When Eat Lafayette started more than a decade ago, it wasn't too difficult to navigate through the few dozen restaurants participating in the summer dining campaign.
Fast forward 15 years, and it's easy to get overwhelmed while scrolling through more than 100 participating locally owned restaurants.
Enter the new dining by district feature, which might best be described as akin to searching Google for the "best restaurants near me."
"Before this, we just had all 100 listed. This is easier," said Ben Berthlot, president and CEO of Lafayette Travel, the promotion and marketing organization that oversees Eat Lafayette. "If you're a tourist staying in Broussard, you can find the locally owned restaurants near you. Same goes for if you're a local visiting a friend who lives on Kaliste Saloom. It's a very easy tool for people."
Andrea Veron, who owns Cafe Vermilionville with her husband, Ken, came up with the idea.
"Lafayette's become fragmented — within the city and beyond with Broussard, Youngsville, all these different areas," Veron said. "I felt like a concentrated effort on each of these areas would be good."
When Veron is at work, she can explore other options in the Oil Center district. When at home, she can explore the downtown district.
Districts like these were easy to define because they are named for existing neighborhoods within Lafayette. Other districts, such as Kaliste Saloom and Mid-town, took a bit more creativity from the team at Lafayette Travel.
Districts and their specialties include:
- Broussard: Founded in 1884, this neighboring Lafayette town was named after Valsin Broussard, a prominent local merchant and direct descendant of one of the original 200 Acadians to arrive in 1765. It's a great place to grab some Cajun comfort food, from gumbo and po-boys to Southern-style plate lunches.
- Carencro: While Carencro comes from the Creole name for buzzard, it’s a beautiful community with rolling hills and horse farms located north of Interstate 10 along Interstate 49. It's the perfect place to grab a pizza, Greek cuisine, a burger with a Bloody Mary or comfort foods like fried catfish with crawfish étouffée and smothered okra with shrimp.
- Downtown: No trip to Lafayette is complete without spending time in the soul of the city. The original Cajun town of Vermilionville was established here before the American Revolution. Downtown is the perfect place to grab an upscale meal before a performance at the Acadiana Center for the Arts or a casual lunch with the kids after visiting the Lafayette Science Museum and Planetarium, Acadiana Children’s Museum or Parc Sans Souci.
- Greater Lafayette: Since its humble beginnings, Cajun food consisted of simple, country-style dishes, unlike the fancy city food of New Orleans. That’s why all around Acadiana, you’ll find the most extraordinary food in seemingly ordinary places. Incredible barbecue from a gas station? Absolutely. Louisiana fare inside an old garage with gators, deer and peacocks out back? Only in Cajun Country.
- Kaliste Saloom: When a prominent Lebanese family gave land to the city for a new road between the Vermilion River and Verot School Road, they didn’t request money but rather that they honor their late husband and father, Kaliste Saloom. Today, Kaliste Saloom Road is a bustling thoroughfare, connecting the older section of the city with the new. A mix of established mom-and-pops along with chic shopping centers offer everything from classic French pastries and artisan meats and cheeses to ramen, vegan, Tex-Mex, burgers and desserts.
- Mid-Town: Traveling from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette south down Johnston and Congress streets is an area known as Mid-Town, established in the 1950s and ‘60s. You won’t find many chains here but rather a plethora of shops and family-owned restaurants that cater to the residents of popular nearby neighborhoods. You’ll find everything from Cuban to Mexican, Greek to Italian, and Southern to Cajun. Grab an old-fashioned burger and milkshake with the kids or sip craft cocktails on date night.
- Oil Center: In the 1950s, the first oil companies in Lafayette moved into offices between Heymann Boulevard and Pinhook Road, and the area was dubbed the Oil Center. Restaurants and social organizations like The Petroleum Club opened up to support the local businesses, and the area remains a hot-spot for shopping and dining today with award-winning chefs, a gourmet kitchen store and a locally owned specialty grocery store.
- River Ranch: This new-urbanism neighborhood on the Vermillion River is home to quiet pocket parks, flowering gardens and a variety of architectural styles. Just off the town square, you’ll discover popular spots for grabbing a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a fabulous meal.
- Saints Streets: Just northwest of the UL is the quaint and beloved neighborhood of the Saints Streets. The Catholic influence remains strong in Lafayette since the Acadians arrived here in 1765 to freely practice Catholicism. The streets in this neighborhood are named after saints and feature majestic oaks, spring-time azaleas and Southern-style cottages. It's also home to gastronomical gems that serve fresh farm-to-table cuisine, famous po-boys and sno-balls.
- Scott: Settled by Southern Pacific Railway in 1880, Scott was located on the Old Spanish Trail, a trade route through Texas to Mexico. It's known as the Boudin Capital of the World and as the place "where the West begins." It remains a popular stop for travelers coming and going from Lake Charles and Texas. Stop on I-10 just west of Lafayette for boudin, cracklins, seafood and bread pudding.
- Southside: While you’ll notice many of your favorite chain restaurants, don’t overlook some of the city’s best locally owned eateries. There’s something to satisfy every craving from American and Mexican to Italian, Greek, German and Asian. Try duck gumbo at the city’s finest steakhouse or roll up your sleeves and tuck into a seafood supper before dancing the Cajun two-step.
- University: UL is home to the Ragin’ Cajuns and 19,000 students earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Restaurants surrounding campus not only attract students and faculty, but locals looking for great food at a great price. In a food town like Lafayette, even college fare is elevated, with fresh Greek cuisine, all-day gourmet breakfast and delicious burgers and wings.
- Upper Lafayette: The northern gateway into Lafayette is the crossroads of I-10 and I-49. A dining destination since 1980, Prejean’s embodies the Cajun joie de vivre, with its dancing, live music and down-home cooking. Romacelli, with three popular locations, serves authentic Italian-Mediterranean cuisine and offers great wine specials in the beautiful community of Couret Farms. Upper Lafayette is also home to The Wetlands Golf Course, an 18-hole public course with pro shop and onsite restaurant.
- Verot: Named for a school that operated until 1940, Verot School Road is a main thoroughfare in Lafayette. Are alligator and frog legs on your dining bucket list? You’ll find it here, along with some of the city’s best Cajun food, including crawfish, po-boys and crab cakes, plus Southern-style plate lunches and comfort food served without pretension.
- Youngsville: This once farm town is now one of the fastest growing communities in the state. As residents began moving into new subdivisions south of Lafayette, their favorite restaurants followed them. All around Youngsville, you’ll find great eateries in pristine shopping centers.
Discover restaurants in each district at lafayettetravel.com/eatlafayette/dining-by-district.