Category Archives: food

Cotten’s Famous Hamburgers

Cotten's Hamburgers

Cotten's Hamburgers

The row

Martha ensures each tray is fully equipped

LAKE CHARLES, La. – Every town, it seems, has at least one place that everyone knows about and recommends to all the outsiders.  That place in Lake Charles is “Cotten’s Famous Hamburgers.”  I had the pleasure of dining there on my last day in the small city in southwestern La.

The first thing you realize when you arrive is that this is not a high-brow establishment.  That happens to be just fine by me, and as I suspected, even those with the most selective of palettes would be hard pressed to find something negative about the small hamburger hut. I was met at the cash register by Rolonda, who may have been the most delightful and patient meal-order-taker I have come across.  I am not a local and I ordered my food as such, but Rolonda helped me figure out one of the most basic menus around.  The difficulty I encountered was the difference between an old fashioned cheeseburger and a cheeseburger.  Rolonda explained to me that the old fashioned burgers came with grilled onions, while the regular burgers had plain onions. Based on the information provided, I promptly ordered an old fashioned eggburger.

Rolonda (left) and Jeaninne aim to please

Rolonda (left) and Jeaninne aim to please

It came with lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions, mayonnaise, and was topped with a fried egg.

I also ordered a small basket of onion rings, and a half order of fried shrimp.

Happy Customer

Jeannine checks an order

As I waited for my food to be prepared, I had a look around the joint.

Kenny, the owner, never stopped moving. He worked non-stop, preparing everything that had to be hand-battered and fried. Whether it was onion rings, shrimp or catfish, Kenny was on the job.

Jeannine filled cup after cup and made certain that every order had been plated properly.

Alvin never looked up from the grill as he prepared patty after patty for the hundreds of customers that came by for lunch.

Old fashioned flavor

Martha and Alvin never stop

But the person who most stood out to me was Martha.  Not to say that Martha worked any harder than anyone else at Cotten’s, but it was immediately evident to me that she possessed the warmest demeanor and the most graceful persona. She worked as the “topper,” ensuring that each burger served was topped appropriately, and that each plate that was put on a tray had all of the required components. It appeared to me that even when she was the busiest, she still had an unmovable smile on her face.  She is the type of person that one could always trust to be looked after by.

Kenny the cook

Kenny likes to keep it simple, but works his tail off in the process

Now, on to the food.  My old fashioned eggburger was tremendous and made me think back to meals I shared with my great-grandfather.  The burger itself was fresh cooked, and the grilled onions were terrific. The rest of the toppings were great compliments.

When I ordered the half order of shrimp, I thought it was only shrimp. As it turned out, for $4.99 I was granted several butterflied shrimp, fries, and a salad.  The shrimp was as fresh as any I have had, and the fries were crisp.

But the most ridiculous offering I was served may have been the “medium” order of onion rings.  When you think of a medium serving, you don’t imagine an eight-inch-tall stack of fresh, hand-battered onion rings.  As you may have suspected, I had get a to-go box for my abundance of left-overs.

Service with a smile

Medium... Are you kidding?

As for my definitive judgment of Cotten’s: It has the feel of a small town burger joint but has the taste to match any big city establishment in the country. But more importantly, the people who pour their hearts and souls into providing some of the best food along the Gulf Coast are what make Cotten’s such a great, must stop, must-see restaurant.

When I asked Kenny, the owner, what the secret to longevity in the food industry is, he replied, most fittingly, “Keep it simple.”

Thanks to the staff of Cotten’s for the great food and the level of care you have for each and every customer who enters your domain.

Golden Fried Shrimp

Shrimp, salad and fries for $4.99!

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Pujo St. Cafe

Pujo'sLAKE CHARLES, La. – As promised, I am here to bring you more of the “Taste of Lake Charles.”  We stopped at a restaurant on Pujo Street in downtown and checked out a placed named – you’ll never guess – Pujo Street Cafe.  While that may be the official title, the locals simply refer to it as “Pujo’s.”  It would turn out to be the most up-scale establishment we would visit, and the food certainly lived up to the billing.

ArtFrom the outside, the place looked like many of the old, two story buildings of Lake Charles, though the neon “Pujo’s” sign helped draw attention to an, otherwise, ordinary facade.  Inside however, there were two totally different, if not conflicting, atmospheres. The patio and main dining areas struck the chord of romantic, up-scale dining, but at the core of the restaurant is a bar that took on the feel of a sports pub.  The feel of the bar area may have been just temporarily altered due to the fact that all of the televisions were tuned to ESPN to appeal to the local patrons, who were cheering on the LSU Tigers baseball team as they worked to defeat my beloved Texas Longhorns in the College World Series Finals. Either way, the bar, at least that night, did not match the rest of the eatery’s ambience.

Wait to be seatedWe stuck to the romantic side of the house, and the rowdy LSU fans didn’t put a damper on our dining experience.  Toni had the Andouille Chicken with the house-choice of starch and vegetable.  The starch selection of the day was a creamy serving of mashed potatoes with more than enough butter to please.  The vegetable turned out to be a blend of red peppers, squash, zucchini and asparagus that had been sauteed and spiced perfectly.

ChickenBut the star of the dish, without question, was the main course.  The chicken was served as four medallions, topped with a savory brown sauce, and stuffed with what the waiter called “an andouille, pecan breading.”   I wish I could have had the chef explain that to me, because I certainly couldn’t figure it out.  Well I can tell you, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what went into the dish, I did know that it was awesome.

My dish was more traditional, but no less enjoyable.  My sides were also house choice, but I opted for the “Beer Marinated Rib-Eye.”  The beer of choice was Abita, which is a Louisiana brewed beverage.  The steak was almost as good as if I had cooked it myself, which is no small compliment – I don’t necessarily believe that I make the best steaks, but as a man, I am required, by law of evolution, to declare that I cook better steaks than any other griller out there – because I make the best steak on the planet.

The wallOn a side note, I think this is a good time to offer up a bit of advice that I have found to work pretty well.  When ordering a steak, you are always asked how you would like it cooked , but more often than not, your steak does not make it back to you cooked the way you requested.  To help you get a steak cooked the way you want it, I have created a conversion chart:

  • Rare – Cook it yourself (nobody serves a truly rare steak anymore, for fear of a lawsuit)
  • Medium-Rare – ask for rare
  • Medium – ask for medium-rare
  • Medium-Well – ask for medium
  • Well – cook it yourself (You can burn a steak as well as any chef and save some money at the same time)

I ordered a medium-rare steak, and was served an absolutely perfectly cooked medium steak.  Works every time…

Steak

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Blue Duck Cafe

DSC_0196LAKE CHARLES, La. – Well, we’ve made our way over to Lake Charles, La., and have been pleasantly surprised with how good of a time we have had here.  Above you can check out the view from our hotel room, and below, you will find some of the great eats we have had on our mini-trip.

DSC_0211 DSC_0212We had lunch today at a joint called “Blue Duck Cafe,” and it was really tremendous.  Toni had the “9th Ward” roast beef sandwich, which turned out to be the best roast beef sandwich that I have ever tried.  The roast beef was cooked “debris” style, which basically means that it was cooked at a low temperature until it completely fell apart.  The sandwich was topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle and Cajun mayonnaise- which is really just mayo with Cajun seasoning mixed in.

DSC_0210DSC_0213I had the Wednesday special, which just so happened to be a terrific offering of shrimp creole.  It was fresh, spicy and rich.  The shrimp was so fresh that it reminded me of the days I spent boarding shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico.   The creole was hot enough to make you take your time, but was sweet enough to make you want to scarf it down.

More to come about our trip and the great food we tracked down.DSC_0209

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