Columnist Geoff Daily explores Lafayette’s economy and government, providing critical commentary about what’s working and what’s not.

Column: Lafayette’s golden age of food variety

Bhra Vavasseur , left, and Hannah Taylor enjoy their lunch at NJoy Curry Masala, July 10, 2024. Photo by Robin May

It may be a tough time to run a restaurant in Lafayette — with high food costs, staffing shortages, and seemingly endless new competition. But it’s a great time to eat out. 

Especially if you’re like me and enjoy a variety of different foods. Lafayette is now awash in diverse culinary delights.

When my wife and I first moved to Lafayette more than a decade ago, we were gaining ready access to boudin and cracklins. That came with a tradeoff: We lost ready access to the wide variety of artisanal and ethnic cuisines we had living in Washington, DC. There was no Ethiopian food, seemingly no Korean food, or places to get good pupusas. Even the choices for popular basics like good bread and pizza and burgers were limited.

But over the last couple of years that paradigm has shifted in dramatic fashion.

Lafayette Indian food is finally having a moment

Take Indian food as a perfect example. Masala Indian Kitchen was long the only option for curry and naan. Then Priya’s opened, offering a taste of her home cooked Indian after getting started selling her delicious samosas at the Moncus Park farmer’s market. Then Destination India opened, which I’ve heard rave reviews from friends who know Indian food, and which offers a lunch buffet on the weekends.

Then, most recently, NJoy Curry Masala opened at Jefferson and Johnston. While I’ve only just begun to explore their voluminous menu, I can already report that their lamb biryani is amazing. Suddenly, Lafayette is awash in Indian food and other South Asian adjacent as a few years back Bismillah opened, offering tasty Nepalese food. 

Roman Jak, manager, and Navvi Kaur, co-owner of NJoy Curry Masala sit down with some of their popular dishes, July 10, 2024. Photo by Robin May

Asian food is seeing an even larger diversification over the last couple of years. Lafayette’s long had decent sushi, Thai and, more recently, Vietnamese, and some hidden gems like the Szechuan dishes at Magic Wok (don’t sleep on the pepper shrimp or fish!) and the Korean dishes at Osaka (plus some of the best pho in town). 

But that smorgasbord has been expanding significantly. Like the authentic and delicious non-American Chinese you can find at Spicy House. Or the freshly made dumplings at Dumpling Hour. Or the all-you-can eat Korean-plus-sushi-plus-ramen now available at Bushido, which I’m still looking forward to trying. And that’s before we start factoring in food trucks Noodlehead, a ramen truck, and Bayou Bao, delicious steamed buns.

Lafayette food trucks are here to stay

Food trucks are a common venue for finding culinary diversity in bigger cities, but until recently their impact has been limited on Lafayette’s palates. We’ve had some food trucks evolve into delicious brick and mortar restaurants—like Scratch Farm Kitchen, Viva La Waffle, and Blanchard’s BBQ. But for a long time it felt the food truck scene had come and gone.

They are seeing a recent renaissance in Lafayette, enough so to spur the creation of not one but soon to be two food truck parks. The first in Parc de Oaks on the Northside, and the recently announced soon to open Uncle Bob’s Roundup in downtown Lafayette. 

More on Lafayette Restaurants

Food trucks tend to experiment and plumb the culinary depths in delightful new ways. And they’re a key avenue for new restaurants to test the market and get off the ground, which we’re seeing happen with Sarrica’s delicious pizza and pasta that started as a food truck, then moved to a popup at the Acadiana Beer Garden, and now are working on getting into their own restaurant. So the presence of food trucks is a key driver of delicious diversity.

Good bread is all over Lafayette

Bread has positively exploded. Poupart’s and Great Harvest were long the only options outside of grocery store loaves  

Now, Lafayette is awash in delicious gluten. There’s Straw Cove milling its own flour and pumping out great bread and even greater bagels. There’s Boscoyo throwing down some really creative artisanal breads and cakes. There’s life-changing sourdough focaccia and baguettes at Wild Child (not to mention the best freezer pizza I’ve ever had). And there’s a host of other artisans like Levain Acadian and Sunny Akers. Lucia Bakehouse has upped Lafayette’s viennoiserie game to a whole new level.

Even local staples have diversified. Pizza is much more interesting today than it was even ten years ago. It’s not just Deano’s, Pizza Village, Alesi’s or national chains any more. The dearly departed Bread & Circus Provisions was the first to fire Neapolitan-style pies in Lafayette. But it was soon followed by the Downtown stalwart Central Pizza, recently joined on the high-end pizza spectrum by Sarrica’s, and most recently by Jim Deggy’s. Plus there have been a host of artisanal pizza popup options, like the focaccia pizzas at Wild Child or the Detroit style pizzas at Park Bistro. 

Honestly, it’s hard to know when to stop this column. I haven’t even mentioned the great Jamaican food at Di Jerk Stop. There’s a cottage food outlet called Presh Cuisine offering African dishes like fufu. Or my favorite farm to table burgers at Scratch Farm Kitchen, Five Mile Eatery, and Park Bistro. Or the growing wealth of riches we have in Latino food at places like Patacon or La Papa Loca or any of the growing number of taco trucks.

More opinion from Geoff Daily

When it comes to options, Lafayette is experiencing a golden age that I hope will just keep getting better, giving us access to more choices right here at home rather than having to wait until we visit larger cities to scratch our itch for new flavors. 

But this new reality isn’t guaranteed to stay. While it may be better than ever to eat in Lafayette, our competitive restaurant scene has always been tough to stay afloat in. And that’s never been more true than today with the cost of everything being high.

So what that means is that if you’re like me and love having access to food beyond just all the delicious Cajun and Creole food our area is known for, then we need to make a conscious effort to get out and support the restaurants that we love, whether they’re old or new. Let’s not take our newfound diversity for granted, but instead get out and enjoy all that Lafayette’s evolving food scene has to offer.

What’s your go-to restaurant on Monday night?