of the rice that usually came with the order, but I thought the gumbo was very good anyway. The flavor of the roux was really a lot better than the one I had tried in Oklahoma City, although the shrimp and other ingredients were about the same at both restaurants. This was not the largest size gumbo they had, but was nevertheless filling if you ate it with side dishes.

Fried Shrimp

Fried shrimp

Medium sized order of fried shrimp

The sign on the front of the restaurant says “Home of the Jumbo Shrimp,” and this is to be taken seriously. I think these are actually prawns, but in any case this order of eight shrimp really seems to be enough for three people although two of us with great effort managed to eat it (and enjoy it very much).

My dining companion ate the side dishes, and they were reported to be very good as I have found them to be in the Oklahoma City Sam’s.

Cake

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

This location features home made cakes made by a third party, with about eight or ten varieties available. The restaurant recommended peanut butter and reviews also indicate this is one people particularly like, but I thought the chocolate I ordered was quite satisfying (you probably can’t go wrong with any of the flavors).

General Comments
This was not the absolute best fried shrimp I have ever had, but it was close, and I can see why it is the featured dish of the restaurant. Keep in mind, though, that the pieces are quite big. In my mind about three or four pieces per person is about right if you eat it with side dishes or a small gumbo.

The gumbo is what I enjoyed the most, though. I feel that it is a special treat to get gumbo as good as the one here, and ones with comparable flavor are not available in most parts of the country.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Cajun
Cost: $$
Hours: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM (closed Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 27, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items: Gumbo, Fried Shrimp

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Fried Shrimp
star 5 Gumbo
star 5 Chocolate Cake

Blu Basil–Lafayette, LA

Blu Basil
5451 Johnston St.
Lafayette, LA
(337) 456-1120
Blu Basil

Blu Basil


Although I know Lafayette is the center of Cajun food, music and culture, this is certainly not the only type of food worth exploring in the area. I had read many good reviews of the Asian restaurants in the city, and Blu Basil seemed to be at the top of the list.

Blu Basil is a Vietnamese restaurant that also serves “Asian Fusion” (according to Yelp). My take on it is that it is Vietnamese food plus other items, rather than the Vietnamese food being Americanized into a fusion cuisine. The atmosphere is quite elegant, giving the customers the feeling that they are at a “special treat” Asian restaurant, yet the prices are moderate (they are higher than I would want to spend every day but are far lower than I have seen for special occasion type Asian restaurants in various cities).

Some on-line reviews indicated that Blu Basil had one of the most extensive Asian food menus in the city, and this is one of the things that initially drew me to the restaurant. When talking to the waitress, though, I found out that some of the more interesting Vietnamese dishes had recently been dropped from the menu due to low demand by customers (one of these was the Banh Xeo). Although I was disheartened by this (thinking that every city deserves a good Banh Xeo), there are other reasons Blu Basil is still a good choice.

I experienced quite heavy traffic throughout the city as I made a tour, aggravated largely by major construction zones as well as what appeared to be major population growth around a street system which had been designed for a much smaller city. Although it is good that some of these problems are now being resolved, I was made more aware of the fact that Blu Basil offers a tranquil haven of good food, soothing jazz music, and friendly employees. The nicely decorated interior made me think I was going to have to pay quite a bit for my meal, but it turned out to be pretty reasonable (I was too late for the lunch specials which are served until 3:00 P.M but dinner is not much more expensive).

Vermicelli Dishes

Grilled chicken bowl

Grilled chicken bowl

One of my favorite dishes at Vietnamese restaurants is the vermicelli bowl, and Blu Basil had several from which to choose. The Grilled Chicken Bowl actually had the extra bonus of coming with spring rolls, and although this almost made this dish too much for my appetite, I certainly thought it was enjoyable. The good points of the dish included high quality meat, a good mixture of vegetables, a good fish sauce, and of course the very good spring rolls. The negatives included the fact that they did not offer lemongrass chicken and the fact that the dish did not include mint among the mixed vegetables. Neither of these detracted greatly from the dish, although if I lived in the area I would hope these would be available in the Vietnamese food.

Tea

Jasmine tea

Jasmine tea

For hot tea the restaurant serves a very high quality jasmine tea served with loose leaves. I was somewhat amused by the lemon and honey they give you to put in the tea, but it was quite good without these additions (but at least everyone has a choice). In addition to the jasmine tea I ordered they also offer green and chrysanthemum hot tea, Vietnamese iced coffee, iced tea, orange juice, and freshly squeezed lemonade. All of these items currently cost $3.50 and at least with respect to the jasmine tea, I thought it was well worth it.

Further Comments
In a sense I felt that the food here was really better than in other Vietnamese restaurants to which I have given the same rating, but it is taking into consideration the fact that Blu Basil does not have as large a choice as other restaurants (such as the fact that no lemongrass chicken is available). I will say, though, that adding the spring rolls on top was an unexpected bonus that few other restaurants include.

The menu included quite a few dishes that either looked like more exotic Vietnamese dishes or were “fusion,” so I think if you come here expecting to pay $$$ instead of $$ you might well find some very good dishes.

They have a large variety of pho, and it seems as if they have the basic dishes well covered as well as the more expensive and elaborate ones.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Full Bar

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 27, 2017
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Grilled Chicken Bowl

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (loose leaves)
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Grilled Chicken Bowl

 

Poche’s–Breaux Bridge, LA

Poché’s
3015 Main Highway
Breaux Bridge, LA
(337) 332-2108
Poche's

Poche’s Market, Restaurant and Smokehouse


Poche’s has become one of the best known places to get Cajun food, having been featured on Globe Trekker as well as countless travel books and guides. Located a few miles east of Lafayette, Louisiana, I watched in mid-morning as much of the local community and possibly a few tourists such as myself congregated at this “market, restaurant and smokehouse” for its popular plate lunches, with even more people picking up Poche’s famous sausage and other items to go. One of the best aspects of it is that it is not a tourist destination, but it provides an insight into the local Cajun culture which is steeped in tradition, nowhere more evident than in its food.

Poche's sign

The entrance to the restaurant and meat market

The food served here requires hours of preparation for most items, mainly because most items contain sausage or other types of smoked meat. I can say that sausage is the best item here, but really it is the delicious dishes that contain sausage and other smoked meats such as the richly flavored red beans and rice (served as a plate lunch on Mondays) or the gumbo (a seasonal dish served in the winter). I feel that I hit the jackpot by being able to try both of these dishes, but I am sure there are others that are equally good.

Plate lunches

The selection of plate lunches

The plate lunches, served from 10:30 AM to 2:00 PM, are arrayed in a counter where you can pick out a main dish and two sides. This is served daily, with a different menu each day of the week. Dinner is served after 2:00, with the same menu every day. Seasonal specials, such as the gumbo, are available all day until they run out, and do not come with side dishes.

I was happy I came during the time they had plate lunches. Not only are they reasonably priced, but I got to see a sample of true Cajun food even though I was not able to try everything.

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice

Red beans and rice plate lunch

The Red Beans and Rice plate lunch was something I was able to try, and found that the sausage in this dish is probably my favorite (the menu just calls it “Sausage”). I loved the flavors of this dish, and thought that even without the sausage this would have been the best example of red beans and rice I have tried. This was one of the items on the Monday menu, though, and is only available for a three and a half hour period once per week. (The ladies told me, though, that you can go earlier than 10:30 and still get many of the plate lunch items).

Gumbo

Gumbo

Gumbo available as a seasonal dish in winter

I ordered Gumbo thinking that it would be a light lunch (really breakfast for me), but the generous servings of meat in it provided a quite filling meal. It appears that they sometimes vary the meats, but this one had chicken, sausage, and tasso (all were excellent). The flavor of the roux, though, made this the best dish I tried and quite possibly the best dish at the restaurant.

Boudin

Boudin

Boudin

Although I really did not have the appetite for it, I did not want to miss a chance to try Poche’s famous Boudin sausage. There is no doubt they know what they are doing in their sausage making, although being the first time I had tried boudin I don’t have any others with which to compare it.

The Market
Poche’s also sells food (mostly smoked meats) to go, and a good selection of grocery items including some specialty items such as Poche’s Pralines. Many items are also available by mail order.

The Overall Picture
In my opinion Poche’s is the quintessential example of Cajun food, much as Chope’s is for southern New Mexican cuisine. I have not tried very many other Cajun restaurants, and I am not sure Poche’s is the best, but I believe it is enough to demonstrate what Cajun food can be if prepared properly.

The rating for this restaurant (one of the highest I have given to any restaurant) is based on the fact that the right combination of ingredients (such as in the gumbo or red beans and rice) provided an experience as enjoyable to me as a top quality steak or similar examples of other cuisines. I do not say that Cajun food is better than other cuisines, but prepared as it is at Poche’s it can certainly be equal to others.

The fact that the gumbo is a seasonal dish and red beans and rice are only served on Mondays causes me to be a little cautious in determining the rating, but I am still confident that other dishes are of similar high quality.


RATING: 26

Cuisine: Cajun
Cost: $$
Hours: 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM (6 AM to 7 PM Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 27, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items: Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Sausage

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Beans and Rice
star 5 Gumbo
star 5 Boudin

Little Chinatown–Kenner, LA

Little Chinatown
3800 Williams Blvd.
Kenner, LA
(504) 305-0580
Little Chinatown

Little Chinatown


I should probably explain that while I hope my articles will be of interest to as many readers as possible, my choice of restaurants to visit is ultimately based on my own interests, including what I wish to discover about dining in various cities. Probably my number one passion is Chinese food, and when I heard from the people at Bao & Noodle that there was another Chinese restaurant in the New Orleans area that I should visit (at least that they told me about), I thought I should check it out (although at the expense of some of the local cuisines due to my time limitations).

In Oklahoma City I found that the best seafood was at Chinese restaurants, and the same proved to be true on my New Orleans visit. Little Chinatown in Kenner (near the New Orleans Airport) had some of the best and definitely some of the freshest seafood I have ever experienced, and with the bonus of being prepared Chinese style this was really hard to beat.

The dish I ordered (a seafood hot pot) was the most expensive item I saw on the menu, but was recommended by the waitress as one of the ones she personally liked to eat. My standard practice is to ask employees at a restaurant which dishes are their favorites, and when one of them turns out to be as outstanding as this one I think it is perfectly justified to give the restaurant one of the highest ratings possible. I recognize that many other dishes are probably not going to be this good, but I assume that some probably will (thus I feel fairly confident in the rating I have given).

In any case, seafood is one of the local specialties of New Orleans, and Little Chinatown for me did a better job of presenting it than any other restaurant I visited.

Seafood Clay Pot

Seafood bean noodle clay pot

Seafood bean noodle clay pot

The Seafood Bean Noodle Clay Pot was a typical Chinese dish in that I did not really understand what would be in it until it was set on the table (although I took their word that it would be very good). The seafood consisted of some items that I believe were local and some that may not have been, but all were extremely fresh (or I will at least say that enough of them were that this was an outstanding dish). The bean noodle was a glass colored vermicelli style noodle that although having a good flavor, mostly served to highlight the main ingredients of the dish.

This was a spicy dish (about four chiles on my “5 chile” scale), so they were obviously not trying to make it so spicy it was hard to taste the seafood. I did enjoy the balance of flavors, however (and would recommended it spicy to anyone who does not have a problem with spicy food).

This is a Hong Kong style restaurant, but they do serve spicy dishes such as this one.

The Restaurant
In contrast to Bao & Noodle, Little Chinatown is larger, has a more varied and extensive menu, and I would say more reasonably priced (although both restaurants are a good value for what you receive). Bao & Noodle is exclusively spicy food (except for the bao) and the spicy dishes Little Chinatown has do not seem to have the full-blown type of heat I found at Bao & Noodle. In any case, these are two very different types of Chinese restaurants, but I thought both of them were excellent.

Little Chinatown said they do not use MSG, and this seemed to be the case with my dish.

Although the menu at Little Chinatown is limited compared to the the high end Chinese restaurants on the west coast, and the setting is definitely not the same, I thought the food here was of a comparable quality.

 


RATING: 26

Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 26, 2017
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Seafood Bean Noodle Clay Pot

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Seafood Bean Noodle Clay Pot

 

Bao & Noodle–New Orleans, LA

Bao & Noodle
2700 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 272-0004
Bao & Noodle

Bao & Noodle


In researching New Orleans restaurants I got the idea from some people that it is rather silly to eat Chinese food here since it is best to experience the city’s own cuisine (Creole, Cajun, etc.). One the other hand I saw some really good reviews of Bao & Noodle for their Chinese food, and I thought if it is really that good I should give it a try.

Bao & Noodle turned out to be as good as the reviews indicated, and it gives support to another saying that it is really hard to find a bad meal in New Orleans. I thought Bao & Noodle was the best restaurant I experienced on this particular short visit, but I also have a particular passion for Chinese food that would make me like it better than other cuisines when prepared as well as this one was.

The building itself was a typical New Orleans experience, with open windows and doors giving somewhat of an outdoor patio experience even though the tables were inside (of course the weather was appropriate for doing this, which might not have been the case in the middle of the summer).

Although I did not see a lot of Chinese people in New Orleans, they were a large part of the clientele at this restaurant (indicating that they approve of the food served as I did). Bao (steamed dumpling) and noodle dishes are the specialty of the restaurant, with a variety of noodle soups and dishes being served. Since my trip took me through Dallas I tried some bao there, and thought sticking to the noodles might be best for this restaurant.

I believe the food here is mostly Sichuan style with some northern style Chinese food and other dishes. I am not totally familiar with different Chinese cuisines, but I could tell that the noodles and vegetables served were more typical of northern China than in the south such as the Hong Kong area.

The spice level seemed closer to real Chinese levels than American style, and I was really impressed that it reached the level where I felt that it brought out the best in these dishes without being so spicy that I had a hard time eating it.

Spicy Chicken Soup

Spicy Chicken Soup

Spicy Chicken Soup

 

From the photo the Spicy Chicken Soup looks as if it is made up mainly of meat, noodles, chile, and green onions. The broth, though, gives this dish such a flavor enhancement that I count it as one of the best Chinese soups I have eaten (although to be technically correct I only ate a sample of it). High quality ingredients were another key component, and I could see how something like this would be embraced in such a food conscious city.

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles

This photo of the Dan Dan Noodles does not show the sauce at the bottom of the bowl, which made this not only better than it initially looked but also one that was very spicy. I would call the sauce a “chile sauce” except that it is not quite as spicy as the type of chile sauce many restaurants serve on the table in a little jars.

The components of this dish made it probably the most interesting and best example of dan dan noodles I have tried. Like the soup the flavor is not solely from the ingredients that are the most obvious on top, but they come together when the proper mixing or stirring has been done. The spiciness was not over the top but it was enough so that I felt this dish was quite authentic.

Tea

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine Tea

The tea was a little expensive, but was made with loose leaves and was quite good. I had a glass of water on hand as well, but the spice level of the food was enough under control that I could enjoy the hot tea with it as well.

Recommendations
Both dishes were excellent, but what I really liked about the dan dan noodles is that it was probably the best one I have ever tasted (and therefore is higher on my satisfaction scale for having tried this restaurant). The menu is small and there are not a lot of choices, but it seems that all of them are quite good.

The restaurant is small and it seemed that there was one cook and one waiter when I went. To me this shows that they are not making Chinese food for the masses, but they do produce very high quality food for the few people who come to this somewhat out of the way location and can wait for their food (my wait was not bad but I do not know how it would be when they have more of a crowd).

If you do not like spicy food at all I suppose they can make it this way for you, but I think the chile is an essential flavor component of this type of food. To compare it to Mexican food, this restaurant is no spicier than the typical restaurant in New Mexico, although it has a higher spice level than would be found with most Tex-Mex food.

I did not try the steamed buns but this is a large part of the menu, and seemed to be a very popular item by observing what the other tables had ordered.


RATING: 27

Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon.
Accessible: N/A
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 25, 2017
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Dan Dan Noodles, Spicy Chicken Soup

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (loose leaves)
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Dan Dan Noodles
star 5 Spicy Chicken Soup

 

Cafe Beignet–New Orleans, LA

Cafe Beignet
600 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA
No phone listed
Cafe Beignet

Cafe Beignet on Decatur St.


My journey here started with a desire to go to Cafe du Monde, but finding that the lines to get in were almost impossible (or at least would significantly decrease my time for seeing other French Quarter sights). I think going to Cafe Beignet was an excellent decision. For one thing Cafe Beignet itself got to full capacity right after I ordered, and more importantly I accomplished my mission of finding excellent beignets (the specialty of both restaurants).

The Jackson Brewery

The restaurant is located in the old Jackson Brewery building

Cafe Beignet is located in the old Jackson Brewery Building (home of Jax Beer) next to a parking lot labeled “Premium Parking” on Google Maps. The hourly rate charged at the lot was another reason I wanted to minimize the time waiting for my beignets, but as I found out there was probably no reason to pay for what I think would have been an extra hour in order to try Cafe du Monde.

In truth I do not know how any beignets could be better than the ones I had at Cafe Beignet. This was truly one of the best sweet treat experiences I have ever had (although many in New Orleans call it breakfast).  It is possible that the beignets at Cafe du Monde are better, but I did observe that they were smaller (even though I wasn’t able to order anything there I walked in and saw what they were serving).

Beignets

Beignets

Order of beignets

Beignets are deep fried dough covered with powdered sugar. This description does not make it sound like something special, but the ones I tried here definitely were a special treat. It is not something I want to repeat at regular intervals knowing what the nutritional content and calorie count must be, but it was certainly something I enjoyed for a special experience.

The pastries come in an order of three for $3.99, and I certainly thought this was a bargain.

Coffee

Caramel au Lait

Caramel au Lait with beignets

Being a cafe, coffee is the other main attraction here. I am not a coffee drinker, but the lady at the counter talked me into a Caramel au Lait because it was “mostly milk with not much coffee.” Even this did not convince me to become a coffee drinker, but I enjoyed it as a one time experience (especially with these wonderful beignets).

Sandwiches

Croissant sandwich

Croissant sandwich

I did not order a sandwich, but they are available as evidence by the one shown in the photo. Cafe Beignet has fruit cups and other items that will give you a good breakfast even if beignets are not on the agenda for you. It was interesting, though, that many patrons included drinks from the bar as part of their breakfast menu.

General Information
Both Cafe Beignet and Cafe du Monde have other locations, but most people seem to flock to the ones on Decatur Street for both restaurants. I enjoyed the atmosphere of Cafe Beignet which included an open air setting and patio tables if you want to eat outdoors.

My friend who ordered the croissant had to wait for what seemed to be an inordinate time for it, but otherwise the restaurant lived up to my expectations for a great beignet experience.


RATING: N/R

Cuisine: Cafe
Cost: $$
Hours: Open daily (8 am to 10 pm)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Bar

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 25, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Item: Beignet

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Beignet