Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fricassee Cafe is Lafayette on a Plate

From the moment you pull into the parking lot of Fricassee Cafe & Bakery you can almost hear your grandmother calling your name telling you that lunch is ready. It’s fitting that the restaurant, owned and operated by Renee Gary, was her grandparent’s house and is located in Carencro just outside the Lafayette city limits.  The property also serves as the headquarters of Nanny’s Original Louisiana Pecan Pralines. Everything about Fricassee just feels right. It is home. It is us.

Getting out of your car shaded by giant oak trees, you see the chickens that had their eggs gathered that morning for breakfast. Tomatoes, corn and other seasonal vegetables are growing in the front garden and alongside of the screened-in back porch. In the background, you can hear Baby the goat bleating contently.

You want down-home charm? This place IS down-home charm. The waitstaff is organized and professional, checking in on us and making sure we needed nothing. And for being open only 2 months, they have a steady stream of regulars who are known on a first name basis. You instantly feel connected while talking with complete strangers at the table next to you.

One of those kind strangers my wife Amanda and I shared a conversation with was none other than The Accidental Chef, Chef Carlos Russo who said of Fricasee, “I don’t know if you can get a better lunch anywhere, any day of the week. Everything is good here.”

With that endorsement, we decided to try our hand at a few different dishes on the menu. Amanda ordered the Garden Gem Wedge Salad.

Fresh and crisp honey gem lettuce, radish, carrots, celery, grape tomatoes and purple cabbage some of which were sourced directly from the onsite gardens filled the bowl and was drizzled with a creamy onion vinaigrette. The daily special is not on rotation, but our waiter, Isaac, ensured us that it is always his favorite item on the menu. 

*Spoiler Alert: It was overheard that the special for Thursday, July 24 will be “Thanksgiving in July” consisting of fried turkey and other gobbley goodies.

I chose the special, the Kickin’ Cajun Stuffed Pork Roast over rice that came paired with a Summer Vegetable Medley au Gratin. The slow cooked pork was fork tender with a gravy that gave you just enough of a smokey burn in the back of your throat to make you go back for another delicious bite.

We tasted one more item from the menu and it ended up being the lunch item star in my eyes. There, in a white cup on a white saucer was perhaps the best Corn and Crab Bisque that has ever graced my lips. I’ve had my share of bisque that were over thickened with a roux or cornstarch slurry or were watered down; losing the integrity of the spices and delicate sweetness of the crab. The first bite warmed my soul.

Even though I was full from my generous lunch special, I went back for more and more until the little white cup was wiped clean. It took all I had to not use my roll as a sponge to soak up the last drop. I mean, I had to save some room for dessert.

With the legacy of Nanny’s Pralines, you know Fricassee has an amazing selection of pies, cakes and confectionery treats. The retro swing-top glass cooler brought back memories of visiting Keller’s Bakery with my grandmother when I was a little boy. Luckily, our new friend Chef Russo was still enjoying lunch and suggested we try the Carrot Cake and the Hummingbird Cake. Turns out Chef Russo was responsible for both of those being in the cooler today. Each Carrot Cake contains an entire pound of carrots, delicious pecans and a perfectly sweetened creme cheese icing. It holds its form when cut into, but is still moist, soft and delicate.

Apparently Hummingbird cake has been a tradition in the South since the mid 1800‘s. This was the first time I ate this delectable combination of bananas, pineapples, pecans, spices and creme cheese filling, but I know I will be back for more soon. And back for Catfish Fries. And definitely the Breakfast Jambalaya the regulars raved about.

Serving breakfast from 8a-10a and lunch from 11a-2p, Fricassee Cafe is a down home environment that you can feel comfortable in whether you are wearing shorts or a three-piece suit. Renee and her staff go out of their way to treat you as a guest; so much so that you become family and you plan your next visit even before you walk out the door. I know we did. When it comes to atmosphere and an all around selection of Cajun and Creole food and desserts, I suggest you visit Fricassee Cafe & Bakery. “Eat this, Lafayette”.

Be sure to visit Fricassee Cafe & Bakery on Facebook to view their daily specials.

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