Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A League of Its Own: Charley G's

Every city rich with culture and history rooted in food has that ONE restaurant known for its prestige in the culinary scene. People make reservations weeks in advance, the service is impeccable and it is the one place to visit for that special occasion.

New York City has Thomas Keller’s per se. This hot spot, located between Central Park and Broadway in famed Hell’s Kitchen, customizes their menu according to the dietary needs of the diner. 

Josiah Citrin runs L.A’s Mélisse. The American-French restaurant has won multiple awards and boasts 2 Michelin Stars. 

New Orleans, home to many outstanding restaurants, is home to Commander’s Palace. James Beard winner, Chef Tory McPhail, runs the show where the dinner service is known worldwide for its pomp and circumstance.

With the countless honors that are rolling into Lafayette, it is only natural that a few restaurants would begin to emerge as beacons of fine dining. One of those restaurants has always been Charley G’s.

Opened in 1985, Charley G’s; named after Founder/Restauranteur Charlie Goodson, has become synonymous with Lafayette fine dinning. No corners are cut; from the moment you enter the double doors until the last sip of after dinner coffee, you know that you have experience something unique to the area. 

Debunking the misconception that fine dining equates solemn and stuffy, the bustling atmosphere of Charlie G’s is noticeable immediately. The staff move with laser like precision; weaving between tables to deliver and clear plates all while giving the right of way to guests. 

There is a sense of pride in the staff at Charley G’s that you do not see in a lot of  restaurants. The staff have a deep investment in the goings-on of the dining room. This investment is so strong that each member of the kitchen and front of house staff is listed by name on the menu. 

The kitchen staff has the unique perspective of viewing the dining room. This view not only allows the diners to see the preparation of dishes, but enables the kitchen to have a true feel of the room. They are in touch with the diner. Like sitting front row at a concert or at a sporting event, the interaction you experience is both exciting and lively.

Holly Goetting, a native of Lafayette, has served as the Executive Chef of Charley G’s since 2001. Her cooking, rich with the flavors of Southwest Louisiana, have won her praise in both Lafayette and the surrounding areas. 

I contacted Chef Holly prior to my reservation to get her suggestions for dishes to try; with a menu so intriguing, it would be easy to be left reading each description multiple times and still be torn on what to order. While reading over the menu, Chef Holly surprised us with an off the menu starter: A Fried Oyster on a bed of Pork Belly Braised Greens.

Resting on a turnip puree and drizzled with fig jam, this starter had a balance of sweet and bitter notes. The oyster, lightly dusted and fried, was cooked to perfection; characteristically soft while still maintaining a crunch.

After mulling over more starter options, we decided to try the Smoked Duck and Tasso Spring Rolls.

Served with Zydeco Pepper Jelly, these crispy Asian-Cajun mashups won’t last long on your plate. The smokey combination of duck, tasso and pepper jelly hits you with a heat that lingers in the back of your throat. It’s a good burn. Try it; you’ll like it. 

Our Server, ever mindful of our thoughts of each dish, heard our indecisiveness and reported back to Chef Holly. No sooner than we finished our Springs Rolls did he show up with two sample bowls of Charley G’s famous Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

This gumbo is like none you’ve had before. The dark, rich flavor haunts you long after you finish it. Truly addictive; this gumbo warms your body like a good bourbon.

The entrees and sides at Charley G’s are customizable, within reason. The kitchen has the ability to mix and match sides with the main proteins, giving the menu countless combinations. Packed with seasonal vegetables and local offerings like pecans, okra and Steen’s gastrique, the entrees and steak options will satisfy any crowd.

PAN SEARED SEA SCALLOPS with fall vegetable risotto, roasted carrots and bell pepper coulis- These soft and buttery bivalves were full of flavor.

The risotto was creamy and smooth while still maintaining the al dente texture you’d expect from the classic Northern Italian staple.

CRISPY DUCK with roasted corn pudding, a blackberry ginger glaze and creole green beans. Crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, the duck at Charley G’s may be the best in town.

The crispy, fried skin. The sweet glaze with a hint of ginger. All well thought out. All prepared with care.

Charley G’s will hold a special place for us. Knowing it was our Anniversary, the staff decorated our table and all signed a congratulatory card.

This attention to detail and the needs of the diner are the same actions that have placed the spotlight on restaurants in bigger cities. The warmth and charm of Charley G’s is what makes it unique and is why it is an Eat This Lafayette recommendation.

Visit them for lunch and take advantage of their daily specials or save that visit for a special occasion dinner. Either way, you’ll agree that Charley G’s is in a league of its own.

Charley G’s
3809 Ambassador Caffery Parkway


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