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.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
A ballpark snack topped with BBQ meat can be found cruising town on a food truck
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
"Although the administration is moving forward with climate change regulations at home, we don't consider how policy decisions in the United States impact greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world," says Roger Martella, the former general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.
Louisiana agriculture officials say prices for long-grain rice are projected to drop this year.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending July 19 decreased from the previous week's total.
A judge is getting ready to set a new trial date for a former BP executive charged with obstructing a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
If President Barack Obama’s poll numbers, and those for his health care law, haven’t yet bottomed out in the Bayou State, then Democrats surely don’t want to know what the statistical floor actually looks like.
Midsouth Bank has released its second quarter earnings report, showing a year-over-year increase for shareholders.
The comeback of the Wayfarer
Two bedroom New Iberia ranch style house or two bedroom Lafayette condo
The deadline to purchase tickets for the 2014 ABiz Top 50 Business Luncheon featuring top-selling author, political activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is only two weeks away.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
Cajun favorites to comfort on Pinhook Road
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
Summertime floral with panache
Three bedroom St. Martinville traditional or three bedroom Lafayette contemporary cottage
Acadiana's nightlife guide.