Shreveport Serves Great Feast for Fat Tuesday and Throughout the Year
The Agri Trio salad (above) at SALT, with Emerald Tabouli, deconstructed potato salad, and Doodley Dee’s seasonal salad and homemade bread sticks. This is the “small” version.
Photos by Gaile Robinson
Shreveport is upping its food game with many new chefs, new restaurants, and aspirants at the local farmers’ market and mobile food trucks. They are making their names and edging out some of the less inspired eateries, leaving a landscape of old, entrenched, but beloved, stalwarts and dazzling newcomers. Here’s but a sample of culinary delights found in “Louisiana’s Other Side” just in time for Fat Tuesday or any time of the year.
The morning offering at Well+Fed boasts a bounty of baked goods, many made without wheat, eggs, or dairy — not that one would ever know — to go along with their juice bar offerings.
One of the new dining locations in Shreveport is this juice bar and café that caters to foodies with lists of imperatives — organic, vegan, gluten free, sugar free, and paleo compliant — whatever needs to be eliminated, owners Lindi Martin and Ashley Everage have figured out a way to do it. They recently teamed up with Scratch House Kitchen to offer foods that pair with their juices. They claim they serve the only avocado toast in Shreveport, and they have developed the After Booze juice for morning after ills that contains activated charcoal, lemonade, agave nectar, and alkaline water. It may not be as tasty as their most popular juice made of rose water, pineapple, green apple, lemon, pear, and beet, but it will cure what ails you. A kid favorite is the beet, carrot, apple, and lemon juice with a pound of carrots in each drink. The $8-a-bottle juices don’t have adorable names, they are simply referred to by their list of ingredients.
One recent morning on their outdoor patio, plates of organic breakfast items included black pepper biscuits, maple oat scones, cinnamon rolls, avocado toast, biscuits (made by baker/nurse practitioner Monika Thompson) without wheat, eggs or dairy — not that you’d notice —and a pumpkin bowl smoothie with pumpkin, dates, cashew milk, ice, and bananas. Oatmeal cookies made the breakfast menu because, you know, oatmeal.
Well+Fed Louisiana, 687 Egan Street. 318. 779.0030. wellfedLa.net
Whisk Dessert Bar
The beautifully plated cannoli at Whisk Dessert Bar is a cannoli in shape only — the waffle exterior encases a filling of champagne-roasted strawberries and Chantilly mascarpone cream.
Last year the winner of the Golden Fork, Shreveport’s chef smack-down competition was caterer Blake Jackson. After his triumph, Jackson opened a charming dessert café.
“The food scene is crowded now so it’s hard to have an original dish,” Jackson says, “but the dessert landscape is wide open. We have so much room to play.”
That may explain his mocha, green tea, and white chocolate cookie, and the stunning chocolate doma, an igloo-shaped plated dessert, with interior layers of varying chocolate densities, including a bouchon (a cork–shaped brownie), dark chocolate mousse, a caramel crack layer, then the whole thing is enrobed in a glossy dark chocolate outer layer. It is served with three cocoa dusted truffles because you can never have enough chocolate. Or maybe you can. This definitely tests the endurance level of a dedicated chocoholic.
The French pastries, cookies, and gelatos are all on display. His most spectacular and creative offerings, such as the doma, are not available for ogling, as they have to be handmade, but are worth the wait.
Whisk Dessert Bar, 724 Azalea. 318.459. 8771. facebook.com/whiskshv/
El Cabo Verde
Flights of margaritas at El Cabo Verde include the traditional lime as well as mango, cucumber, and spicy versions.
Gabriel Balderas began his chef journey in a taco stand at the local farmers’ market. He climbed the food ladder and moved to a taco truck and was so successful with such an avid clientele base following him from location to location, he hit the brakes and made it easy for them by opening El Cabo Verde a year ago. The minimalistic, all white interior of his restaurant, named for Caddo and Bossier parishes, is not what a Texan expects of a Mexican restaurant. It’s so nouvelle.
Balderas is a proponent of the slow food movement and insists that his ingredients are fresh, organic, and locally sourced. In 2016, he was named a Chef to Watch by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine.
The queso and guacamole are two of the most delicious appetizers found at any Mexican restaurant.. Smooth, just the right amount of kick, and bereft of needless chunky additives that seems to do little but make it difficult to wield a chip.
Their flight of margaritas come with large glasses in a three-carrier tray. The traditional lime margarita is the best, as the mango and cucumber tended toward too much sweetness and could be mistaken for daiquiris. The spicy version looked like a mojito it had so much greenery floating in it. The taste seemed to come straight from the pickled jalapeno jar, with way too much jalapeno burn for drinking enjoyment. It was comforting to know the traditional is still the best.
Sometime between flights of margaritas and the offering of flan, more appetizers and main courses are appreciated. The ceviche is excellent but the pork carnitas can be a little dry.
El Cabo Verde, 1023 Provence Place, 318.603.3167. facebook.com/elcaboverdeorganics
From the creative bar manager at SALT is the No.7, with vanilla vodka and apricot liqueur.
Located next to the new aquarium attraction in Shreveport is the restaurant SALT (Sea, Land, Air, and Time). Both are situated on the banks of the Red River with a glorious view that encourages gathering.
The lunch menu is built primarily on locally sourced ingredients and credit is given to their origins, such as the Bahn Mi sandwich ($12) of pork loin from the organic Mahaffey Farms. A troika of salads, the Agri Trio ($14, $20), consisted of Emerald Tabouli, (cauliflower, broccoli and garlic rice with tomatoes and cucumbers), Deconstructed Potato Salad (potatoes and sweet potatoes, herbs de Provence, pickled artichokes and mustard dressing), and Doodley Dee’s Seasonal Salad of romaine, blistered peppers, honey orange vinaigrette, pecans, and goat blue cheese are more than a lunch portion. All of the salads are available individually as well. Chef Aaron Ehrle seems to have spent as much time naming his menu items as constructing them.
The force behind the bar, Kelli Sizemore, is the woman guests want as their new BFF. Her cocktails are unusual, imaginative, and quite tasty. They are numbered, rather than named. No. 7, with 360 Vanilla Vodka, apricot liqueur, almond extract, and cherry blossom foam is as pretty as wedding reception décor.
SALT, 601 Clyde Fant Parkway. saltshreveport.com
Beignets — these humble sugar bombs are treated to exuberant plating at Marilynn’s.
Marilynn’s is an institution in Shreveport where coffee and beignets are served all day. Beignets are those puffy clouds of deep-fried dough heavily dusted in powdered sugar. Diners can eat the beignets and then proceed to wear most of the powdered sugar on their shirt for the rest of the day. Everyone knows what they’ve been doing but there is no shame here.
There is a full menu of Louisiana specialties in this converted filling station —red beans and rice, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole, seafood gumbo, and fried seafood po’ boys, ending the menu with the LA big finish, bread pudding.
Well known for its food, Marilynn’s is equally famous for the parade, the daily parade. While it is the place to be during Shreveport’s Mardi Gras, the weekly Sunday morning brunch is also quite a spectator sport. Most of the crowd is just finishing their Saturday night revelries, so expect un-choreographed entertainment. It is overseen by local colorful character Bozz Baucom.
Marilynn’s Place, 4041 Fern Ave. 318.868.3004. marilynns-place.com
Real BBQ and More
One item on the menu at Real BBQ and More is the Now and Later, which is four pounds of meat on a huge baked potato, topped with a hearty plop of mac ‘n’ cheese.
Harvey Clay is a giant among the Shreveport pit masters, literally. He is the size of a phone booth, and likely to welcome you with a hearty hug that’ll squeeze some extra space in your mid section to make room for more of his barbecue. He’s Texas born and smokes his meats over pecan wood the way he learned how in Midland.
Eight years ago he started in a building so small all it had for service was a drive-thru window. Four years later he moved to a site that accommodated dine-in. Recently he moved to a 90-seat facility. Just a week after opening, he was in an expansive mood and happy to talk about his early years and the family that contributes to the effort.
“If you don’t have pride about making it good, you should just go home,” he says.
To that end, everything at Real BBQ is made in house. His wife Shirley makes the potato salad. This is one of the most problematic points at so many barbecue joints: the sides taste like institutional slop. Not so at Real BBQ. Shirley uses her mom’s recipe, half mayo and half mustard, and it is just right. His daughter Erica makes the beans and they are truly outstanding.
The ribs were superb, large, flavorful, and quite juicy. They had the requisite charred crust and interior rosy ring that is evidence of a long time in the smoker.
There is an item on the menu called the Now and Later, which is four pounds of meat on a baked potato the size of an athletic shoe, topped with a hearty plop of mac ‘n’ cheese. More apt would be to call it the This Month and Next Month, as it would probably last that long in a Styrofoam to-go box.
The iced tea is sold “un-sweet” or “really sweet,” so finally there is some truth to that division of the tea divide.
Real BBQ and More, 5863 Fairfield Avenue. 318.670.3730.
Strawn’s Eat Shop
This old-fashioned diner entertains with fun murals on the walls.
Every town of some size has a breakfast joint. In Shreveport it is Strawn’s Eat Shop. The name alone speaks to its lack of pretension. It is an old-fashioned diner, famed for its strawberry pie, breakfasts, and giant mounds of butter that are displayed like centerpieces on counters.
It’s seat-yourself service. While waiting guests can take in the many murals of dubious quality and ponder, “Is that really the Three Stooges next to John Wayne?” A waitress who is likely to call you, “Sugar,” comes by and it’s good to be ready with your order. Be prepared.
The prices are inexpensive. Only the dinner specials with drink and a slice of their very famous pie tops $10.
Strawn’s is an institution. It’s been in the same place since 1944 and owned by the same family since 1988 so the locals probably don’t notice the hard-worn surfaces and patina of grease. Some of the best breakfast joints survive because they are an institutionalized habit, so it is with Strawn’s. It also has a history of accolades that fuel its longevity — the strawberry pie has been featured in Southern Living six times, and the establishment is listed by Thrillist as one of the “21 Best Diners in America.”
Strawn’s Eat Shop, 125 E. Kings Hwy. 318.868.0634. strawnseatshop.com
Herby K's signature flat shrimp and onion rings, a small dish of gumbo, and lump crabmeat appetizer are recommended.
This very old, beloved, tiny, family-owned restaurant is a must on every trip to Shreveport. It began as a neighborhood grocery store sometime in the 1920s. In 1936, Herby K., son of the original owner, added food service. The restaurant of long standing is now in the hands of the fourth generation, and from the looks of the bar back, customers have been leaving sentimental tokens since the day the store first opened.
Still in its original location, near the intersection of I-20 and U.S. 80, the area has transitioned from a neighborhood of houses to light industrial, to vacant lots, which makes parking spots easy to find.
A constant stream of visitors maxes out the limited seating even mid-afternoon on a weekday. They come for the fried seafood and the signature dish, the Shrimp Buste ($12.95), butterflied fried shrimp pounded to flatness, served on French bread with fries, coleslaw and a sauce that tastes half red sauce and half barbecue sauce.
Po’ boys, burgers, fried seafood in sandwich or dinner form, frog legs, soft shell crab, raw oysters, salads, and sides (choose the onion rings) are on the extensive menu inducing customers to suspect the kitchen must be twice the size of the dining room.
The service is gracious and attentive; the ambience, colorful; the food, great. Plus, it is such a dive people just want to like it.
Herby K’s, 1833 Pierre Avenue.
The entrees at Lucky Palace in Bossier City include plate after plate of Chinese food.
The roasted duck on scallion pancakes at Lucky Palace is perfect.
Don’t look. Driving up to the most recognized and awarded Chinese restaurant in Bossier City, do not look at the surroundings. Do not judge from the outside. Located on the ground floor of a worn motel that rents by the week, the Lucky Palace is the place to go, especially to dine with area chefs.
Owned by Kuan Lim, a Malaysian wine aficionado, the restaurant serves some of the best Chinese food one can find between the Chinese neighborhoods in New York and California. Lim’s wine stock is famous, and awards decorate a good portion of the lobby, including Top Ten Restaurants in USA, Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator every year since 2003, local hosannas, and reader’s choice awards from the Shreveport Times.
The menu is extensive, but the must-have, do-not-miss item is the Duck on Scallion Pancake ($20.95). The perfectly roasted crispy duck is served with shredded scallion on soft, scallion-infused pancakes with a side of hoisin sauce. Simple and delicious.
The duck and steak entrees are standouts. The traditional Chinese dishes are handled beautifully with crisp, fresh produce, but order the duck. Diners would have to travel across at least four state lines to find duck this well prepared.
Remember, upon leaving, do not look at the motel surroundings.
Lucky Palace, 750 Diamond Jacks Blvd., Bossier City. 318.752.1888
Gaile Robinson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.