Downtown is serving up vibrancy as a dining destination

Flats Burgers interior decor
The Flats is the latest addition to the Cormier restaurant group, which includes Viva La Waffle, Pop’s Poboys and Central Pizza.   Photo by Travis Gauthier

It’s opening day at The Flats Burgers & Backyard. Smashed beef patties sizzle their aroma through a propped open door. 

The Flats is the latest addition to the Cormier restaurant family, a culinary powerhouse led by Jasmyne and Collin Cormier. The couple’s restaurant group is involved in several well-known Lafayette staples, among them Viva La Waffle, Pop’s Poboys, Central Pizza.  

Dining is one of Downtown’s major draws, but post-pandemic Jefferson Street has seen a revolving door of restaurants attempting to feed off of Downtown’s prime location. Those who are thriving have found success by curating a memorable customer experience for patrons, one they can take with them to go. 

A mixture of business savvy and savory menu items is the winning combination for the Cormiers. Drawing from years of restaurant experience, the two have skillfully navigated Lafayette’s food market by offering a change of pace through atmospheric appeal. For Jasmyne, part of scouting new locations involves intuition and letting the building speak for itself.     

“You walk into a place, and you’re just like this is it,” says Jasmyne, nestled into the corner of a homey bar, between the quick-footed serving staff and the fervor of the kitchen. “This feels right. This will work because I feel that’s what people are drawn to anyway.”

The quest for a brick-and-mortar location for Viva La Waffle, their breakout food truck hit, marked their entrance into the Downtown scene in 2015. However, the location at 740 Jefferson St. didn’t feel like a good fit for Viva La Waffle. Instead, the Cormiers pictured an old-school poboy shop, aligning with their vision of exploring the possibilities of a poboy-centric menu. 

And so Pop’s Poboys was born. Its success allowed the Cormiers to expand into other restaurant ventures Downtown. After entering a partnership with Central Pizza, the Cormiers carved out their little slice of Jefferson Street and opened the door for new concepts like The Flats further down the road.  

Flats burger and fries
Top of the menu at Flats Burgers & Backyard is the smashed beef patties and fries. Photo by Travis Gauthier

The building that hosts The Flats once held Tula Tacos + Amigos, which closed in November. An ill-fated launch during the pandemic contributed to the restaurant’s decline, Cormier says. They considered the location as another potential landing spot for Viva La Waffle, but once again the move didn’t feel right, she says. They ended up parking the waffle concept to a location on Kaliste Saloom Road.   

Gut instinct drives many business decisions for the Cormiers. Likening themselves to “instinctual entrepreneurs,” Jasmyne says there’s no real rhyme or reason to the process, just a passion for building a pleasing environment for their customer base.   

“If you can capture that in a location, it feels way more comfortable than just molded plastic seats,” says Jasmyne. “That’s what cultivates a better environment for honestly everything, but especially food.”  

A few steps from The Flats, you’ll find another husband-and-wife duo making their mark. Sunday’s Soda Fountain, owned by Michael and Setareh Delcambre, aimed for authenticity when opening in the fall of 2022.   

Originally envisioned as an after-dinner conversation space, the Delcambres wanted to create a family-friendly environment specializing in sweets. Setareh says the building’s history revealed itself during renovation, guiding them to the speakeasy-themed soda fountain aesthetic.   

“Imagine deciding you want to go in the direction of soda fountains without knowing what that was before,” says Setareh. “Finding out historically that this building used to be a soda fountain in the ’30s and in 1905. It kind of makes the hair on your arms stand up.”   

The Delcambres’ extensive real estate and development background gave them the confidence to take their time planning the intricate details for Sunday’s Soda Fountain. Taking cues from other prohibition-era soda fountains in their research, they stayed true to the time period in décor and price point.   

This focus on customer experience led the Delcambres through the development process and is evident in the feedback Setareh hears from her patrons. She says customers tell her they appreciate the cool vibes and atmosphere served with scoops of ice cream. “We really enjoy creating concepts and atmospheres. That’s what drives us,” she says. “Like having this thought, and creating it and then seeing people enjoy it, that’s really special for us.”    

Restaurateurs like the Cormiers and Delcambres have their finger on the pulse of a burgeoning Downtown food district that builds on a vision of turning Downtown into an immersive experience for dining and beyond.  

The Flats took over the space that previously housed Tula Tacos + Amigos, which closed in November. Photo by Travis Gauthier

Anna-Laura Edmiston is the director of strategic communications and marketing for Downtown Lafayette Unlimited and the Downtown Development Authority. These organizations work together to promote and attract new businesses to the central business district.   

Those efforts involve advocating Downtown’s accessibility for customers and patrons. Edmiston says dispelling the notion that the district lacks adequate parking presents a challenge for many business owners.    

“Addressing those misconceptions about Downtown can be one of the greatest challenges because there’s a ton of parking,” says Edmiston. “I think that’s one thing that a lot of business owners will tell you is demystifying the inaccessibility of Downtown because, in fact, it is extremely accessible.”  

Another objective for DLU and DDA is to paint a picture of the Downtown experience that goes beyond the casual grab-and-go mentality. Edmiston says Downtown’s proximity to cultural landmarks, local retail spaces and great dining options gives rise to a pedestrian experience, turning a simple outing into an all-day adventure.  

Edmiston also notes the increased use of outdoor seating, a positive holdover from the pandemic, as an added benefit for restaurants. During Covid, many restaurants pushed to accommodate patrons while also balancing health concerns. As restrictions relaxed, the practice stayed, adding a sense of enchantment when dining out — when the weather’s nice, of course.  

Advocates say these factors build into a sense of community that gives Downtown its appeal for business owners and visitors alike. “We have a thriving Downtown food district that really deserves a lot of recognition and is getting it,” says Edmiston. “I think that the more we build on that sense of community and the more that incoming businesses engage in that momentum, the sky’s the limit.”  

Back at Sunday’s Soda Fountain, Setareh Delcambre says she values the cooperative relationship built between neighboring businesses and restaurants. As Downtown’s population grows, businesses will have to work together to cater to a centralized lifestyle for its residents — all within walking distance.  

“At the end of the day, Downtown’s a community,” she says. “We’re all in this together, right?”