During my three-month stay in Louisiana’s oldest city, I fell in love with their soul food restaurants (and one incredible pizza joint)
by Chris Jay
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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that Natchitoches meat pies are bad. It’s just that they’re just okay, and they kind of hog the spotlight in a city that is—in my personal opinion—the best in North Louisiana for world-class soul food. Plus, if we’re being real: Very few places still go to the considerable trouble to make their own meat pies. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant has been going strong since 1967, and I’ve enjoyed their pies very much. But I suspect that most places are getting their uniform-looking pies from this wild-eyed kid. I always thought that the Natchitoches meat pie kid looked like he may be in some kind of grave danger. Blink twice if you need help, kid?
I spent three months living in Natchitoches this summer while working as a graduate assistant at Northwestern State University, where I am writing my master’s thesis on Shreveport-style stuffed shrimp. Most days, I packed my own lunch or grabbed a salad from the corner store near my house on my way to work. But I spent my last few weeks in town purposefully driving around on my lunch breaks, pulling into new-to-me places, and carefully eating all sorts of gravy-soaked goodness out of steaming styrofoam containers. If you’re unfamiliar with the thriving community of soul food restaurants in Louisiana’s oldest city, I’d encourage you to try some of these outstanding spots on your next visit.
I’ve Got the Recipe Soul Food Diner
621 Bossier St, Natchitoches, LA 71457
This may be my favorite soul food restaurant in Louisiana. The quality of the food here is on par with places like LBK’s in Farmerville, Us Up North in Shreveport, and Laura’s Two in Lafayette. The menu changes each day, with the week’s offerings being posted on Monday to their Facebook page. The best things that I ate at I’ve Got the Recipe were their turkey wing flats and dressing, perfectly seasoned and juicy fried pork chops, and butter pecan cake. Luck never worked out so that I could sneak out of the office on a fried chicken day, and I never tried a Fridays-only menu item called the Big Dennis Bar-B-Q Platter.
Seriously, if anyone out there visits and gets the Big Dennis Bar-B-Q Platter, please send me a photo. I need to know how badly I screwed up by never ordering it. You can e-mail me at StuffedAndBusted at gmail.com.
The Bread House Nakatosh
1202 Texas St, Natchitoches, LA 71457
There’s a lot to love about The Bread House Nakatosh, but for Shreveporters reading this, there is really only one thing that I need to write: their greens are a lot like Esau’s Greens from the Wine Country Bistro days, but with more substantial chunks of smoky pork. I’d be willing to bet that the “secret ingredient” in these greens, orange soda, is the same. Their mac n’ cheese is out of this world, and reminds me of the macaroni that Esther Moody prepared at Moody’s Cafe in Minden—it’s got more than a kick of spice, and is studded throughout with pimiento peppers. Save room for some superlative tea cakes, sold two for a dollar at the register.
Girline’s Home Cooking
188 Ralph St, Natchitoches, LA 71457
Girline’s serves one lunch special per day, Tuesdays through Fridays, and you can usually expect that special to have a Creole personality. My favorite meal from Girline’s was an outstanding platter of cabbage jambalaya. I wish I’d tried the meat balls and gravy over rice, but didn’t get the chance. Every meal from Girline’s comes with a homemade dessert, and these can sound pretty outstanding. I especially regret not having tried the Kool-Aid pie. To be honest, just the phrase “Kool-Aid pie” gets me unreasonably excited.
Almost Home Family Restaurant
5810 LA-1, Natchitoches, LA 71457
I’ve probably eaten lunch at Almost Home Family Restaurant a dozen times since relocating to Natchitoches, and never once have I walked out less than satisfied. While I think most of the veggie sides here come out of a can, the proteins are always cooked to perfection—try their crusty fried pork chops, which have an uncommonly heavy batter that can withstand a deluge of gravy and still be crisp.
Truth be told, my favorite thing about Almost Home is actually their iced tea. They serve real iced tea in 44-ounce tankards that disappear with surprising speed on hot Louisiana days. There’s just something really satisfying about being brought this much iced tea at once, honestly.
Peggy’s Homemade Pizza
4116 University Pkwy, Natchitoches, LA 71457
Obviously, Peggy’s Homemade Pizza isn’t a soul food restaurant—it’s a beloved local pizzeria in Natchitoches that is sort of the equivalent of Shreveport’s Smitty’s Pizza. When you call-in a pizza or calzone here (the calzones are incredible), someone has to run and ask Peggy how long it’ll take. That’s not a shortcoming, that’s a sign of quality. Hot n’ ready? Nope. Less than $10? Nope. Outstanding? Hand-crafted? Unique? Yes to all three. If you’re a local pizzeria nerd passing through Natchitoches on I-49, Peggy’s is about a four-minute drive from Exit 138.
The best move that I personally made at Peggy’s was a Greek pizza-style calzone, with the excellent, house-made feta vinaigrette on the side as a dipping sauce, not inside of the calzone. If you order this and don’t like it, I can’t help you. Independent pizzerias are probably the most endangered of all restaurants, as they are forced to compete with $5 pizzas marketed by every corner store. Peggy’s is a ne plus ultra local pizza joint; enjoy it while you can.