Plate Lunch Trail

Oct 06, 2020

On the classic Cajun combo: Regional cuisine served hot and ready

Imagine: it’s lunchtime, and you’re hungry. You don’t have much time to get a bite to eat, but you can’t bring yourself to join the line for the drive-thru—not when you have access to some of the best culinary fare in the world. No, you’re craving something a little heartier and a lot more satisfying; but grab-n-go style, with lunch special prices. Enter your new favorite meal: the plate lunch. 

Food historians agree the term “plate lunch” likely has Hawaiian origins, but the roots of the meal itself are varied and stretch back to the early twentieth century—around the same time that lunch counters and buffet-style eateries were introduced to American diners. The fast-yet-filling meals on the go quickly got popular—especially in regions with large working class populations—on account of their hefty portion size, convenience, and affordability. In the South, the styrofoam spreads tend to be known as a meat-and-three; in the Appalachian region, they call it a blue-plate special. 

The Origins of Rice and Gravy

Here in South Louisiana we likely have rural meat markets to thank for introducing the plate lunch to Acadiana’s blue-collar workers. Small-town butchers would save their unsold meat cuts and daily scraps, cook them down in a thick, roux-rich gravy, then serve them over ricehistorically one of Acadiana’s largest cash crops and a staple of any Cajun or Creole dietwith sides of smothered vegetables and bread the next day. They were cheap to make, calorically dense, and homemade: perfect for hungry farmers and oil and gas workers. It’s no wonder that rice and gravy remains a beloved dish on local tables today. In fact, Acadiana is such a hotspot for plate lunch houses that we even have a festival dedicated to “the ultimate plate lunch experience.” Each September, plate lunch connoisseurs and rice-and-gravy fanatics flock to Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville for Tony Chachere’s Plate Lunch-A-Palooza, a free, family-friendly event with live music and well over a dozen plate lunch vendors to choose from.  

Plate Lunch, St. Martin-Style

In St. Martin Parish—a place that also happens to claim the title of “Crawfish Capital of the World,”—is it any wonder that Cajun and Creole flavors naturally find their way onto plate lunch menus, too? Alongside standard plate lunch offerings like BBQ, pork roast, and country style ribs, you’ll find signature dishes like crawfish étouffée, fried fish, and gumbo. The best part? Menus usually change daily, so there’s always something new to try or a tried-and-true favorite to revisit.

St. Martin Parish is home to several plate lunch houses that have been serving their mighty, made-from-scratch recipes for generations. Must-try contenders include the smothered oxtails from Jeaux’s in St. Martinville—owned and operated by Marcus Joseph Cormier Sr., whose mother, Joséphiné, ran Joséphiné’s Creole Restaurant in the same Main Street space for 24 years before Cormier opened Jeaux’s in 2019; and the turkey legs from Glenda’s Creole Kitchen in Breaux Bridge. When Ms. Glenda appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel television show, No Reservations, in 2011, he credited her with making “the gravy of the gods.” But don’t just take his word for it; see (and taste, for that matter) for yourself at any of St. Martin Parish’s plate lunch houses, listed below.

The Breaux Bridge Lunch Box

1251 Berard St.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 442-1425

Creole Lunch Box

238 Rees St.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-5855

Sunny Dee’s

2577 Coteau Rodaire Hwy.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 667-6914

Glenda’s Creole Kitchen 

3232 Main Hwy. #31
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-0294

RibMaster Soulfood and Snoballs

715 Hank St.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 804-5907

Le Cafe

124 Rees St.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2500


830 S. Main St.
St. Martinville, LA 70582
(337) 342-2477

Gateway Cafe

1350 Henderson Hwy.
Henderson, LA 70517
(337) 228-4283

Billeaud’s No. 3

1069 Freeman Road
Broussard, LA 70518
(337) 837-6825

Mother’s Cafe

222 East Bridge St.
St. Martinville, LA 70517
(337) 342-2633

Janet Ann’s Catering

807 South Main St.
St. Martinville, LA 70582
(337) 654-5159

Charlie T’s Specialty Meats

1406 Rees Street
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2426

Chicken on the Bayou & Boudin Shop

2942-F Grand Point Hwy.
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 667-6073

Cajun Fried Chicken & Seafood

1706 South Main St.
St. Martinville, LA 70584
(337) 394-6880

The Boiling Spot

273 Rees Street
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 442-1238

Diesi’s Little Capitol

2939 Grand Point Hwy
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 667-7150

Jeaux Biff’s Burgers and Beer

625 Grand Point
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-0078

Poche’s Market and Restaurant

3015 Main Hwy #A
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2108

Are You Crazy ‘Bout Crawfish

1905 Rees Street
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
(337) 332-2500