Plate lunch paradise Get out to Sugar Mill Pond Saturday, Sept. 15, for Plate Lunchapalooza

Spaghetti and Meatballs from Bread & Circus Photo by A.Dannette Photography

People from all over Acadiana will come together Saturday, Sept. 15, to celebrate the area’s favorite meal: the plate lunch.

Plate Lunchapalooza will be held in Youngsville at Sugar Mill Pond. There are more than 20 different variations of the plate lunch for the day, so I did some digging to find out which ones are the most unique. Yes, a nice rice and gravy will always be a plate lunch classic, but I wanted to find the restaurants that were rocking the plate a little. (See what I did there.) There are at least three chefs who have decided to think outside the box this year. I’ve explored what they’re serving, how they made it and why.

Spaghetti and Meatballs from Bread & Circus

The Cajun twist on a spaghetti plate lunch typically includes a cooked down, brown, spicy, chunky sauce, but Manny Augello from Bread & Circus is doing a more traditional take rooted in Sicilian culture. “It was a natural choice for us to do a spaghetti plate lunch, since there’s Cajun spaghetti, and pasta is such a big comfort food in Sicily,” says Augello, owner and chef at Bread & Circus. “It seemed to fit the bill.”

The meatballs are made with leftover scraps from the restaurant’s signature salumi combined with local beef with strong notes of fennel. The sauce is made from fire roasted tomatoes, fresh oregano and a bit of parmesan. “We try to accomplish the least amount of waste possible, so the meatballs utilize all the leftover scraps,” says Augello. “It really gives it a depth of aged, complex flavor.”

The dish comes with a side of garlic knots and a simple cucumber, vinegar salad.  “We wanted to tie in a concept of seasonal and local ingredients, which is why we incorporated the cucumber too,” Augello added.  

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thigh from NuNu’s Fresh Market

NuNu’s Fresh Market in Youngsville is famous for its amazing boudin, but another popular offering is the Famous Thigh Wrap. This plate lunch includes a rotisserie slow cooked chicken thigh stuffed with pineapple, then wrapped in bacon. The sides include smothered green beans and loaded mashed potatoes — not for light eaters.

Store Manager Chris Richard says they chose this plate lunch because every item is a best-seller: “People come far and wide for the bacon wrapped chicken thighs and potatoes.” The slow roasted chicken was tender and flavorful and the pineapple gave a nice, sweet compliment to the salty bacon. The potatoes were buttery and cheesy with bits of green onion and guess what, more bacon.

Crawfish Tasso Pasta from Dix Almost Famous Daiquiris

While this plate lunch may be another pasta offering, it is very different from Bread & Circus’ spaghetti and meatballs. Dix Almost Famous Daiquiris will be serving up pasta with crawfish and tasso in a Cajun alfredo sauce. If it sounds rich and delicious, that’s because it is.

Before his days at Dix, head chef Blake Fontenot cut his teeth on the pasta station at Romacelli in River Ranch. There, he really began to experiment with various pasta combinations.

The dish starts with a base of sauteed red onion, butter, local crawfish, tasso and jalapeno then combined with house-made alfredo sauce and served over spaghetti. “I try to make everything with as many local ingredients as possible,” says Fontenot. “I also make my Cajun-inspired alfredo sauce from scratch.” The dish was rich and buttery but not overly thick or salty, and the tasso added a nice, smoky flavor to the sauce.

Another part of Plate Lunchapalooza is the contest. Awards are given to “Best Of” and “People’s Choice” for winning dishes, and Fontenot is out to win this year. “Something is speaking to me about the crawfish,” he says. “Last year, one of the winners had crawfish and same goes for the most recent Po-boy Festival.” He is taking the competition very seriously.

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, these three local restaurants will be a good start. Mini signature plate lunches are all $5 each. The festival is from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and is free to attend. Click here for more info.