My first trip to Louisiana brought me to the city of Lafayette, located in the southwestern part of the state, smack dab in the heart of Cajun country. I was there with my colleague, Keith Pandolfi, who was reporting a story on gumbo for our October 2014 issue. And as SAVEUR's test kitchen director, my role was to collect recipes and cooking tips from the chefs who we visited around town. Two days, and a dozen gumbos, into our trip, Keith, as well as our photographer, Chris Granger, and I were all starting to feel a bit sluggish. Hoping to find a quick beer and a light bite at the end of a long day, we stumbled upon a gem: Bread & Circus Provisions, a bright, decidedly hip restaurant-cum-market that sells smoked meats, pickles, and condiments—all made in-house—with a menu that spans Cajun, Italian, and Japanese cuisines.
We arrived right before closing to find chef and co-owner Manny Augello, who made quite the name for himself when he helmed the kitchen at nearby Jolie's Louisiana Bistro, wrapping up for the day. While he probably wasn't expecting to serve anybody else that day, he showed some true southern hospitality by accommodating our trio. Augello told us the place turns into a bit of a bar some evenings, the crowd often comprised of local chefs and restaurant staff coming together at the end of their shifts to talk shop after a long day. And that’s exactly what we were there to do.
The menu was packed full of goodies, plus there was a blackboard of daily specials. The cold fried chicken salad—a fantastic mix of cayenne, honey, and buttermilk slaw, bacon, and tomatoes—was one of our favorites, since, after eating what seemed like gallons of gumbo, a fresh, crisp salad is just what we needed to revive our palates. I also fell in love with the boudin (pork- and rice-filled sausage), which arrived warm on a wooden board accompanied by slices of white bread and house-made mustard and pickles.
While we thought our gumbo gorging had ceased for the day, when Augello mentioned he served a hen version of the dish, we had to try it. And am I glad we did—it was easily one of the best versions of the classic Louisiana stew I had tasted, with a rustic, deep flavor you can really only achieve with hard-to-find hen meat. (I was happy to hear that Augello sells his roux—the deeply caramelized oil-and-flour that forms the backbone of any good gumbo—in the store, and at the local farmers' market every Saturday along with a slew of Bread & Circus' other products.) The highlight of the evening, though, was a sandwich Manny suggested called The Ramsey, something they threw together at the market one weekend that was such a hit that they had to put it on the menu permanently. An addictive combination of pimento cheese, crisp-fried chicken skins, and tasso on white bread, I'm still dreaming of that medley of tastes and textures months later.
Bread & Circus Provisions
258 Bendel Road, Ste. 104
Lafayette, LA 70503