For all of our pretenses when it comes to Cajun and Creole food, and the growth of south Louisiana’s food movement in general, nothing beats a home-cooked meal.
Except maybe a plate lunch, which is the perfect, sleep-inducing, belly-rubbing, groggy-eyed marriage of form and function when it comes to southern-style restaurant service and a meal your mom would be proud to serve you.
As you try to find your way to Creole Lunch House, you may think you’re lost among the narrow, rocky roads that your GPS will inevitably bring you to. But the cracks in the pavement and the vibe of the neighborhood surrounding this bastion of creole cooking are part of the journey–one that is rewarded by butter. And, really, isn’t that life’s ultimate reward?
If your heart rings true, and your stomach rumbles in just the right frequency, your wandering will bring you to a rocky parking lot surrounding a house accented by a large, lonely tree hanging over it, and the bright, smiling cartoon face of owner Merline Herbert swinging lackadaisical on an old metal signpost out in front.
That smile is the spirit of the Creole Lunch House, and testimony to the care and attention put into every steaming, styrofoam plate of food they offer. As you step up the wooden stairs and enter into the small entryway, a word of advice: Prepare to testify (and take a 30-minute nap afterwards), because you’ve entered into the church of soul food in Lafayette, where blessings of cornbread, greens and rice will rain down on those who ask—and run you less than a tenner, even with a drink.
Enter Unto Ye The Church of Creole Cooking
Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by a few things:
- The friendly faces of the Heberts, typically including Merline herself, who run the Creole Lunch House
- A décor that will remind you of childhood days gone by, including that weird tablecloth that is kind-of-plastic-but-also-cloth that continues to grace every old southern home
- A smell that is without description. You could try to make up a word to describe how amazing it smells in there, but even that will fall short and only disgrace the world of cooking you’ve now been thrust into
- Lots of newspaper clippings, all of which speak to how amazing the place you’ve just entered is
While the world around south Louisiana speaks to the benefit of “Southern Hospitality,” the employees of the Creole Lunch House embody it. Service is quick and as warm as the food that they serve. Beyond the countertop, a small, simple dry-erase board informs you of the day’s offerings, and large pitchers of ice-cold, unsweetened tea sit sweating beside it, waiting for your enjoyment.
Looking past the cozy serving and seating area, you’ll catch a glimpse of a doorway where there’s a room filled with fryers and a large stove. This serves as the pulpit of the Creole Lunch House, where wondrous-smelling sermons of black-eyed peas, mustard greens, fried shrimp and stuffed breads (a sweet-dough bread stuffed with ground meat, onions and peppers) are delivered regularly to the front.
There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch–But There is Free Cornbread
Food ranges from the aforementioned stuffed breads to various soups, fricassees and fried goodies–all of which have the option of coming with additional sides, such as buttery vegetables, sugary yams and beans of various varieties. No matter what your choice, know that it will be seasoned well, cooked with love reminiscent of family gatherings and topped with a cornbread muffin, which is on the house.
If you’re searching for low-carb, gluten-free or any other such food craze that has come about in the last decade or so, chances are you’ve entered the wrong establishment. But the kindness of the staff and the smell of the food are the siren’s song of the cheat day, and you might as well live a little while you’re here.
The Creole Lunch House
713 12th St, Lafayette, LA 70501
Open M – F 11 a.m. – 2 p.m
Cash and cards accepted