by Angie Kay Dilmore
Southwest Louisiana is known for its excellent food, and not only the Bayou State-inspired Cajun and Creole cuisine. Our region offers a wide variety of culturally diverse ethnic options. This story gives a glimpse of how some of these foods found their way to our little corner of the country, and where you can find them here today.
* (These lists of restaurants are only examples and by no means complete listings.)
324 Pujo St, Lake Charles, La.
Mike Sperandeo says his family has the same story as many Italians and Sicilians that migrated to America. “My ancestors settled in New Orleans in the late 1800’s from Palermo, Sicily. A wealthy uncle was the benefactor for most of the family to make the voyage. My father’s father was in the restaurant business in New Orleans, and although he died when my father was only four, my dad, Marco Sperandeo, always wanted to own a restaurant. In the mid 1950’s, Marco was transferred to Lake Charles from NOLA to take the managerial position of the local branch of Bausch & Lomb Optical. We both remained in the optical business for many years. After several ventures in the restaurant business in the mid 1970’s to mid 80’s, Marco opened The Italian Villa in 1986 where Rikenjaks is now located. Many of the original recipes were from my grandmother and Marco’s sister, Josephine – both amazing Italian cooks. We were there on Ryan Street for 18 years. I decided, after working for Nic Hunter at The Harlequin for 10 years, to open my own restaurant again. In 2017, my lovely wife Brenda and I opened what we named The Villa and subsequently The Villa Harlequin when we merged with The Harlequin in 2019. The Villa Harlequin is a bit of a hybrid restaurant doing some classic Italian, some steaks and Harlequin dishes and many chef-driven dishes from Chef Amanda Cusey.”
2612 Kirkman St B, Lake Charles, La.
Brothers Sam and Georges Homsi left Lebanon in 1982 and came to America via Africa in 1986, supported and encouraged by their cousin George Abraham. Sam was first known for his Homsi’s Tobacco and Beer (originally on Broad St. and now on Kirkman St.) – a go-to for a wide variety of liquors. The brothers opened Cousin’s Lebanese Cuisine in 2012 and it’s been a dining destination in Lake Charles ever since. They’re best known for steaks, crawfish and shrimp dishes, and their loaded potatoes.
1708 Gerstner Memorial Dr, Lake Charles, La.,
Leonard Fuselier opened his popular diner in 1986 after working in the restaurant business for nearly 30 years, starting as a dishwasher in the kitchen of a local bowling alley at age 16. Leonard’s fuses Cajun and Creole with a touch of soul. They specialize in Louisiana favorites such as boudin, cracklins, chicken and sausage gumbo, crawfish and shrimp etouffees, red beans and rice, and their own brand of Creole seasonings.
2433 Broad St, Lake Charles, La.
Mr. and Mrs. Tong Thy “Jay” Huang immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1976. They worked in the restaurant business in New Orleans, Houston, and here in Lake Charles. In 1984, they bought the China Garden Restaurant and re-opened it as the Peking Gardens. It’s been one of the area’s most popular Chinese restaurants for 35 years.
Yueh Shing Chen Huang, aka “Mrs. Jay” developed the Hunan-style Chinese menu and recipes. Several dishes, such as Dr. Bono’s Soup, Robert McHale’s Shrimp Noodles, and Dr. Cormier’s Eggrolls are named after long-time regular customers. Peking Gardens is also well known for their large, colorful tiki drinks, such as the Mai Tai and the Flaming Volcano (big enough for two!) In addition to great food, visiting Peking Gardens is like entering a Chinese art museum. It is furnished with fine furniture and antiques, dark wood paneling, large traditional Chinese paintings, lamps, bronze lions, a wooden Buddha, and other works of art.
2401 E Napoleon St, Sulphur, La.,
Rosita’s has been serving satisfied customers since 2007. They have a reputation for being one of the most authentic Mexican establishments in the region – even down to the menu, which is written in Spanish with English translations. Along with the expected Mexican fare on their expansive menu, you’ll also find unique items such as Shrimp Ceviche and “Caldo de Camaron”, a rich shrimp soup. Or try their classic Carne Asada – grilled whole flank steak served with sliced, grilled cactus and onion, pico de gallo, roasted jalapeno, slice of lime, Spanish rice, refried beans and your choice of corn or flour tortillas..
2401 E Napoleon St, Sulphur, La.,
On their menu, Royal Tandoor is touted as a “Palace of Authentic Curries, Naan, and More.” While this Indo/Pakistani establishment may appear humble, one look at their menu will make diners feel special indeed. Each item is so tempting, you may have a hard time deciding what to order; but butter chicken is a favorite.