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docbrite

Palace Cafe (Opelousas)

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We recently spent a few days in Opelousas and the surrounding area, and while our main objective was boudin and other Cajun charcuterie, we also got in 5 meals at the Palace Cafe in downtown Opelousas. No relation to the Brennan family restaurant of the same name in New Orleans, the Palace has been owned by the Doucas family for 76 years and is currently operated by Tina Doucas Elder and Bill Walker. It's very much a "down-home" type place without fancy trappings or a terribly ambitious menu, but the owners' absolute devotion to high standards of ingredients, preparation, and service make me willing to say this might be the best restaurant currently operating in Louisiana. As on our previous visit two years ago, everything we ate was perfect or very nearly so.

The Palace serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, featuring a couple of different lunch specials each day (except Sunday, when they're closed). Highlights of our visits included the tender, intensely garlicky cabbage rolls; the best red beans and ham hocks I've ever had; smothered potatoes; collard greens; rice & gravy; a superlative vegetable soup with a flavorful broth and big chunks of many different vegetables; perfectly fried catfish; very creditable versions of shrimp & okra gumbo and crawfish etouffee; fried chicken livers; baked duck; and the housemade baklava featuring pecans instead of the traditional walnuts. Good coffee, too, if you happen to stay in one of the cheap motels a little farther down Landry St. (I recommend The Oaks) and stumble in mornings for an eye-opener.

I'm pretty sure Calvin Trillin once praised the Palace, but I can't find the reference. Anyone remember if/where he wrote about this place?

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Well, I don't know how recently you've eaten there, but the desserts we had (albeit WITH Dickie Brennan and his PR person) were phenomenal during our last visit. The visit we had before in 2003 was disappointing, it felt like they dropped the ball in many ways. But a lot of folks are telling me that their food has greatly improved since Katrina, they are working much harder. Both there and at Bourbon House. I dont think you can take a lot of these restaurants on their pre-Katrina performances, I think they all need to be re-evaluated.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Hey, docbrite, I love the Palace Cafe in Opelousas, too. The vibe is great; it has that worn-around-the-edges, well-loved, homey feeling that can't be faked--the counter, the cases. I love the way that most folks are on a first-name basis with each other, too. Glad to hear that the food is still up to scratch; my last visit was pre-Katrina, and it seemed that the food was a little off.

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Well, I don't know how recently you've eaten there, but the desserts we had (albeit WITH Dickie Brennan and his PR person) were phenomenal during our last visit. The visit we had before in 2003 was disappointing, it felt like they dropped the ball in many ways. But a lot of folks are telling me that their food has greatly improved since Katrina, they are working much harder. Both there and at Bourbon House. I dont think you can take a lot of these restaurants on their pre-Katrina performances, I think they all need to be re-evaluated.

I haven't been for a couple of years. May have to try it again one of these days, though, you know, so many restaurants, so little time (and money). I've never yet managed to make it to Bourbon House. I'm one of those locals who can get squirrelly about "messin' wit da Quarters," despite the fact that I lived in the 900 block of Royal Street for two years!

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Hey, docbrite, I love the Palace Cafe in Opelousas, too.  The vibe is great; it has that worn-around-the-edges, well-loved, homey feeling that can't be faked--the counter, the cases.  I love the way that most folks are on a first-name basis with each other, too.  Glad to hear that the food is still up to scratch; my last visit was pre-Katrina, and it seemed that the food was a little off.

I've only been twice -- or, rather, had several meals apiece on two separate trips -- first in September '04 and then last week. It was great both times, but I think a little better this time.

And I forgot to mention another highlight: Pete's Fried Chicken Salad with double meat.

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Well, I don't know how recently you've eaten there, but the desserts we had (albeit WITH Dickie Brennan and his PR person) were phenomenal during our last visit. The visit we had before in 2003 was disappointing, it felt like they dropped the ball in many ways. But a lot of folks are telling me that their food has greatly improved since Katrina, they are working much harder. Both there and at Bourbon House. I dont think you can take a lot of these restaurants on their pre-Katrina performances, I think they all need to be re-evaluated.

I haven't been for a couple of years. May have to try it again one of these days, though, you know, so many restaurants, so little time (and money). I've never yet managed to make it to Bourbon House. I'm one of those locals who can get squirrelly about "messin' wit da Quarters," despite the fact that I lived in the 900 block of Royal Street for two years!

Again, its very easy to get set in your ways in thinking about restaurants. God knows in New York and New Jersey I have pre-conceptions and re-inforced opinions about a lot of places after only a few visits. But when you have something so traumatic and disruptive like Katrina happen, and essentially all these places have to now start over again, you can't take the attitude that they were either performing on the same crappy level they were before or even continuing to do the same great job they were before. Everyone needs a reality check. The staff without a question at a lot of these places have changed, and in a lot of cases the original chef who became an owner and a front of the house guy now has to man the stove again. That's going to impact the end product, without question. You just gotta go to them again and see for yourself.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Docbrite, Thanks for the heads up on the Palace Cafe. We have friends in Opelousas and are in the area often. On our last trip all the excitement was about the new Chili's that opened. That and the alleged hijacking of the Katrina evacuation bus. The Wal Mart was all abuzz.

Next time you are headed that way, take 190 and try Joe's Dreyfus in Livonia. It definately has that vibe HungaryC mentioned, and the Catfish Breaux Bridge is prettty darned good. (Fried catfish over rice topped with crawfish etouffe.) And the drive up from the I-10 along Bayou Grosse Tete is pleasant. ch

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I really love eating at the Palace Cafe. I drive that section of highway alot on my way from New Orleans to Jackson Parish and, depending on the time of day or night, I usually stop at one of four places-

Palace Cafe

Camille's

Joe's Dreyfus Store

Lea's

The Palace Cafe, even beyond the food, has got a really cool vibe. The best time to go is later in the evening on a weeknight when the downtown area is quiet. It's pretty easy to put your mind back many years in that place, as not much has changed (I've been eating there since the early 80's and it's been there a hell of a lot longer than that).

I regularly get the chicken livers and the gumbo. Poppy is right. It's a great place.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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