Don's, in Lafayette, Louisiana
Don's Seafood & Steak House
For a long time, Don and I have wanted to stop in, for a bite at Don's. For over 20 years, we've seen the billboard ads, along on I-10, on drives to New Orleans and Florida.
I always remind Don that it's his restaurant and we need to stop. If they had a restaurant named Beth's, I wouldn't wait 20 years to check it out.
We've also been eager to have a Don's experience, because the fine eatery is featured in our vintage cookbook.
Many of the restaurants spotlighted in the cookbook, are long gone. When we find places that have managed to survive, we always put tag the page in hops of a future dining adventure!
We were staying in Lafayette last February, so we decided to give Don's a try!
The corner restaurant was just a 2-minute drive from our inn, so we drove over to check it out in the afternoon. It was quiet and deserted, with a few barricades, left over from the parades. I cracked open the cookbook to compare the illustration of Don's. I could see the corner entrance and some of the old glass block. Lots had been covered with shutters. Funny... the watercolor image showed a Mardi Gras parade!
Lamps and Neon
The old building looked a little weary in the bright sunshine, but I could see that things would be glowing in a few hours.
There were lots of "gas lights" and a few unlit neon messages. One said "Since 1934". I believe the French-Acadian restaurant opened as Don's Beer Parlor, in 1934
I spotted a few beads, left over from the Mardi Gras festivities. I spotted a sign, that mentioned the Landry brothers, Don, Ashby and Willie. At one time all 3 had a part in this business, which was combined with Willie's grocery store.
Don and I arrived for dinner at about 7. It was actually fairly busy at that time, so I waited till later to snap some photos.
I was a little unclear, which part was original in 1934. There had obviously been some expansion and a bit of remodeling.
The main dining area, was filling up steadily, with folks coming from evening mass, on Ash Wednesday. Most of the diners, including a priest, wore an ash cross, on the forehead.
Don and I took a peek at the rather snazzy looking "Spirits" bar. But the bar had a loud TV and the wrong ambience. We headed back towards the arched entrance, into the oddly bright and quiet, dining room.
Brick and Photos
The dining room had a retro Super Club feel to it, with white table cloths and black napkins. There had been a little updating, with enlarged photos, mounted on the brick walls.
I love a restaurant that spotlights their history. I'm sure all the photos had good stories, but I just guessed at them. Our server was very busy. I only asked about the man in the suit and glasses.
Frenchy was a well-loved employee of Don's for over 45 years. Her rode his bike to work, into his late seventies.
One of the restaurant's refurbished rooms is named for Frenchy. I love stories like that!
Don and I were seated beneath a few fishing photos, then we dug into our menus.
The menu cover had black and white photo, of Don's. I'm guessing in the 1960's.
We opened to a colorful page, with cocktail suggestions. Our Cajun fiddler, at the B & B had recommended the very powerful, Don's Old Fashion. The drinks that came in Don's glasses, looked mighty inviting!
Don with Don's Old Fashion
I of course had to get a photo of Don with his glass. I'm afraid I failed to capture his cocktail very well. There was a lot going on in that drink! I enjoyed the sugar-stick-stir-er!
I usually only like a Bloody Mary at a brunch, but I went all out. It came with pickled okra, a green bean and olives on a pink sword! That was a meal in itself. Both drinks were powerful and packed with flavor. I couldn't finish... but that's just me.
I went for the Cajun Casserole, which was a combo of shrimp and crabmeat dressing and eggplant. My baked potato was the size of small animal! All good!
Don worked on his Crawfish Half & Half, with fried and Etouffee. Both meals were huge and filling and tasty.
We watched the tables empty and finally we were the only ones left.
Gina and the Cookbook
Things were finally relaxed enough to chat with Gina, our super upbeat server. Usually, when we take the cookbook on a dining adventure, we try to order the featured recipe. This can be pretty fun, if you have a server who's old enough to appreciate a little history.
We waited a while until Gina's work eased up a bit, then I pulled out the book. I pointed to the Crawfish Etouffee recipe. She leaned in and gave the page a good look, before she reared back with a laugh. "Where did you get this?"
Sharing and Posing
Gina rewarded us with the perfect reaction. She asked if she could borrow the book to show others in the kitchen. That's always a good sign.
She disappeared for a bit, then returned, grinning with the book. We chatted a while, before Gina and Don did a little posing for my camera.
A Good Night at Don's
The staff couldn't have been sweeter. We had slowed things down with our cookbook and a couple of purchases... Don's cocktail glasses were for sale, at $5. each.
As we headed towards the doors, some lingering staff wished us well and thanked us for coming. I'm pretty sure we were the only non-locals on Ash Wednesday. We certainly were the only diners who brought a show-and-tell item.
A fun little Dining and Cookbook Adventure, for sure!
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The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.