Triad Leg of the Boudin Trail
The Boudin Trail runs west and then north from New Orleans, winding through the River Parishes with stops in Thibodaux, Breaux Bridge, Lake Charles, Carencro, Eunice and Mamou, among others, each offering a localized version of boudin (pronounced boo-DAN), that wonderful, spicy sausage made from rice, organ meats, pork and whatever else they have on hand to throw into the grinder. It’s sold in small mom-and-pop restaurants, roadside stands and, most frequently, gas stations.
Roger Devall, Baton Rouge, La. native, former blue-collar hero and current proprietor of CafÃ© Potato Workz, knows the road well.
“I try to tell people about that,” he says, “but they don’t believe me.”
Recently he’s created his own outpost of that Bottom South tradition right here in Greensboro with a shop adjacent to the Exxon station on North Battleground. And though the sign outside touts the giant stuffed potatoes and the menu has everything from appetizers to wings to burgers, Devall has laced the menu with Cajun and Creole favorites that are right up there with anything you can get in Acadiana.
No boudin. Yet. But he rolls out jambalaya, shrimp etouffee, red beans and rice, muffalettas and all the classic po-boys: ham and cheese, shrimp and oyster, catfish, roast beef. Not heroes. Not grinders. Not subs or hoagies 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.
The jambalaya is the real deal, browned by roux and dusted with cayenne, chunks of chicken and authentic andouille sausage poking through the rice. And the shrimp etouffee… God I could just sit here and smell it, that holy trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper stirring sense memories in me I haven’t felt since I left the Crescent City eight long years ago.
But I’m ordering a muffaletta, one of those Italian sandwiches big as a wagon wheel, with slabs of salami and ham on seeded bread and with a layer of marinated Italian salad made famous by immigrants down in bayou country. A whole one could feed an entire family. 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 Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, and Devall used to get his from Gambino’s, until he figured out how to make it himself. He holds up a bucket of it: diced garlic, black and green olives, carrots, celery, cauliflower, pepperoncini and a few ingredients that he refuses to name. He says it takes him more than four hours to do it right, and then an unspecified amount of days – another trade secret – to ferment. His muffalettas are served warm, with melted provolone, and they’re popular with Louisiana expats and North State natives alike.
It’s a real muffaletta, with that crusty bread and the tang of olives and vinegar, and I spend a good 20 minutes on it, chewing, savoring each bite, letting my mind wander back to the Quarter and the French Market and the blast of steam whistles on the Mississippi River. It’s like a vacation 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.
Devall has big plans. He’s building a deck off the side of the building, and has designs on thee gas station itself, which he’d like to turn into a real sit-down restaurant. He says he’s getting crawfish in a couple weeks, and by the time this story he should be selling alligator sausage just the way the do at the French Market down by the river.
“It’s gonna be on a stick,” he says.
I’ll be back for some of that, me, and I’ll be looking forward to sampling his gumbo when the weather turns cold. I’m pretty sure I’ll get what I came for: real Louisiana cooking crafted by a man who knows his business.
“Daddy always said, “If you’re gonna do it, do it right,'” Devall says.
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