Sushi is usually just one part of a Japanese restaurant’s larger menu, but Zen is first and foremost a sushi restaurant with a focus on beautifully constructed rolls that employ unique ingredients. And while most sushi menus separate their rolls between “basic” and “special,” Zen organizes its sushi further based on degrees of rawness. Skittish diners can sample rolls from the “Fully Cooked” section with ingredients like bacon, fried shrimp, and calamari before possibly moving onto the more adventurous “Open Minded” and “Eat It Raw” categories where they’ll find tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. If you’re still not interested or simply want fried rice, noodles, or other hibachi specials, Zen has the full menu you’re used to without all the theatrics. Continue reading Zen Japanese Grill & Sushi→
I like to describe myself not as a food critic but rather a food enthusiast. That’s because there’s too much good stuff to eat out there that it’s simply not worth my time or yours to dwell on the bad or the unremarkable. It’s for the latter reasons that I never covered the Foundry on the Bayou in Thibodaux. At least until now.
The Foundry just never did it for me before. I was excited when it first opened, but the food was unfocused and a bit overpriced. When they later changed the menu, I just didn’t care for anything I had there. Its one redeeming quality was the great bar upstairs with a patio overlooking Downtown Thibodaux and Bayou Lafourche. Part of me always wished that such a beautiful restaurant with such a perfect location had food to match.
The Weeping Willow in downtown Thibodaux is the kind of place where you think about dessert before you even order lunch. It’s hard not to when rows and rows of colorful confections are prominently displayed beside the register and the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the air. But you might have an easier time keeping your priorities straight if, among the towering slices of cake, there sat a pot of the Willow’s tomato basil soup to taunt your taste buds.
When I lived in Thibodaux, my wife and I would try to visit the Willow every Saturday for lunch. Part of the appeal is the charming downtown location with its old architecture and years of implied history, but I mostly loved our weekly lunches there because I knew exactly what I would order and that I would love every bite.
It would appear we got caught up in the Mardi Gras madness and forgot about Valentine’s Day this year! There were less special Valentine’s Day menus advertised this year and a few restaurants are probably already booked up by now, but here are some of great sounding specials available at local restaurants this year. If your restaurant would like to be added to the list, please message us here or on Facebook to be included. Continue reading Valentine’s Day 2015 Specials→
In typical South Louisiana fashion, we just got through a Christmas that was mild at best only to experience bitter cold now as Mardi Gras season begins, a time when we most want to be outside. You can bundle up, guzzle lava-like coffee, resort to hibernation, or (my favorite) warm yourself up from the inside out with a piping-hot bowl of soup.
Pretty much every restaurant is bound to offer a cup of something warm and tasty, but these are some of the best you will find in Terrebonne and Lafourche.
Thibodaux’s charming downtown cafe gets a lot of attention for its coffee and baked goods (and rightfully so), but the savory side of the menu is the real star. Nothing beats a Willow Sandwich (turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, pesto, and lettuce tossed in Caesar dressing) and their tomato basil soup. It’s hands down the best tomato soup I’ve ever had, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few others. It’s thick and slightly chunky, which makes it perfect for dipping your sandwich made with fresh baked bread. The flavor is incredible, packed with garlic and basil. You can get a cookie or cake ball for dessert, but make sure you get a cup of this great soup.
If you haven’t enjoyed this Vietnamese classic yet, now is the perfect time to get acquainted. It’s simply a noodle soup with an amazing broth, full of deep flavors. White Bowl lets you pick your protein, and while it seems most people are initially drawn to steak or chicken, I suggest the brisket. It’s perfectly tender and flavorful with just a bit of fat, which adds to the broth. The best part is dressing it up to your liking with the accompanying plate of crispy bean sprouts and fresh cilantro, jalapeno, and basil. Don’t forget to spice it up with chili sauce!
What began as a couple of friends sharing the occasional six pack of beer has grown into a couple thousand people sampling over two hundred unique brews. If the second annual Bayou Beer Festival is a testament to the local beer scene, it’s safe to say we’re doing quite well.
I doubt Bayou Beer Society and Festival organizers Joel Ohmer and Jim Barrett ever expected their fun, little hobby to become such an incredible event back when it was just the two of them comparing notes on new beers. Stepping under the pavilion at Southdown Plantation in Houma, you immediately get a sense of how huge and diverse the world of beer is and how many people love living in it. Tables surround the edges of the pavilion backed by enthusiastic volunteers and their buckets of beer. After you scan their selection and make a decision, they’ll pour you a generous sample that you sip as you turn back to your friends and start making observations.
What I love about trying new beers at a festival, a tasting, or a dinner is that I’m not necessarily looking for a good beer. In fact, the occasional bad beer in this setting can be a lot of fun. It challenges you and expands the horizons of your pallet. And it’s always fun to see the reaction of your friends when they sample a bad brew…. That being said, there were plenty of great and interesting beers at the Festival this year. Being able to try so many unique types back to back is a dream come true to anyone who nearly freezes to death while agonizing over a beer purchase in front of the cooler at the grocery store. I always want to take so many home, but I’m not made of money and there’s only so much space in the fridge if I’m not immediately taken with it. After an event like the beer fest, you’re left with a bunch of leads on great new beers to seek out.
Toward the back of the pavilion, an intimidating crawfish loomed over the crowd. Mudbug, our most local brewery, was the festival’s title sponsor. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to provide any of their exciting beers since they’re not up and running yet, though we’re assured they’re extremely close and awaiting a few final inspections. Brewmaster Leith Adams, who could be seen drumming on the porch at Southdown with his band Nonc Nu and da Wild Matous, has a very distinct vision for Mudbug. Aside from being the closest brewery to us in the outskirts of Thibodaux, Mudbug’s beers will hit close to home as well. King Cake Ale, Cafe au Lait Stout, Pelican Pilsner, Cajun Stout, Burning Saison, Intracoastal IPA are just a few of the bayou-centric beers Adams has planned. It’s really exciting to know that very soon we’ll have such a local brewery. And while it’s a shame we couldn’t get a taste at the Festival, their spirit and enthusiasm was definitely felt throughout the event.
The sight that greeted festival-goers as they stepped out of the pavilion made the scale of the local beer community clear: a sea of people surrounded by local breweries. Most of the Louisiana Breweries were represented (Nola, Abita, Chafunkta, Covington, Bayou Teche, 40 Arpent, Gnarly Barley, Tin Roof, and more) as well as some Mississippi breweries. Also outside was Which Craft?, the local ambassador to the world of beer for many of us. Owners Donny and Frank were offering some very unique beers not available anywhere else in the area. I was especially fond of the gose, a tart and salty type of beer to which I’ve only recently been introduced.
What impressed me most was the large homebrewer presence. At the inaugural festival last year, there were a few homebrewers with a couple tables of their beers. This year, they took up a long row of booths and had dozens of beers to offer. Some were small but passionate operations with just a keg and a sign while others had labeled bottles and logos. I was blown away by the variety and quality: Bourbon Pecan Pie Porter, Rye Saison, Apricot Ale, I’ll Be Bock, Weiss Weiss Baby, Pointe Porter. The tiny bit of experience I have with homebrewing made it clear that these people had to be extremely patient and passionate to show up to the festival and treat us with their many months of labor.
In the crowd, I ran into Roy Guilbeau, the chef at La Casa Del Sol in Thibodaux responsible for the incredible beer dinners there. He’s excited for next month’s collaboration with Lazy Magnolia. If the last few dinners are any indication, it’ll be another great meal. Roy does an excellent job of pairing the variety of unique beers each brewery brings while sticking to Mexican cuisine. The combinations are always really inventive and perfectly paired. (The Lazy Magnolia dinner is Tuesday, December 2nd at 6:00 pm. You can call (985) 446-2576 for reservations.)
It was incredibly satisfying to see so many people turn out to celebrate their love of beer. I was especially pleased with the prominent role local breweries played. And with the proceeds going toward supporting local veterans, it’s impossible for me not to love this festival. I hope it continues to grow as more breweries like Mudbug start production and more people learn how great local beer can be. The very next day after the festival, the Bayou Beer Society posted a save-the-date for next year: November 14th, 2015.
Dining at White Bowl, you would think the restaurant has been established in the area for years. Despite how delicious it is, I never expected Vietnamese food would catch on here as quickly as it has. You’ll see people of all ages eating there, and while part of the appeal may be the idea that it’s the only local restaurant offering this specific cuisine, White Bowl’s appeal is likely due to how accessible its delicious menu is. After all, the two most iconic dishes, pho and bahn mi, are just soup and sandwich.
But what a soup and sandwich they are! Pho is always an elevated soup experience. There are very few restaurants nearby where you can get by ordering just a bowl of soup. To start, the portion is huge with amazing broth and plenty of noodles, and there’s so much going on inside that you won’t tire of it halfway through. White Bowl offers a number of different protein choices, but brisket or tofu go best in the pho. Each bowl is also accompanied by a plate of fixings you can add to your liking: bean sprouts for crunch, basil for flavor, jalapeno for spice. Finish it off with some spicy sriracha and you’re ready to indulge.
Just as the broth is everything for a good bowl of pho, a bahn mi is just a sandwich if it doesn’t have that perfectly flaky baguette. Each one features crunchy carrots and cucumbers, raw jalapeno, cilantro, and a creamy sauce. The grilled sausage, cut into thin slivers, or pork bahn mi are best at White Bowl and extremely cheap considering the quality of the sandwich (far better than a “five-dollar foot long”). Splitting a bowl of pho and a bahn mi (conveniently cut in two) makes for a cheap and fun date.
White Bowl has tasty egg rolls, spring rolls, and other appetizers, but you can find those at most Asian restaurants in the area. If you’re in the mood for an appetizer at White Bowl, go for the shrimp toast: four crispy slices of toast with a layer of hot and chunky shrimp dip that’s so good, you’ll want to make a full sandwich with it. They’re a perfect bite to share.
Hiding with the bahn mi rather than the pho is the beef stew with baguette. It’s placement on the menu is a testament to how important dipping the bread in the savory broth is to enjoying the dish. It’s not very different from the vegetable soups with salt meat many a grandma make around here, with the exception of some flare from the cilantro. All of the soups at White Bowl have that comforting quality, as if slurping down a bowl will heal you of any sickness you may have. The beef stew is an especially great choice for when you want something comforting and delicious.
If you’re not in the mood for a soup or sandwich, White Bowl has great fried rice with grilled meats, but you may want to go with something more unique from the vermicelli section of the menu. These bowls forgo the broth and opt for loads of noodles and meat instead. It’s hard not to taste our local grillades in the grilled pork, again with a bit of Asian flare. Don’t be afraid of the fish sauce that accompanies many of the dishes here. It’s sweet and sour and works so well with this type of food.
Be sure to check the daily special board before ordering. There are usually several like the bun bo hue, similar to the pho with a spicier red broth and loads of grilled tofu that soak up the broth’s flavor especially well. Another special, the bahn xeo, is a crepe stuffed with bean sprouts, onions, shrimp, and brisket. Don’t go in expecting a delicate little crepe, though. This thing is massive and nearly bursting with the stuffed ingredients.
If you’re still hungry after all that, or looking for something sweet at the end of your meal, grab a bubble tea to go. They’re more like thick milk shakes featuring unique flavors like honey dew melon and avocado as well as the more familiar strawberry. What makes them truly interesting is the inclusion of small tapioca balls at the bottom of the cup that get randomly sucked up through the straw, giving you a taste of pudding. It’s worth getting just for the novelty, but they’re very tasty and easy to take with you.
If you can’t dine in, White Bowl makes it extremely easy to enjoy their food at home. Every part of the pho is individually packaged so that you don’t have to worry about the veggies getting soggy or someone adding too much basil or jalapeno. They pack the protein in a tiny take out box, the broth in it’s own container, the separate fixings in a box, and even hoison and sriracha sauce. When your soup is the most popular item on the menu, you have to go out of your way to make it accessible like this, and White Bowl does a great job of it.
Vietnamese is still exotic cuisine in our area, and White Bowl is the only local restaurant specializing it, but you wouldn’t know that given how smoothly the restaurant has ingrained itself in the local food scene. White Bowl is a hip, welcoming restaurant with great food that just makes you feel good.
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White Bowl| 235 Enterprise Dr, Houma | (985) 262-4093