BY SAMANTHA CRESPO
In Louisiana’s Cajun Country, where the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road runs along the marshy coast to the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Charles tempts with fresh seafood and homemade boudin – a snack so beloved, locals mapped a culinary trail to ensure that you savor it too! Naturally, they created a trail to help you discover Lake Charles’ freshest seafood, too. Follow this itinerary to the area’s signature eats, complemented by a tour of a distillery that creates America’s Rum® using only Louisiana ingredients.
Day One: Fresh Seafood
Book an excursion with a local guide to fish the Gulf of Mexico or the marshes near Lake Charles. Then, follow the Seafood Sensation Trail to local restaurants that specialize in fresh seafood. Casual restaurants such as Seafood Palace and Steamboat Bill’s present crawfish, crab, shrimp, oysters and other local catches simply and deliciously: golden fried, grilled or blended into flavorful gumbos. Other local-favorites include Pat’s on Henderson, serving a variety of fish (try the broiled red snapper or crispy whole catfish). At eclectic Luna Bar & Grill, sample the Abita Red Fish. The fresh catch is battered in Louisiana-crafted Abita Amber beer and golden-fried.
Day Two: Savory Boudin
In its purest form, boudin is a savory mixture of meat, rice, onions, peppers and seasonings.
Think of boudin, pronounced “boo-dahn,” as akin to sausage. In its purest form, meat, rice, onions, peppers and other seasonings are mixed then stuffed into a natural casing. It’s a finger food that locals enjoy for any meal or as a snack. Depending on the kitchen, you might find boudin links made with shrimp, crawfish or alligator; smoked or spiced from mild to hot (some varieties feature jalapeno peppers). Others roll boudin into balls and fry them ’til they’re the golden specialty known as boudin balls.
Part of the experience of enjoying boudin is discovering it in Lake Charles’ meat markets, grocery stores – and even gas stations. Though you’ll find boudin in restaurants too, these no-frill, mom-and-pop stops make their own, and smoke their own meats, enticing visitors with an irresistible aroma. The Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail leads to 25 such locations, so hop in the car and go.
Day Three: Craft Spirits
Complement the cuisine of Southwest Louisiana with a sip of Bayou Rum, which crafts its spirits using Louisiana sugarcane, molasses and, in certain varieties, the brilliant orange fruit of the state’s satsuma harvest. Allow time to sample spirits at the in-house tasting bar, and to take a guided tour. You’ll learn about the authentic recipes used by Bayou Rum’s distillers, and see their process which centers on a traditional copper pot still. You can even register in advance to help bottle the product.
Getting there: Located only 2.5 hours west of Lake Charles, George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas offers numerous non-stop international flights. Other convenient international hubs include Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (5 hours northwest of Lake Charles) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (3.5 hours east of Lake Charles).