While many Cajun culinary and musical artists are world-renown, the undisputed king of painting in Acadia is George Rodrigeue. The Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette, Louisiana was named for George’s most famous subject, his icy-blue rendering of a bug-eyed folkloric wolf-dog.
George passed away in 2009, but the Cafe continues under the stewardship of his sons and his original business partner. They honor him by displaying his art and preserving his vision of hospitality.
The restaurant pays homage to Mr. Rodrigue by offering not only a full menu of new dishes that subsequent chefs have invented, but also a streamlined menu that lists the dozen or so dishes that were served the day the cafe opened in 1999.
On that original menu, the best-loved dish is Crawfish Enchiladas. It recalls the spirit of Latin-fusion of the 90s, but it tastes throughly Cajun. A rich filling of plump crawfish and cream cheese fills out baked puffs of fresh tortilla that brown slightly on the edges in the oven. A rich and very cheesy mornay sauce tops it all off. The smoky, porky black eyed peas that stand in for refried beans on the side are phenomenal.
The “new menu” offers many delights as well, including blue crab linguini in chili-butter sauce that tastes fresh and modern and gives due focus to Louisiana seafood. Better yet is an appetizer of heirloom blue cornbread drenched in cane syrup butter. This cornbread is more like a corn-cake, served in a little cast-iron skillet. It puffs up like a Dutch baby pancake, its syrupy butter creating a powerful sweet/salty combination. Blue crab and blue corn are just a couple of clever ways that the Blue Dog Cafe finds to feature blue ingredients in their menu.
While the cafe has some upscale drink options and polished service, it still feels like an unpretentious place for families and art-lovers. Portions are hearty and crayons left are on the paper table coverings for kids or anyone who feels inspired to color.
None of the artwork on the walls is original. Those pieces are in museums all over the world. But the prints are gallery-quality and organized beautifully around the bright restaurant. A painting of Cajun master-chef Paul Prodhomme hangs in the dining room, and a painting of Hank Williams hangs on the stage. We love the food, but what’s more precious about the Blue Dog Cafe is the experience of eating surrounded by the creativity of one of the 20th Century’s greatest American artistic minds.