Celebrate Mardi Gras Like a Local: Sample Gumbo All Along Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail

Celebrate Mardi Gras Like a Local: Sample Gumbo All Along Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail

I have never been to Mardi Gras but it’s definitely on my bucket list. When I finally make it to the celebration I know what I will do – I’ll be sampling all the food! A staple of Mardi Gras is gumbo. One simply cannot go to Louisiana without trying the local fare, am I right? If you are planning a trip to Louisiana, make sure you sample the best gumbo they have to offer. Here is your guide to the best options along the Cajun Bayou Food Trail.

Celebrate Mardi Gras Like a Local: Gumbo All Along Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail

When you think of Louisiana, you think of Mardi Gras. And you think of some of the best food you’ll ever eat. Both of those things have rich ties to Cajun culture, and Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou is the perfect place to explore and experience all of it.

With 16 family-friendly Mardi Gras parades set to roll up and down the Bayou over the next week, it’s obvious that the people here love to celebrate life. Wherever you go in Lafourche Parish, you’re sure to hear, smell and taste the impact and influence of the Cajuns.

To help visitors capture those smells and tastes first-hand, last May the parish introduced the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, a network of 16 restaurants and six festivals and events. Visitors can pick up a “passport,” get stamps as they try out each of the stops and earn a T-shirt once they’ve been to seven locales.

Nearly every restaurant and event on the Trail features gumbo, the official state dish of Louisiana. Though most gumbo recipes start with some basic ingredients – a protein, a thickener and the ubiquitous “Holy Trinity” (celery, green peppers and onions) – where chefs take it from there is what makes each bowl a unique and distinctive treasure. Spicy or mild, chicken or shrimp, with or without potato salad on the side …ask any chef what differentiates his or her gumbo from the rest and they’ll tell you it’s about the time, attention and love they pour into it.

A lot of that love has to do with their passion for the place they call home and their desire to make guests feel just like family. So as Mardi Gras nears, it’s the perfect time to share some of the stories of the people who give Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou its very own flavor. Once you get a taste of this special destination that’s just 45 minutes from New Orleans, you won’t stop craving visits. To book your trip, check out www.lacajunbayou.com.

And to whet your appetite, here’s how just three restaurants on the Cajun Bayou Food Trail like to make their gumbo:

Seafood Gumbo at Bubba’s II PoBoys [Thibodaux, Louisiana]

The recipe for this restaurant’s signature dish, Seafood Gumbo, dates back nearly 30 years, to when the Swanner family first opened Bubba’s II. While some gumbos are complex with ingredients, the family’s goal was to please the majority of its customers …so they keep it (fairly) simple with only shrimp and crab meat served over rice. Owner Neal Swanner says his gumbo is best served with the restaurant’s house-made potato salad (a traditional side in many Cajun restaurants), but what really makes the signature dish great is the people who order and eat it. “They’re the ones who rave about it,” he says, “So we just make sure that it’s always the same taste every single time.”

Shrimp Okra Gumbo at Kajun Twist [Galliano, Louisiana]

Welcoming guests into his restaurant, Kajun Twist, like he welcomes family into his home, chef and owner Anthony Goldsmith says his Shrimp Okra Gumbo recipe calls for some very special ingredients (aside from its main proteins of shrimp and sausage): time and love. The recipe he uses has been passed down through generations of Goldsmith’s family, starting with his great-great-grandmother and perfected by his great-grandmother, the famed Alzina Toups. The dish is also unique because unlike most other gumbos, it’s cooked without a roux. Goldsmith says his trick is to brown the onions for a very long time to get just the right color.

Spahr’s Seafood Gumbo at Spahr’s Seafood [Locations in Des Allemands, Galliano and Thibodaux, Louisiana]

Dating back three generations, Spahr’s Seafood Gumbo was originally created by the restaurants’ founders, Thelma and Bill Spahr. With a famous dark roux base, the gumbo features shrimp, crabmeat, two types of sausage (smoked and hot) and a handful of secret ingredients. According to Executive Chef Ryan Gaudet, who was taught to make the signature dish by Mr. Bill himself, what makes Spahr’s Seafood Gumbo special is the kitchen’s ability to make every spoonful hold the flavor of each ingredient. He also says that the gumbo is best served over steamed white rice and with a side of potato salad, and it’s best washed down with Spahr’s famous Bloody Mary.

About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn is a full time travel and lifestyle blogger. Besides Cheap Is The New Classy, she also owns and writes for EatPlayRock.com, an entertainment site. Her interests include traveling, home decor, DIY projects, organizing her home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee {or two}. She currently resides in North Carolina with her dog, Daisy.