Triad leg of the boudin trail

by Brian Clarey

The Boudin Trailruns west and then north from New Orleans, winding through the RiverParishes with stops in Thibodaux, Breaux Bridge, Lake Charles,Carencro, Eunice and Mamou, among others, each offering a localizedversion of boudin (pronounced boo-DAN), that wonderful, spicy sausagemade from rice, organ meats, pork and whatever else they have on handto throw into the grinder. It’s sold in small mom-and-pop restaurants,roadside stands and, most frequently, gas stations. RogerDevall, Baton Rouge, La. native, former blue-collar hero and currentproprietor of Café Potato Workz, knows the road well. “I try to tell people about that,” he says, “but they don’t believe me.” Recentlyhe’s created his own outpost of that Bottom South tradition right herein Greensboro with a shop adjacent to the Exxon station on NorthBattleground. And though the sign outside touts the giant stuffedpotatoes and the menu has everything from appetizers to wings toburgers, Devall has laced the menu with Cajun and Creole favorites thatare right up there with anything you can get in Acadiana. Noboudin. Yet. But he rolls out jambalaya, shrimp etouffee, red beans andrice, muffalettas and all the classic po-boys: ham and cheese, shrimpand oyster, catfish, roast beef. Not heroes. Not grinders. Not subs orhoagies or Dagwoods. Po-boys. As God and man intended them. “I get the bread from Gambino’s down in New Orleans,” he says. Laissez le bon temps roule. Thejambalaya is the real deal, browned by roux and dusted with cayenne,chunks of chicken and authentic andouille sausage poking through therice. And the shrimp etouffee… God I could just sit here and smellit, that holy trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper stirring sensememories in me I haven’t felt since I left the Crescent City eight longyears ago. But I’m ordering a muffaletta, one of those Italiansandwiches big as a wagon wheel, with slabs of salami and ham on seededbread and with a layer of marinated Italian salad made famous byimmigrants down in bayou country. A whole one could feed an entirefamily. I get a half. Devall says he makes the salad himself.Sure you can buy it – they got it in big jars down by the CentralGrocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, and Devall used to gethis from Gambino’s, until he figured out how to make it himself. Heholds up a bucket of it: diced garlic, black and green olives, carrots,celery, cauliflower, pepperoncini and a few ingredients that he refusesto name. He says it takes him more than four hours to do it right, andthen an unspecified amount of days – another trade secret – to ferment.His muffalettas are served warm, with melted provolone, and they’repopular with Louisiana expats and North State natives alike. Here’s why. It’sa real muffaletta, with that crusty bread and the tang of olives andvinegar, and I spend a good 20 minutes on it, chewing, savoring eachbite, letting my mind wander back to the Quarter and the French Marketand the blast of steam whistles on the Mississippi River. It’s like avacation for my mouth. And though I’m a pretty heavy fork, I am unable to knock the whole portion out. Man, I’m getting old. Devallhas big plans. He’s building a deck off the side of the building, andhas designs on thee gas station itself, which he’d like to turn into areal sit-down restaurant. He says he’s getting crawfish in a coupleweeks, and by the time this story he should be selling alligatorsausage just the way the do at the French Market down by the river. “It’s gonna be on a stick,” he says. I’llbe back for some of that, me, and I’ll be looking forward to samplinghis gumbo when the weather turns cold. I’m pretty sure I’ll get what Icame for: real Louisiana cooking crafted by a man who knows hisbusiness. “Daddy always said, “If you’re gonna do it, do it right,'” Devall says.