Crawfish, a local brewery, brunch delights, and even a steakhouse that rivals anything I’ve enjoyed in New York or Chicago – the restaurants in Lake Charles Louisiana has a robust offering of dining options for every taste and budget.
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The Seafood Palace
First up: crawfish. Those little red clawed critters are everywhere in southwest Louisiana, and on my recent visit, it was our first order of business. The Seafood Palace, from first glance, is the exact opposite: a no-frills restaurant anchoring the edge of a strip mall, a large red sign announcing its reign. Enter the doors and you know you’re in the right spot. This place is packed with locals, platters of crawfish, fried shrimp, gumbo and the occasional shred of green. The boisterous room sounds like satisfaction.
A traditional crawfish boil consists of several pounds of the little ground grubbers, quickly steamed to bright red perfection and served with some corn and potatoes. Blue latex gloves help protect manicures and sensitive skin, but really- they’re more fun to eat bare handed.
How to eat a crawfish
- Hold the head, pinch and twist at the junction of the body to the tail. When the crawfish are young at the early part of the season, it’s easy to crack the tail shell with your own hands.
- Next level ninja crawfish munching takes place when you can extract the claw meat in a complete pull. A little friendly competition between diners is sure to start. Most folks eat the tail and claw meat, leaving the body and head alone – but true die hards extoll the virtues of the little noggins too.
Seafood Palace also offers boudin balls and pistolettes. “WHAT?” we all said in confusion. Boudin is a white sausage made with pork and rice – a cajun meatball, particular to the region. Pistolette is like a bread roll surrounding a crawfish or shrimp filling, and fried. Fried gator, fried okra, fried chicken and fried shrimp round out the menu.
Steamboat Bills, along I-10 and just across from the Lake Charles Visitor’s Center, is another boisterous seafood restaurant in Lake Charles, LA. Packed with locals and tourists alike, groups eat at large picnic tables. Crawfish and shrimp and crab and oysters and a fantastic green salad are filled out with the usual array of fried mushrooms, cheese sticks, pistolette and gator bites.
Blue Dog Cafe
Blue Dog Café in downtown Lake Charles hosts a famed jazz brunch every Sunday, including bottomless mimosas. The brunch is an all you can eat buffet spread across three stations.
- A carving and custom omelet station
- Cajun delights: crab cake egg benedicts, creamed spinach and gouda grits, scalloped potatoes and crawfish roulade are amongst the buttery, creamy, rich goodness.
- Salad and fresh fruit.
- But not to worry! The fresh waffle station and platters of desserts balance that right back out!
The lively rooms are decorated with original paintings of the famed Blue Dog by artist Georges Rodrigue: a cock-eared, canine that seems to have a lively social life, given the paintings depicting him at mardi gras, on a riverboat, in the bayou, and even in Andy Warhol style repetition.
Best of all, jazz band plays throughout. The small space in front of the stage invites a little toe tapping and a sashay or two.
The Ember Wine Bar and Grill
The Ember Wine Bar and Grill at L’Auberge is an extraordinary steak house and a fabulous luxury dinner option. Plush and calm, subdued and removed from the energy of the casino floor, the kitchen shines under the direction of the relatively new chef.
Craft cocktails and a robust wine list, both by the glass and the bottle, set the tone for a quiet conversation before the roaring fireplace in the lounge. The dining rooms are intimate and quiet, ideal for a private tete a tete. The semi private dining room is slightly removed but still feels connected.
Course after course was served to us family style during our visit. Each seemed to be better than the last. The ahi poke with creamy avocado and crunchy watermelon radish slivers with a subtle yuzu glaze was light and fresh. A bourbon glazed bacon wrapped shrimp over grits was an elevated regional delight. The lamb-ipops were perfectly seared, tender and juicy with a mint yogurt dipping sauce and a plump scallop served over contrastingly crunchy seaweed.
The show stopper was the 42oz tomahawk steak: a giant cut finished on a searing stone and carved tableside. Gloriously marbled and tender, there was nothing to do but enjoy a fine port after that.
I confess: I took the truffled potatoes and creamy mac and cheese back to my room for a stunning savory breakfast the following morning.
Crying Eagle Brewing
Crying Eagle Brewing is the local microbrew in Lake Charles. It offers tours of the manufacturing floor as well as a fun, casual environment with live music. Our guide had joined the brewery after a career in chemical engineering. His passion for process and scientific specificity was enlightening. Robust Porter, Strawberry Rye Ale, Coffee Common and a Belgian Pale Ale were just a few of the offerings. There was a selection for every palette.
Side note – the men’s bathroom features the best use of kegs I’ve ever seen!
Other Great Restaurants in Lake Charles
Our hosts, Visit Lake Charles, mentioned the amazing array of Lebanese restaurants in Lake Charles and surrounding towns. One of the stronger Lebanese and Syrian populations in the US, the Lake Charles area has been a draw for generations. As a result, it has some mighty fine hummus. While I didn’t get a chance to enjoy any Lebanese food on this trip, I invite you to check it out. Come back and let me know what you think!
Overall, Lake Charles has dozens of options, from hole in the wall seafood shacks to luxurious steak houses and everything in between. Bon appetit!
Not to Miss Restaurants in Lake Charles
- The Seafood Palace, 2218 Enterprise Blvd, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
- Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake, 1004 N Lakeshore Dr, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
- Blue Dog Cafe, 609 Ryan St, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
- The Ember Wine Bar and Grill, 777 Ave L’Auberge, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
- Crying Eagle Brewing, 1165 E McNeese St, Lake Charles, LA 70607.
Where to stay in Lake Charles
- L’Auberge Casino and Resort: We loved this family-friendly resort with a fantastic spa!
- Grab the best rates and availability in Lake Charles, Louisiana now!
Many thanks to Visit Lake Charles for hosting me for a food and Mardi Gras celebration. As always, opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know.