Located in the old Tribune building in downtown Lafayette, The French Press mixes the best of Cajun country and New Orleans French Quarter vibes. The restaurant specializes in rich breakfast, brunch and lunch menu items.
On weekends, seating can be scarce. Late Saturday morning, I saw one last table for two, perfect for me and my daughter.
Before going for a bite, I asked the gallery manager across the street what was good, she said, “Everything.” She was right on that, and urged me to “go, go now.”
The French Press has old walls and industrial surfaces. Add that to the patron noise and you get a decidedly French Quarter feel. If you remember the old, pre-Katrina Sugar Magnolia, there’s a touch of that as well.
The menu is heavy on Crescent City cuisine — fried oysters, grits and grillades and shrimp — all with touches of Big Easy sophistication.
The restaurant is also on New Orleans time, so don’t be in a rush.
Lafayette and New Orleans have always had an easygoing affinity for one another. Perhaps it’s the mindset and calorie-dense cuisine, but the French Press menu is proof.
Chef Justin Girouard is James Beard Award-nominated, and it shows. A number of dishes bear his signature South Louisiana stamp. The Acadian Breakfast Sandwich (bacon, egg, cheese and boudin on Evangeline Maid toast, $8.50) and Sweet Baby Breesus (three buttermilk biscuit sliders with fried boudin balls and Steen’s Cane Syrup, $10.50) are prime examples.
The mimosas are mostly champagne and easy on the orange juice, just the way it should be. They complement our Praline Bacon ($5.50) a decadent version of the breakfast staple and, like New Orleans, is total excess but worth it.
My Croque-Monsieur is an updated classic: Black Forest ham and Gruyère cheese with tomato and aioli, perfectly grilled, and served with either fries or potato salad on the side. Get the potato salad, a light, creamy, non-mustard version sprinkled with scallions and bacon.
My daughter opts for Chicken and Waffles ($12.50), an old dish — not Southern despite the sound and the fried chicken — but Pennsylvania Dutch-by-way-of Harlem. The waffles are more savory than sweet and a delicious segue between meals, which was the original purpose in the days when night-clubbers exited hungry but too early for breakfast. Girouard’s take features LeBlanc’s cane jelly atop the crisp fried chicken, two cheddar waffles and Steen’s syrup.
Just like New Orleans, you’ll think you just died and went to heaven after eating a plate. Or as the gallery manager hinted earlier, you’re going to want to go back to The French Press, regularly and often.