1801 W. Pinhook Road, in Hotel Acadiana, Lafayette (Map) - 233-8120
Daily: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Settle into the intimate dining room at Bayou Bistro. Nibble on the crisp eggplant fries for a starter, followed by a New Orleans-style grilled shrimp. For dessert, choose among a chocolate molten cake, pecan pie, cheesecake and strawberry shortcake.
Cafe VERMILIONVILLE www.cafev.com
1304 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette (Map) - 237-0100
Monday-Friday: Lunch and Dinner; Saturday: Dinner
One of Lafayette's oldest buildings, a 19th-century inn, houses one of Lafayette's finest restaurants. Chef Pat Waters changes the menu seasonally to offer the freshest options. Every Wednesday evening in the spring and fall, enjoy the Courtyard Series where specialty small plates, appetizers and cocktails are offered with the sounds of local musicians. The tiny bar is intimate and superb and leads out to a wonderful back patio to sit and dine or simply have an old-fashioned.
CHARLEY G'S SEAFOOD GRILLwww.charleygs.com
3809 Ambassador Caffery Pkwy., Lafayette (Map) - 981-0108
Monday-Friday: Lunch and Dinner; Saturday: Dinner
Charley G's menu evolves with the seasons. The crab cakes are delectable. The smoked duck and andouille gumbo has been on Charley G's menu since the restaurant opened in 1985, with good reason. In addition to upscale Cajun cuisine, the kitchen serves premium steaks grilled over Southern hardwoods that create a perfect crust on the beef. Try the famous white chocolate bread pudding, which melts in your mouth. Make sure to ask about the monthly specialty dinners this place throws that require special reservations — they are themed and usually partner with a wine or spirits merchant in town for an epicurean experience.
214 E. Vermilion St., Lafayette (Map) - 233-9449
Tuesday-Sunday: Breakfast and Lunch;
Breakfast when you really need it, about 11 a.m., is one calling card of the French Press. The daytime menu is filled with rich options, including the Sweet Baby Breesus, which sandwiches bacon and boudin balls in buttermilk biscuits, or opt for the French toast, which sandwiches banana cream cheese and is topped with berry-champagne compote — and ice cream, if you'd like. Be prepared to wait a while for a table on weekend mornings, but a mimosa in hand makes that a little easier. Weekend nights, the white tablecloths come out and chef/owner Justin Girouard pulls out all the stops with some of the most innovative cooking in town. Check the restaurant's website for the weekend dinner menu; two-time James Beard Award nominee Girouard plans his meals around what's freshest from the farms and waters of Louisiana.
4017 Johnston St., Lafayette (Map) - 989-9291
Tuesday-Friday: Lunch; Dinner
iMonelli's menu changes depending on what's freshest. Fried soft shell crabs are a local fave. Go for the poached halibut in a garlic and herb butter sauce topped with lump crabmeat. IMonelli is the spot for Italian classics such as osso bucco, or deeply warming dishes like beef tenderloin that can come unstuffed or stuffed with Italian cheese and seafood stuffing finished in a veal reduction cognac cream sauce. Friday nights, enjoy blues entertainment in the back room; it's a great place for an intimate supper.
JOLIE'S LOUISIANA BISTROwww.jolieslouisianabistro.com
507 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette (Map) - 504-2382
Tuesday-Saturday: Lunch and Dinner; Sunday: Brunch
This bistro's devotion to procuring locally sourced goods, from honey to fish to chicken to eggs, cannot be denied: the menu has two sides, one with what foods are offered and the flip side has every local purveyor listed so you can know not just how your food is prepared when you choose it, but where it comes from. The Zapp's Crawtator-crusted drum is a sure bet, but if you're feeling a little adventurous, go for the roasted bone marrow that comes out still in the bone. The pork chop is legendary, and it comes with the sweet potato and andouille hash, which is to die for.
5818 Johnston St., Lafayette (Map) - 769-4440
Continental cuisine meets Mediterranean specialties. French stars such as a delicate crepe filled with creamy lump crabmeat, herb-crusted seared tuna and fried asparagus, and Lebanese nibbles hummus and kibbe all are offered as starters. On any given day, one fresh fish will stand in for every treatment on the menu — sauteed, grilled or toasted, and then offered with a variety of sauces. Mazen's steaks follow the same principle; sauce choices are wine reductions or hollandaise along with a generous topping of lump crabmeat. Steak Fenstermaker is a 14 oz. bone-in filet grilled and served with their homemade seasoning with a fresh squeeze of lemon. Don't skip the hot dessert souffles, pistachio, chocolate or Grand Marnier, made to order, (don't forget to ask for them when you order your entree).
MR. LESTER'S STEAKHOUSEwww.cypressbayou.com
832 Martin Luther King Road, Charenton (Map) - 923-7408
It's a testament to the intimate environment, excellent service, lavish portions, fresh-baked artisan breads and an extensive wine list, as well as the prime beef, that has folks driving more than an hour down to Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton to eat at Mr. Lester's. Aged prime rib Fridays and Saturdays, filets, porterhouse steaks and a chateaubriand for two can be pepper-crusted and all are grilled to temperature, ensuring the proper degree of doneness for each steak. The wine list is equally exacting.
101 E. Second St., Broussard (Map) - 839-9333
Monday-Friday: Lunch and Dinner; Saturday: Dinner
Nash's is a step back in time: The restaurant is located in a 19th-century mansion in Broussard, and the dishes are flashbacks of old-style Italian cooking. The veal and spinach cannelloni is a local fave as is the signature Veal Orleans, baby veal topped by jumbo lump crabmeat in a cream sauce. Don't miss the unctuous shrimp and spinach lasagne. Nash's stands by its steaks; a house recommendation is the Pepper Steak, a New York strip, grilled and served with a demi glace.
PAMPLONA TAPAS BARwww.pamplonatapas.com
631 Jefferson St., Lafayette (Map) - 232-0070
Tuesday-Friday: Lunch and Dinner; Saturday: Dinner
Hemingway, bullfights and flamenco dancing. Stepping through the door at Pamplona is like crossing a magic portal transporting you to Spain. The food is served tapas style, on small plates that give a diner the opportunity to taste many dishes. The beef carpaccio salad is not to be missed, nor is the award-winning paella — or the duck fat fries, for that matter. When it comes to tapas, get the morcilla-quail egg — black boudin and a fried quail egg that is bite-sized perfection you may not want to share. There is a $9.95 lunch special during the week, which changes daily. A terrific range of Spanish wines dominates the vino offerings, and innovative cocktails, including an Absinthe collection, are house specialities. And for heaven's sake, try the sangria.
RUFFINO'S ON THE RIVER www.ruffinoslafayette.com
921 Camellia Blvd., Lafayette (Map) - 706-7333
This restaurant has roots extending across the Basin from Baton Rouge and for good reason — Ruffino's on the River delivers the same caliber cuisine right here in Lafayette. Perched on the Vermilion River, diners can start their evening at the bar overlooking the water while enjoying a cocktail and try the crabmeat cheesecake as a starter. It's baked jumbo lump crabmeat with Italian cheeses and topped with a creole meuniere sauce. For dinner, get the cedar plank redfish — redfish baked on a cedar plank and topped with fresh pesto, sliced tomatoes and a balsamic syrup. Save room for the fluffy, pink cotton candy that is complimentary at the end of every meal.
RUTH'S CHRIS STEAKHOUSEwww.ruthschris.com
620 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette (Map) - 237-6123
Daily: Dinner; Friday: Lunch
The bar is discretely dark and has comfy armchairs, best for deep conversations and icy martinis. Start with another kind of martini — the Crabtini served in a martini glass, or the Asian seared ahi tuna. Its steaks are smooth like butter, of course, served sizzling hot straight from the broiler and begging for a big California cab from Ruth's Chris' superb wine list. Sides include creamy potatoes au gratin, asparagus with hollandaise, and creamed spinach. Desserts are just as classic, like the creme brulee or white chocolate bread pudding. Ruth's Chris has also changed to a seasonal menu to better reflect what is freshest in Louisiana. Stop by for happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with select cocktails and appetizers for $7.
525 N. Main St., Washington (Map) - 826-7227
Tuesday-Saturday: Dinner; Sunday: Lunch
The town of Washington, settled in 1720, is a quick and pleasant drive from the Hub City. The restaurant has been around since 1977 after being restored from the riverboat warehouse it once was and overlooks Bayou Courtableau. Chef and owner Jason Huguet has a traditional menu with lots of flair and flavor. The setting is gorgeous with the restaurant opening up to a large patio that spills toward the river. There are cottages to rent nearby, making it ideal for receptions.
1 DeGaulle Square, Lafayette (Map) - 981-8085
Tuesday-Saturday: Lunch and Dinner, Sunday: Brunch
Lunch appeals to all types of people, from those looking for a quick bite before going back to work, to those looking to chat over a glass of wine. Enjoy options from an eclectic menu such as the housemade bacon-topped meatloaf to the delicious Reuben. On the dinner menu, look for appetizers like pan-seared foie gras or the crowd favorite barbecue shrimp. Entrees change seasonally, so look for fresh local fish dishes, and beautiful steaks like an 8 oz. filet or newly added Lamb Ribeye. The walls are lined with bottles of wine, an indicator of Village Cafe's premier ptanding with the largest wine list in Lafayette. Be sure to try a wine paired by Sommelier Ben Leger to go with your delicious food from Chef Jeremy Conner.