Lagniappe Cajun Cafe

1310 Hwy 620 South, Suite 7-A (Lakeway Plaza), 263-8464
Mon-Fri, 11am-2pm, 5-9pm
Closed weekends until after Labor Day

Lagniappe Cajun Cafe
photograph by John Anderson

The assignment was to find another review subject in the Bastrop area, but the Cajun place I remembered on Hwy 71 East was nowhere to be found. Since I was already primed for Louisiana cuisine, I sifted through the faxes and press releases on the desk until I found buried treasure: a faxed copy of the menu from Lagniappe Cajun Cafe. Lagniappe (pronounced "lan yap") is the Creole term for "a little something extra," and the reader who had faxed the menu had raved about the food. A quick trip to the lake area proved it to be a solid tip. The friendly little Cajun joint has been tucked into busy Lakeway Plaza since just before the first of the year and seems to be more popular with area locals than seasonal lake visitors. The walls are decorated with historical photos of the Crescent City, colorful feathered Mardi Gras masks, and the banners and memorabilia of New Orleans-area universities. It's simple but pleasant and inviting.

The menu boasts "authentic New Orleans-style food," which I would expect to be a blend of country Cajun and Creole French dishes with just a touch of Italian influence. That's exactly what they offer. While considering the menu, whet your appetite with an order of Crawfish Pies ($3.95), four dainty little half-moons of thin, delicate crust pastry filled with a zippy tomato-based crawfish étouffée and lightly fried. They are sophisticated, earthy, and wonderful all in the same bite. A couple of errant hush puppies found their way into the basket with our crawfish pies. Instead of the often leaden balls of fried frozen dough that masquerade as this Southern delicacy, these little pups are buttery herbed corn sticks, tender and fried just right.

Any cafe boasting "authentic" New Orleans food should have a good selection of "po-boy" sandwiches, classically half or whole loaves of crisp french bread filled with roast beef debris, fried oysters, or shrimp, "dressed" or not with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, onions, and the condiment of your choice. There should also be muffulettas, Italian behemoths of Genoa salami, ham, and provolone cheese on slightly sweet round loaves slathered with a tangy olive salad concoction. Though Lagniappe doesn't offer the traditional debris po-boy of roast beef shavings and pan drippings, their Shrimp Po-Boy ($4.95 half, $9.25 whole) is the genuine article. The hefty sandwich comes packed with plump, perfectly fried shrimp, a spread of tartar or cocktail sauce, and the "dressings" of your choice. Wrapped in butcher paper, it looks just like the ones delivered on bicycles from the Verti Mart in the French Quarter. The Muffuletta ($4.50 half, $8.00 whole) was first-rate as well, although I like a juicier olive salad, the kind that runs right down your chin. We rounded out lunch with reliable half-pound sides of the New Orleans washday staple, Red Beans and Rice ($3), with a good smoky sausage flavor and a tasty Jambalaya ($3.25), a tangy tomato-flavored rice studded with shrimp and sausage.

Lagniappe offers a list of Cajun and Creole entrees for dinner that all seem worth a short trip to the lake. The Boudin Bienville ($7.95), links of spicy rice, pork, and chicken liver sausage served with french fries and hush puppies has my name all over it, for sure, chere. As long as I'm afflicted with an incurable jones for Louisiana food, it's a comfort to know there's an authentic prescription just a short drive away. — Virginia B. Wood

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