Wednesday, March 7, 2012
June 23, 1983, was the day Merline Herbert opened the doors to Creole Lunch House. Nearly three decades later her work has expanded to a processing plant where her famous stuffed breads are made for wholesalers, but you can still find her slinging red beans, mustard greens and lusciously baked, smothered or stuffed meats five days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
|Photo by Robin May|
Creole Lunch House was a dream borne of a schoolteacher’s mind. “When I retired I had been principal of J. Wallace James Elementary,” recalls Herbert, “so I like to keep the same hours. No working on weekends or holidays but I do have to work summers.” Her restaurant is on the corner of St. Charles and 12th streets in one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods. The streets are wide and tidily kept, flecked with small shotgun houses on what is now considered generous helpings of lawn as they were built before people were choked in like packaging Styrofoam to fill towns to the brim. Most of the residents have been in this neighborhood for generations.
Creole Lunch House truly is a house. You walk into not a replication but the feel of an actual home — a TV purrs news or soap operas from one corner and a mixture of artwork and family photos give the singular diner much to read and think about. The delirious din of tiny children can be heard from the Immaculate Heart of Mary School diagonally from the porch, and on a balmy day like a Louisiana winter, fall or spring the open doors and the full belly with the sounds of life make the whole experience feel like heaven.
The corn bread mix is now sold for a dollar a bag at the counter, and a piece comes with every plate lunch. Break it apart and it falls away into tender pieces of sunlit bread, arguably some of the best. Even if you know how to make it, buy the mix as a gift for the not as fortunate.
Every day Creole Lunch House offers red beans and rice along with several other choices like stuffed pork chops, barbecue ribs, fricassee and more. Today we chose the red beans and rice and the chicken fricassee with sides of mustard greens and green beans. Beautifully flecked with bright green parsley, good rice is no joke and it’s not as easy as throwing grain in a rice cooker and letting the water and pressure have at it — the rice married perfectly with the fricassee gravy, and a whole plate later it was all gone.
When you order the fricassee you get a choice between white and dark meat. Being my mother’s child I chose the dark meat and got a thigh so huge the chicken must have wrestled professionally before meeting its maker. The only way to eat something like this is to eschew utensils in favor of your hands. Don’t worry, no one judges you at Creole Lunch House.
You’ll notice there is no salt or pepper — only hot sauces on the table here. This should be your first clue not to entertain those of weak taste buds. The greens exploded with the flavor of the pork it was cooked with and the cayenne generously added. These, too, maintain a bright green color that proves they haven’t been cooked so long as to lose texture, color, flavor and nutrients. Mustard greens are truly indigenous to the Southern cuisine, and if you have a visitor from the North who wants to try this mysterious dish, look no further than Miss Merline’s kitchen.
What you can’t find anywhere else is Merline Herbert. Whether a customer is at the drive-thru or walking in, she greets you with the calm happiness of someone who feels confident in who they are — and what they bring to the table. Visit her for lunch Monday-Friday or call 232-9929 to order ahead.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
New Iberia colonial or Broussard traditional home
The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
Fiery style for game day
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
Three bedroom Port Barre cottage or three bedroom historic district Opelousas home
No laboring for shoppers this holiday
It will be next month before Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely get a chance to change the membership of a South Louisiana flood board that is suing dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
The Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority have announced a new artist stipend program, ArtSpark, designed to offer financial aid to local artists.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Three bedroom traditional or two bedroom Victorian cottage