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Dancing to live music during the Blackpot Festival & Cook-Off in Lafayette, Louisiana
Jo Vidrine
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  • States:
    Louisiana

Lafayette, the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole country, knows how to celebrate – and it’s not truly a party without authentic regional food.

Sample the cuisine of this Southwestern Louisiana city, which was named the Happiest City in the USA. Check out the festive atmosphere at a unique cook-off bubbling with Cajun culture and music. Then, sample the best in local restaurants’ spins on time-honored recipes, from classic king cake and sugary beignets to amped-up breakfast cocktails and flavorful seafood. Whatever you’re eating, you’re sure to taste the love, warmth and tradition that went into preparing your meal.

Blackpot Festival & Cook-Off

Lafayette adores a celebration, which is evident in the large number of festivals and concert series held here throughout the year. Nothing says hometown cuisine like the Blackpot Festival & Cook-Off, where bragging rights are up for grabs each year. Locals compete in this annual competition and Cajun cultural celebration, armed with their black iron pots, treasured family recipes and innovative twists on old classics. Meet folks gingerly turning their jambalaya with a wooden paddle or stirring their great grandmother’s aromatic gumbo recipe. This is true Cajun cookery on display with specific competitive categories: gravy, gumbo, cracklins, jambalaya and dessert. Wandering from booth to booth, you’ll hear legendary Cajun musicians playing festive tunes. Beyond the Cajun dishes, there’s an undercurrent of pride compelling the community to keep its cultural heritage alive. What better way to do that than through food?

Cooking up sausage at the festival in one of its namesake black pots

Cooking up sausage at the festival in one of its namesake black pots
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Breakfast with a Cajun Twist

Don’t skip town without having breakfast at Brick & Spoon. This casual eatery takes a sophisticated approach to the Southern breakfast. The shrimp and grits dish comes with a cream sauce, sautéed bell peppers and onions, and a poached egg – a decadent morning splurge. If you like breakfast on the sweeter side, there’s Bananas Foster French toast or beignets with seasonal marmalade. Of course, the "build-your-own bloody mary" cocktail is a big attraction. First, select your vodka, then load up on garnishes such as blue-cheese stuffed olives, asparagus, pickled green beans and more. Finish it off with a baked bacon strip or cocktail shrimp. It’s an alcoholic beverage that quickly transforms into an appetizer.

Two hands needed for sipping the build-your-own bloody mary at Brick & Spoon

Two hands needed for sipping the build-your-own bloody mary at Brick & Spoon
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King Cake and Pastry Masters

Lucky for Lafayette, pastry chef Francois Poupart, formerly of Paris, set up shop in town in 1965 and Poupart Bakery was born. An authentic, family-run French bakery, Poupart’s is the place to come for warm beignets and French roast coffee. The smell of warm French baguettes wafts through the air as you check out trays of cookies, tarts, cakes and French pastries on display. Poupart Bakery’s famed king cakes have reached cult status too. Try the petite blackberry tarts or their doberge cake, a lemon and chocolate creation, which is a popular Louisiana-inspired cake.

The famous king cake from Poupart Bakery

The famous king cake from Poupart Bakery
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Lafayette’s Culinary Mascot

Founded by the late George Rodrigue, an artist widely known for his iconic Blue Dog series, Blue Dog Café blends imaginative Cajun food with striking and whimsical art. The walls are adorned with Rodrigue’s often mystical pieces portraying Cajun culture. Meanwhile, Chef Ryan Trahan is busy in the kitchen cultivating his indelible love of seafood. You can see why Trahan was crowned King of Louisiana Seafood when you try the cracklin’-crusted Gulf of Mexico fresh catch or the seafood wontons. Other appetizing entrees on the menu include the citrus and herb roasted chicken and popular Blue Dog burger. For dessert, there’s something sweetly soulful about digging into the bread pudding with pecan praline sauce.

A tempting plate of shrimp paired with red wine at Blue Dog Cafe

A tempting plate of shrimp paired with red wine at Blue Dog Cafe
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Getting There

Fly into Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT) by connecting from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia, or George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas. You can also opt to fly into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) and rent a car for the two-hour drive from New Orleans to Lafayette.