** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED **
We were lost in the small community of Breaux Bridge looking for Café des Amis, unable to find East Bridge Street and stupidly oblivious to the street signs we kept passing that said “Rue de Pont Est.” When it dawned on us that we were there, we soon found the corner eatery where a window sign boasts that the café is “The essence of French Louisiana.”
Of course that doesn’t mean you get French food here. Not at all. The meals you eat are Cajun, the real deal: a French-accented mix of South and Soul, with a dash of Caribbean spice and Italian brio. But it’s ridiculous to try to define it by it’s roots; better to describe what it is.
At breakfast, it is beignets, little crisp-edged twists of fried dough under an avalanche of powdered sugar; it is “Oreille de Couchon,” a long strip of fried dough named because it resembles a pig’s ear, available plain or filled with boudin, also spread with powdered sugar. It is biscuits topped with crawfish etouffee, omelets filled with tasso ham, and cheese grits with andouille sausage.
The menu for lunch and supper is a veritable encyclopedia of local favorites, including turtle soup, andouille gumbo, barbecue shrimp, cornbread filled with crawfish tails, softshell crab, and crawfish pie. Desserts include bread pudding with rum sauce, which is more of a New Orleans thing than a Cajun one, and gateau sirop, which is extremely local. Made from sugar cane – grown and processed all around here – it is a block of moist spice cake with the distinctive smoky sweetness of cane sugar.
A friendly old brick-wall storefront that has been renovated to serve as an art gallery as well as a restaurant, Café des Amis is a gathering place for locals (who love swilling the excellent strong coffee) and an easy destination for passers-by, just a short drive off I-10. If you are looking for a full, true, and joyous taste of Acadian Louisiana, you’ll find none more satisfying than this.
We arrived at Cafe des Amis just after the doors opened for lunch and were greeted as if we were long-lost friends. We were seated at a table next to the front window where we could watch the passing scene and wave to passersby as they waved to us. Such a friendly place!
The restaurant itself is charming and proves that the spirit of the 60’s is alive and well. The walls have been signed by the artists who have had a hand in decorating the place and the art provides nourishment for your aesthetic appetite while you wait for your meal.
I started by ordering corn and seafood bisque, thick with crawfish, shrimp, and corn. This was so rich and creamy; thank goodness it was only a cup. Kay ordered catfish nuggets with remoulade sauce. This was catfish as it should be: plump, juicy, and lightly–ever so lightly–breaded and fried. The star of the appetizers–actually, the star of the lunch–was the fried green tomatoes served with crab imperial as a sauce. The tartness of the tomato which had been fried to perfection was balanced by the sweetness of the crab. And this wasn’t just claw meat; the chunks of lump crab meat were huge.
Kay ordered the half-and-half shrimp–half etouffee and half fried–for her entree. The fried shrimp were light and the etouffee delicately complex. I had the eggplant Napoleon: slices of fried eggplant with a layer of crawfish in between and topped with a gratin sauce. Another winner.
Breaux Bridge may be a bit out of your way if your traveling in Louisiana, but the Cafe des Amis definitely makes the trip worthwhile.