Southwest Louisiana has experienced a significant population increase over the past several years. The more people who come here, the more resources we need; new neighborhoods, new roads, new stores . . . and new restaurants! The lake area is following several new food and restaurant trends, especially when it comes to ethnic foods. Seventy seven percent of Americans eat ethnic foods while dining out at least once amonth, and more than 38% order ethnic food weekly, according to Chicago-based research firm, Technomic. Locally, diners have numerous ethnic choices – Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, even Irish.
Several other dining trends can be spotted around town – bakeries, breakfast shops, breweries . . . it’s an exciting time of growth in Southwest Louisiana!
Mama Mia! Italian Dining
When it comes to ethnic food in America, no other cuisine is as popular as Italian, according to a recent National Restaurant Association report. And Lake Charles has recently opened several new Italian establishments. Mike Sperandeo has reinvented his family’s beloved restaurant and opened The Villa on Pujo St. He’s kept several of the traditional favorites and added plenty of new twists to his menu. For more casual dining, Pizza Artista opened at Prien Lake Mall, offering made to order pizzas with a wide variety of ingredients and friendly service. Coming soon, Romacelli Bistro, out of Lafayette, plans to open a new venue in the up and coming Morganfield neighborhood.
Tex-Mex on the Map
The Tex-Mex craze has spilled over the border into SWLA in recent years. Newer on the scene are Taco Mel Taqueria on Country Club Rd. and On Go Mex on Nelson Rd. for casual dining. El Paso Mexicano Grill will open soon on Derek Dr. The popular Sloppy Taco Food Truck gang has opened a brand new place on Broad St. called Sloppy’s Downtown, and they sell more than tacos!
Tex-Mex isn’t the only Texas-inspired restaurant new to Lake Charles. Dickey’s Barbecue Pitt on W. Prien Lake Rd. came to the area via Dallas. They are known for their authentic, slow-smoked Texan barbecue.
Bakeries, Breads, and Coffee
According to US.Foods, Americans are seeing several new trends in breads. Eight of ten consumers say the quality of the bread is key to creating a great sandwich. They’re looking for artisan breads, in-house baking, whole grains, focaccias, ciabattas, and creative seasonal breads. No surprise here, but pastries and desserts never go out of style. Rising to meet local consumer needs, new establishments include The Bekery and Great Harvest Bread Company. The Bekery on 11th St. is privately owned and offers a variety of breads and treats such as cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, and during Mardi Gras, King Cake! Patrons also enjoy homemade quiches, soups, and sandwiches. Great Harvest Bread Company, on the corner of Lake and Sale Sts., is a franchise out of Montana. Their menu includes many tempting breads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee.
Speaking of coffee, national trends show an increase in consumption of espresso and gourmet/specialty coffee beverages, including iced and frozen drinks. Cold brew infused with nitrogen for a stout-like effect came on the scene. Organic and fair trade coffees have increased in popularity. Approximately 80% of adult Americans drink coffee. SWLA is no exception. And we have plenty of coffee shops to sustain the addiction, with more on the way. Stellar Beans opened back in 2010 and continues to serve its downtown customers. Panera Bread and PJ’s Coffee on Nelson cater to coffee connoisseurs in South Lake Charles. Starbuck’s currently has four Lake Charles locations, with a fifth to open soon on Country Club Rd. CC’s Coffee also plans to open a new shop on Country Club. There is no lack of places to get your java fix.
Over the past decade, the nation has witnessed a surge in the craft beer movement. Lake Charles caught onto the microbrew trend last year with the opening of two new businesses. Rikenjaks Brewing Company is a brew pub on Ryan St. with an exciting food menu, a vibrant patio, live music, and an outdoor bar and game area. Crying Eagle Brewing on McNeese St. offers tours of their brewery. They do not serve food but often host food trucks in their parking lot.
Considering our love of all things food-related, you can be sure Southwest Louisiana will be on the forefront of what’s cooking in the restaurant world. With cutting edge chefs across the city, we likely may even start a few trends of our own!