Eat Lafayette!

It's not hard to support and dine at local restaurants when you have dishes at local restaurants like Lafayette does.

Which is why the Eat Lafayette campaign seems like a no brainer. Support Acadiana-owned restaurants? Don't mind if I doooooo. Gimme the seafood.

Now in its 11th year, Eat Lafayette highlights locally owned restaurants from June through September. This year's campaign runs from June 22-September 20. But it's not just about dining at local restaurants. There are incentives involved! Many participating restaurants have specials, from discounts on dishes to prix fixe packages. Follow the roaming Coke bottle for a chance to win goodies. And there's that chance to win a trip to Cancun. (Being a high school senior not necessary.)

Homegrown chefs are putting an inventive spin on time-honored recipes with the freshest local ingredients. A distinct culinary identity as the heart of Cajun country, steeped in tradition, merges with a new generation making it an incredible place to eat.

Supporting local businesses, both small and large, benefits the local economy and has a bigger impact than chain stores do. More of your money will stay local, especially if you support businesses that buy their goods and services from other local companies. Many local restaurants are also eco-friendly, from using locally sourced ingredients to being truly farm to table, and serving local craft beer.

The annual Eat Lafayette kick-off party, held last night, is a huge, delicious party where you can sample popular dishes from most of the participating restaurants. Thank you to Madison for the ticket, and to Michelle for accompanying me! I may or may not look forward to and prep for it every year. You've got to plan out which booths you want to hit when, and make sure you don't miss any must-tries. And then you try to beat the huge mass of people heading toward the booth you're beelining for. It's much like a trip to Disney World, if you think about it.

I can't even remember everything I sampled, but I know it included seafood bisque, spinach and artichoke dip, multiple burger samples, shrimp and grits, whipped smoked salmon, quinoa tabouli, seafood pasta, a chicken biscuit, a piece of cake, a margarita and a fresh watermelon ruminade.

Oh and that piece of cake? Right in the middle of sampling all the other foods. Uh, it's acceptable. It had a piece of kiwi on top.



Plus, I got to visit friends Erin and Mark, owners of Hook and Boil, and Kory and Christine, owners of La Pizzeria.

Actual conversation between Christine and me:
"Would you like a margarit-?" "YES!"

It was really good, by the way.

Favorite dish of the evening? Hook and Boil's seafood bisque, featuring shrimp, crawfish and crab. And not those little shreds, but rather massive lumps of crabmeat. I'm kind of ready to go to the restaurant now for a full bowl. And once there I might have to order an extra to-go.

A close second-place was BJ's in Broussard's seafood pasta. Perfectly creamy, with the right amount of seafood meat and spice.

In true eco-nerd fashion (am I really anything else?), I tried to reduce the amount of waste I created. I used the same spoon for all my samples and skipped plates where I could, though I still had to throw away more than I wanted to.

The addition of recycling bins would also be great for bowls such as the one pictured above, but with the sampling, and people not eating all of their food, recycling bins would get contaminated with food and other non-recyclables RULL FAST.

I would love to find a way to cut out the styrofoam plates altogether, so maybe I will brainstorm some inexpensive alternatives for next year's event and crop of restaurants.

If anyone needs convincing that Lafayette has some of the greatest food, the Eat Lafayette kick-off is the place to go. And if you're hungry this summer, choose from one of the 95 participating restaurants to dine at. 95! 

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