Stuffed & Busted’s Gut-Busting Guide to Monroe-West Monroe

by Chris Jay
Made possible by Discover Monroe-West Monroe
All meals purchased, all servers tipped

If you’re like me, you don’t need anyone to tell you about some of the excellent fancier restaurants in Monroe-West Monroe. No North Louisiana foodie worth their Omnivore Salt needs to be told about Chef Cory Bahr’s Parish Restaurant, for example.

But, somehow, I managed to live 90 minutes from Monroe-West Monroe for 20+ years without being introduced to the wonders of po’ boys doused in gravy at Magic Grill, Mohawk Tavern‘s red sauce, or the double-crusted chicken pot pies and mile-high meringues at Not Just Pie.

When the incredible folks at Discover Monroe-West Monroe offered to sponsor some Stuffed & Busted content, I knew it was finally time for me to get better acquainted the culinary offerings of the twin cities on the Ouachita River.

The One Thing You Must Eat…

My essential Monroe-West Monroe meal, if you only have time for one stop? No question: You must eat a roast beef po’ boy with gravy and fries (preferably with homemade soft serve for dessert) at Ray’s Pe Ge or Magic Grill II. The tradition of serving roast beef po’ boys, burgers, and hand-cut fries with a cup of gravy for dunking or spooning dates back 60 years in Monroe-West Monroe. These two restaurants have, as far as I can tell, the most direct connection to the roots of the tradition.

Here’s a gallery of my favorite photos from the full day that I spent chasing down roast beef po’ boys with gravy:

Honduran and Nepalese Restaurants

It’s always exciting to sample the flavors of an international cuisine that I don’t have access to in Shreveport-Bossier, and Monroe-West Monroe has lots to offer in that category.

If at all possible, I highly recommend having breakfast at Alex Latin Restaurant & Cafeteria in West Monroe. The typical Honduran breakfast platter is a fortifying, multi-plate endeavor that includes eggs, fried beans, avocado slices, sweet plantains, queso fresco, fresh cream and handmade tortillas (all for a paltry $7.99, or add a strip of skirt steak for an additional $1.99). The restaurant also specializes in Cuban-style espresso coffee drinks, making it an ideal stop for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up.

The vibrant colors and bold flavors of Nepalese cuisine are showcased at Himalayan Café, a phenomenal little restaurant located near the ULM campus. An entire section of the menu is dedicated to momos, which—for those who are new to Nepalese food, as I was—are dumplings filled with all sorts of deliciousness and steamed or fried. The chili momos, described as a house specialty, made for an outstanding start to the meal. Himalayan Café offers 11 varieties of momo, including a fried chicken variety (!).

If you can resist the urge to order all of the momos and call it a day, I recommend trying one of the thali spreads. Available in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, these platters are brilliantly colorful, fragrant samplers of traditional Nepalese cuisine.

Snacks, Sweets and Quick Stops

If you’re a curious eater who enjoys tamales, I encourage you to swing through The Rolling Tamale drive-thru for an order of their deep-fried tamales. This was one my most-anticipated stops, and the tamales surpassed my expectations. Served with white queso for dipping, deep-fried tamales taste like hot water cornbread that’s been stuffed with tamale filling. The Rolling Tamale’s steamed tamales were also photogenic and delicious, but a half-dozen of the deep-fried variety made for an excellent snack that I cannot wait to have again.

If you’re a pie person, locals will insist that you pay a visit to Not Just Pie for a slice of whatever catches your eye. I was served a slice of chocolate cream pie with a fantastic crust and an impossibly tall, delicate meringue. If you’d like to try a less-conventional dessert, the banana pudding at JAC’s Craft Smokehouse is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had from a barbecue joint.

If you’re up for a genuinely unique experience and it’s 4 p.m. or later, consider a quick stop at Mohawk Tavern. The Mohawk opened in 1952 and somehow feels even older. From the covered walkway entrance, which is in the process of being swallowed by a nearby tree, to the incredibly frozen-in-time lounge area, this place is a set-piece from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks—and I intend that as a compliment. Many friends over the years have told me about the red sauce and the gumbo (both of which I enjoyed), but mostly, they’ve said: “You’re not gonna believe this place.” And they were right.

Between Bites

First stop when you’re not busy feeding your face? Antique Alley in West Monroe. The marquee attraction to Antique Alley is a strip of enormous antique shops on Trenton Street—if you’re a hardcore antiquer, these five or six shops alone are almost too much to do in one day. In general, I found prices in these shops to be significantly lower than I’d expected.

As a vinyl record and local cookbook collector, I was thrilled to find that there are still rooms filled with piles of unsorted books and records here. There are rooms that look like DJ Shadow’s basement, floor-to-ceiling vinyl caves where everything is still $2. No one’s going to check before ringing you up, here. Hallelujah.

For craft beer folks, there’s Flying Tiger Brewery, and for art folks the Masur Museum. For me, one of the most joyful stops during my visit to Monroe-West Monroe was National Video, possibly the last remaining video rental store in Louisiana and one of a handful left in the U.S. If you’re traveling with a movie nerd, don’t be too surprised if they get a little misty-eyed while browsing the store’s 35,000 titles. I may have.

For More Information

Planning a visit to Monroe-West Monroe? You can request a free visitors guide or explore the Discover Monroe-West Monroe website for great tips and ideas. You can sign up for their newsletter, which is put together by some very cool folks and is always a good read, or like Discover Monroe-West Monroe on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates.

Finally, I want to say “thank you” to Discover-West Monroe for supporting grassroots media in northern Louisiana by sponsoring content at Stuffed & Busted. Anyone who’d like to discuss a similar partnership to reach traveling foodie-types in Shreveport-Bossier and beyond is welcome to drop me a line at ChrisJay318 at gmail dot com.

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