Rusted Rooster is a small, cozy restaurant located across the street from city government in Lafayette, close to a busy intersection and next door to an equally busy pizza place.
It’s easier to get Super Bowl tickets than it is to get into the parking lot but worth whatever it takes.
The owner himself has come out of the restaurant to help guide us while the pizza delivery guy obliges by moving his vehicle.
You can’t beat that for valet parking.
Had the squeeze been any tighter, we’d be sitting with the couple on the sidewalk. Instead, we get the last indoor table for two on a busy Wednesday at noon.
“It’s like this most days,” says owner Alex Andrade, who’s slammed but sincere and waiting tables with just one other person.
No one’s rushed; no one’s neglected.
The lunch menu is sandwiches and salads (the restaurant also serves Louisiana-style morning fare), and the recommendations come in quickly.
“If you like a Reubens, we have our own, the Zerben,” Andrade says. “You can’t go wrong with the burgers, but the Ciabatta Believe is my personal go-to sandwich. Sometimes, I get it with prosciutto, but it’s good without.”
We order it with a side of fries and some fruit.
The restaurant makes efficient use of its space but still manages to include all the amenities — fresh flowers on the tables, rustic Americana on the walls, and roosters figure strongly in the décor. Local mementos give the limited footage true atmosphere.
The crowd is diverse at the Rusted Rooster. There’s a table of musicians next to us, some suits at another, older patrons and younger ones plus women lunching. We’re told everyone’s favorite salad is the Green Granny — organic mixed greens, Granny Smith apples, dried cranberries, homemade candied pecans, and crumbled blue cheese with homemade balsamic vinaigrette ($8.50, $10.50 with grilled chicken).
The Zerben ($8.75) arrives with corned beef brisket, melted Swiss, sauerkraut and homemade Russian spread, all on lightly toasted marbled rye, while the Ciabatta ($6.75) is layers of organic greens, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and wafer-thin prosciutto on its crisp namesake.
Both are served Zen and unadorned, no frilly garnish but simply perfect. The side of fruit is fresh, as are the fries (each $2.25), both of which come separately in their own bowls.
It’s hard to argue with perfection. Andrade is admittedly particular about his pickling, and the sauerkraut — for those who are timid — is so well-prepared and subtle, the gentleman having it is almost unaware of its presence. He is too captivated by the cheese to do anything but declare, “This is the best Reuben I’ve ever had.”
As for the Ciabatta with its organic greens, they make a difference, a big one, in both texture and flavor, and it sets the restaurant apart from others in the bistro business.
My personal litmus test for any restaurant is how quickly one gets back to the leftovers. Mine disappeared that same afternoon, and my guest didn’t have any, having eaten everything at once.
The parking’s just part of the charm. Go.