(UPDATED ON April 19, 2020) Southwest Louisiana was a new area for me to explore. Consisting of six cities (Vinton, DeQuincy, Iowa, Sulphur, Westlake, and Lake Charles), the traditional cuisine is the one I know and love, cajun/creole (Boudin, Red Beans and Rice, Catfish, Po-Boys, and Gumbo). Though I only visited one of these areas during my travels, here are eight restaurants in Lake Charles that you won’t want to miss.
The state of Louisiana’s new social media campaign, #FeedYourSoul perfectly fits with their epic food scene.
1. SteamBoat Bill’s
Continually voted #1 for the best seafood in Southwest Louisiana, this eatery has the freshest seafood you could want. I tried my first Pistolette at SteamBoat Bill’s (a lightly fried roll topped with yummy Crawfish éEtouffe) and learned how to peel and eat a crawfish properly. Other appetizers my friends and I indulged in were Fried Alligator bites and the spicy version of Boiled Shrimp. Finger licking good!
For my main course, I had the Red Beans and Rice, a must when visiting Louisiana. SteamBoat Bill’s was a bit sweet, which I liked. Of course, I doused my Red Beans and Rice in 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot sauce, making it just the way I like it…scorching hot! If your lips aren’t burning for hours afterward, perhaps you didn’t do it right.
If soft shell crab is in season, order it. The crab is tasty and a real delicacy to eat. The gourmet potatoes are satisfying and drool-worthy, too. Other dishes included fresh salads, Po Boys, sandwiches, fish, shrimp tacos, and more.
2. Ember Grille & Wine Bar
A romantic restaurant with contemporary style and heartwarming fireplaces evoke the vibe at Ember Grille & Wine Bar that carries over from the service to the plate. Efficient and friendly waiters will make your dining experience even better with their thorough knowledge of the restaurant’s food and wine. Choose from top-caliber wines, such as Silver Oak and Cakebread, or consider a tasting of four 2 oz pours of them.
I ate the best Beef Carpaccio I’ve ever had at Ember Grille & Wine Bar. Paper-thin sliced Wagyu beef topped with parmesan cheese, capers, arugula, and balsamic made a perfect combination. This dish is fantastic, stacked on tiny crackers that are used as serving spoons.
Next, try a bowl of velvety bisque (flavors change nightly). The night that I dined at Ember, the flavor of the day was Shrimp Bisque, so I gladly had a bowl. Get your Boomerang Instagram setting ready for when your waiter pours the luscious bisque over the bare bowl of seafood. The soup pairs wonderfully with a rich and tangy Caesar salad and the house-made bread. Even though I was alone, the breadbasket didn’t stand a chance. Ember is famous for steaks, which smelled and looked amazing; I just opted for something less filling.
3. The Bekery
Offering freshly baked biscuits, baguettes, scones, muffins, coffee, and more, The Bekery has captured the hearts and stomachs of Lake Charles! It also offers one of my favorite dishes in several varieties, quiche. Quiche slices are small and affordable, so think about having two. The quiche is really delicious, be sure to order two.
If you are craving sweets, you will love the Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding that is easily 5 to 6 inches tall. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are also brownies, cookies, gelato, and cakes. The Bekery serves both breakfast or lunch. Biscuit sandwiches and pastries are popular for early morning visitors, and the Bekery’s freshly made sandwiches, such as Ham & Brie or Chicken Salad, are the stars for lunch. Dine inside or on the attractive outdoor patio.
4. Rikenjaks Brewery
This family-friendly casual restaurant is perfect for watching sporting events, grabbing a burger or salad, or just sipping a beer after work. Serving local craft beers, Rikenjaks Brewery has a great happy hour and fun atmosphere.
The appetizer choices are superb. My friends and I shared the creamy Classic Spinach Dip and also the Boudin, Beer Brat & Pretzel. Both were excellent choices. Moreover, the Spinach Dip with tortilla chips was one of the best recipes I’ve ever tasted. Try a hand-pressed Angus burger, Fish Tacos, or Po Boy for your main entree.
Rikenjaks Brewery opened in 1992 and has one of the best outdoor patio dining spots in town. Enjoy a full bar, great beer, and games, like cornhole and giant Jenga. Come for live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
5. Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill
I fell in love with the brunch menu and cocktails at Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill, inside of the L’Auberge Casino Resort. There were so many dishes I wanted to try that it was hard to narrow it down. Since I was with a friend, we opted for three main courses, for research purposes, of course. We chose Smoked-Fried Chicken & Waffles, JD’s French Toast with strawberry topping, and Shrimp and Grits with blackened jumbo shrimp. All three were tasty and beautifully plated.
While most dishes on the menu feature Cajun and Creole flavors, there are also burgers and barbecue as alternative choices.
I’d be lying if I did not admit that the best part of the Sunday brunch was the Bloody Mary bar. I travel year-round for a living, and never have I laid eyes on anything as impressive as the spread that was on display for the Bloody Marys. Garnish your Tito’s vodka drink with bacon, spicy boiled shrimp, stuffed olives, pickled okra, dill pickle, and your choice of rim seasonings.
Kudos for the patriotic American decor at the restaurant. The decorative US flag that hangs over the curved bar is genius! Twenty-five beers on tap and thirty-five flat-screen TVs make this a great place to watch sporting events.
6. Rosewater Grill
A short drive from Lake Charles is Vinton, home to the Delta Downs horse racing track. Rosewater Grill & Tavern is the track’s premier restaurant with lovely decor, views of live racing, and quality ingredients. I visited this restaurant with a few travel writers and staff from the tourism board.
We ordered several appetizers for the table: Filet Mignon Sliders, Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, and a basket with Pickles, Peppers, & Chips. The beer-battered jalapeño peppers paired well with ranch dressing and we couldn’t stop eating them. The Crab Stuffed Mushrooms was one of the tastiest plates I’ve eaten all year, and the housemade remoulade sauce that accompanied them was off-the-hook!
Next, we shared an Apple Berry Salad. This salad was incredibly fresh and refreshing, packed full of blackberries, raspberries, Granny Smith apples, feta cheese, and toasted pecans. Yum! For the main dishes, we chose the Suf & Turf special, a variety of flavorful steaks, and Grilled Seabass. I had the Steak Au Poivre with a magnificent green peppercorn and cognac cream sauce. Rosewater Grill’s menu is ala carte, so we also ordered sides of green beans, sweet potato soufflé, asparagus, and original mac and cheese.
Berry Cheesecake (light and the perfect texture) and Bourbon Bread Pudding that was bursting with flavor were our dessert choices. Both desserts tasted excellent. The Rosewater Grill meals were sensational from start to finish.
7. Boombox Frozen Pops and Ice Cream
Food meets fun in this Lake Charles original institution created by Nick Vallaume. Try one of Boombox Frozen Pops and Ice Cream (formerly Pops and Rockets) 80’s music inspired ice cream flavors. Or, treat yourself to an ice cream concoction while you play classic arcade games and listen to 80’s tunes. My favorite flavor is the With or Without Brew, chocolate and raspberry with cold brew coffee ice cream recipe. Ice Pops are popular as well as ice cream dishes.
I had major flashbacks to high school during my visit to Boombox Frozen Pops with the 80’s memorabilia, but the ice cream is really good, too. Over 40 fun combinations of Gourmet pop flavors are offered with fun names such as Chicory & Ivory, I Caramelt With You, and Sweet Child O Lime.
Home to gourmet hot dogs, Botsky’s menu offers mind-blowing flavor combinations that are certainly worth the visit. This high-quality purveyor of hot dogs and sausages features several unusual hot dog combinations, or you can design your own. Proteins include classic and Kobe beef, alligator, smoked duck, turkey, buffalo, smoked sausage, and veggie-smoked apple sage. The dog I chose was the Slawdog Millionaire, a smoked sausage with coleslaw, avocado, feta cheese, and bbq sauce. It was epic!
Pair your dogs with fries, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese, or chili. If you choose sweet potato fries, order a side of Steen’s maple syrup for dipping. Botsky’s also serves burgers and craft beers. I loved the vibe of this quaint restaurant that successfully utilizes counter service. Fingers crossed they expand to Vero Beach, Florida.
Still Dreaming of These Tasty Eats
Was it possible to read this post without drooling or grabbing a snack? I’m doubtful. This ultimate list of 8 restaurants in Lake Charles you shouldn’t miss still resonates with my inner foodie. I can’t wait to add more to my listing on the next visit to Lake Charles. Louisiana’s Feed Your Soul campaign definitely defines the tasty culture of this extraordinary state.
Thanks to the Lake Charles region CVB for hosting my travels and meals. As with all of my writing, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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