Breaux Bridge draws tourists near and far for quaint cultural experience
By Cheré Coen
Special to FUN
September 18, 2012
If tourism publicity were an Olympic event, Breaux Bridge would have several gold medals.
The quaint town 20 minutes outside of Lafayette has been named in numerous “best of” lists, recently spotlighted on Travel Channel and proclaimed the “Best Food Town” of 2011 by Garden & Gun magazine. Maxim.com named the town’s annual Crawfish Festival the No. 1 food party in 2007, and Trip Advisor’s 2007 Travel Cast named Breaux Bridge No. 1 in the United States and No. 2 in the world, based on Internet hits.
Breaux Bridge is home to music venues where internationally known musicians play, including Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Geno Delafose. Locals may take these Cajun and zydeco musicians for granted, but visitors don’t. They travel from around the world to visit La Poussiere, the original Cajun dancehall, and Café des Amis’ weekly zydeco brunch on Saturdays that packs in tourists and residents alike.
The town is also known for its food, from Café des Amis’ Cajun and Creole cuisine to Café Josephine’s French menu. Poché’s Market offers both a meat market and a counter dishing out plate lunch specials and barbecue, plus Charley T’s serves up outstanding boudin. There’s Buck and Johnny’s Pizzeria for something different and Glenda’s Creole/Cajun Kitchen, recently featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show on Travel Channel.
Add to all of this fun the antique shops, art galleries, bed and breakfasts and now a kayak outfitter named Bayou Teche Experience, and you’ve found the perfect weekend getaway.
“In our part of the country, creativity is a part of life, whether eating food, doing art or playing music,” explained Todd Mouton, executive director of Louisiana Folk Roots and, with his wife, Jen, co-owner of Bonne Terre Cottage Bed and Breakfast. “Cajuns here have been pushed around a lot, want to do things their way and they don’t necessarily care what you think. What they want to do is pursue their passion.”
Both the isolation of a culture and the desire to maintain it have led to Breaux Bridge being epicenter of an authentic Cajun experience, Mouton said.
“People are drawn here because culture is unspoiled, not hindered as much by mass culture,” he explained. “That’s why people come here. That’s what makes it so good. All the pieces — food, music, etc. — all come together.”
Music lovers have plenty to choose from in Breaux Bridge.
For a more authentic Cajun and zydeco music experience, La Poussiere dancehall features live music on Thursday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. This Saturday it’s Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie beginning at 8 p.m.
Café des Amis offers its internationally famous Zydeco Brunch from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, with doors opening at 7 a.m. Admission is $5 but visitors receive that in credit if ordering food. This popular event draws a crowd so it’s best to either arrive early for a table (they don’t take reservations) or come later in the morning, enjoy the music, then stay for lunch. Café des Amis also offers live music on Wednesdays. This week it’s Joe Hall and the Cane Cutters on Saturday and Cat Head Biscuit Boys on Wednesday starting at 7:30 p.m.
Pont Breaux Cajun Restaurant, housed in what used to be the original Mulate’s, offers live Cajun music every night of the week. It’s not unusual to see famous musicians dropping in and playing with the house bands.
Buck & Johnny’s Pizzeria, in the heart of Breaux Bridge, features local musicians on occasion. Housed in the old Domigues Motors building, visitors may enjoy Italian specialties and La. 31 beer, a local brew, beneath old motor signs and other Americana antiques.
In addition to venues in town, only a short drive away there are Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing and Pat’s in Henderson offering regular live music.
Cory Werk grew up in Torrance, Calif., but has roots in south Louisiana. When he visited Breaux Bridge, where his mother had property, and saw that the tranquil Bayou Teche had no kayak or canoe outfitter, an idea took hold. He and his father opened Bayou Teche Experience in March, renting out kayaks for use not only on the Teche but also on nearby Lake Martin as well. Visitors can paddle the bayou from Cecilia to St. Martinville with a shuttle to and from.
“Paddling is growing here,” Werk said. “The recognition we’ve received has been great. There’s no motor, no noise, just you and nature. It’s a very serene way of exploring Acadiana.”
Werk will customize trips to anyone’s tastes, he said, including company “bonding” experiences. He said there are exit points up and down the bayou so people can “put out” when they need a rest or if a storm arrives. The upper Teche offers plenty of shade from overhanging trees so a popular paddle is from Cecilia to Breaux Bridge, about 2 ½ hours. Many people like to put in at Cecilia mid-morning and stop at Poché’s Market for lunch, then conclude at Breaux Bridge in the early to mid-afternoon, he said.
For the lower Teche, which widens as it makes it way toward St. Martinville and beyond, there will be a portage in place by the end of August at the Keystone Lock and Dam, making it easier for kayakers to head south, Werk said.
Werk also shuttles paddlers to Lake Martin with its bird rookeries and alligator sightings, plus moonlight paddles on or close to full moons.
All of Werk’s kayaks are self-bailing, accommodate two people plus coolers and are easy to handle, he said.
“Whether you’re 7 or 70 years old, you can kayak,” Werk said. “My clientele is as diverse as the opportunities to paddle.”
Werk is open daily on Bridge Street by the Teche bridge and across the street from the Bayou Teche Visitors Center. He prefers reservations; call (337) 366-0337 or visit http://www.bayoutecheexperience.com.
For those wanting a more peaceful experience, the Moutons’ Bonne Terre Cottage offers a lovely respite in the countryside. The cottage is located only a short drive from downtown Breaux Bridge, on farmland with horses, goats and a couple of wandering cats.
Because the Moutons are immersed in south Louisiana culture, their cottage is full of Louisiana books, films and music.
There’s even a record player and vinyl records of Louisiana artists for the purists and a take-along CD for those wanting to bring the music of Louisiana home with them.
“Most people come by car and can leave listening to the CD,” Jen Mouton said.
The cottage consists of a sleeping loft, stocked kitchen (with Louisiana food items, of course), eating area, old-fashioned bath and living room with futon.
Surrounding the house is an expansive porch, great for watching livestock and birds at the numerous feeders and enjoying a glass of wine.
On the walls both inside and out is artwork by Louisiana artists.
“We want people to support Louisiana arts,” Mouton said.