REVIEW: Lagniappe Café offers authentic New Orleans cuisine in Lynchburg

Lagniappe Cafe's Shrimp and Grits
The Lagniappe Cafe offers daily specials like the Saint Charles Shrimp and Grits, a half pound of zesty sautéed shrimp served over Smoked Gouda and Black Pepper Cheese Grits, and topped with a spicy Creole sauce with bacon and green onions. (A Lynchburg Times Photo)

By Tabitha Evans Moore |Editor & Publisher

It’s Sunday afternoon and my curiosity is officially piqued. Lynchburg’s newest restaurant, The Lagniappe Cafe, will offer Saint Charles Shrimp and Grits at today’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. I attended Tulane University in New Orleans, which just happens to sit just off St. Charles, and consider myself a connoisseur of Nawlins-style cuisine. I’m eager to find out if our new café passes muster.

Executive Chef Rod Stutts and his wife, Sandra, opened the café in the former Iron Kettle location last fall. Stutts hails from the New Orleans area. He was raised on the east side of Chalmette, a quaint hamlet located in St. Bernard Parish just east of the Big Easy. The area dates back to the 1700s, prior to the Louisiana Purchase, when the land still belonged to the French. The food they serve reflects his Louisiana heritage and deep southern creole traditions.

Inside, the restaurant reminds me of some of the non-script neighborhood joints I frequented during my time in the Garden District. It offers seating for around 70 at simple café-style tables. Scenes from New Orleans adorn the walls. There’s a Bourbon Street Balcony painting here and a Garden District Home painting there.

Most impressive, at least to me, are the boxes of Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix as well as Louisiana Hot Sauce and Crystal Hot Sauce that decorate shelves. Any person who has ever spent any time in New Orleans will tell you that locals do not touch Tabasco despite the fact that it’s been made by the McIlhenry family on Avery Island for five generations. If you dine in New Orleans – from Commander’s Palace to the Acme Oyster Bar – Crystal and Louisiana sit on tables.

There’s gentle yet distinctive New Orleans-style jazz playing at a low volume over the speakers. The brass band plays swinging, stomping, syncopated beats that take me back to Sunday brunches spent at The Court of Two Sister of Royal Street.

A meal I could have ordered on Magazine Street

In New Orleans, locals don’t normally dine on Bourbon Street or Canal. Instead they prefer the quaint neighborhood restaurants on Maple Street and dive bars on Magazine. Today, I ordered the Shrimp and Grits, and it rivals anything I would have found on a menu there. It comes with either a cup of gumbo or a small side salad. I opt for the gumbo. Whether it comes out brown or red will tell me everything I need to know.

The menu says the Saint Charles Shrimp and Grits are a half pound of zesty sautéed shrimp served over Smoked Gouda and Black Pepper Cheese Grits, and topped with a spicy Creole sauce with bacon and green onions. It’s a pretty honest description. The shrimp come out plump and floating over a bed of creamy grits sprinkled with crisp bacon, tomatoes, and green onions. The gumbo is, in fact, brown, which means that Mr. Stutts actually understands how to make a roux. It’s as much art as science.

The other detail that hints at authenticity to anyone who’s ever spent time in New Orleans is that the French bread is slightly stale but not in a bad way. In other parts of the country, “French bread” is loaded with butter and sugar, which act as a preservative. This doesn’t happen in New Orleans. In the Big Easy, made-fresh daily French bread is baked with no fat, sugar, or preservatives. It doesn’t stay fresh for long but it’s delicious because it’s crunchy on the outside and super soft on the inside. When you order a Po Boy in New Orleans, you’ll get slightly stale and crunchy bread.

White Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding Topped with Homemade Rum Sauce
Bread pudding made with day-old French bread is a New Orleans tradition and Lagniappe Cafe’s White Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding Topped with Homemade Rum Sauce did not disappoint. (A Lynchburg Times Photo)

One of the traditions that’s been born out of that fact is New Orleans-style bread pudding. It’s a recipe that exists because restaurants needed something to do with all that day-old French bread.

I spotted the White Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding Topped with Homemade Rum Sauce on the dessert menu and had to check it out. One bite takes me right back to Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras Street. It’s crispy yet soft with a semi-sweet glaze of rum sauce. It’s decadent but not overly sweet.

A little something extra

Lagniappe is a Creole word meaning a little something extra. It’s standard in New Orleans for a restaurant or shop to give you a small gift at the time of purchase. The Lagniappe Café menu honors that tradition.

They don’t just serve fried green tomatoes. They serve Fried Green Tomatoes Topped with Shrimp Salad and Homemade Remoulade Sauce. They add caramelized onions and roasted garlic and green onion mayonnaise to the Whiskey Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The Lagniappe Burger comes with a Fried Green Tomato. The menu burst with southern favorites with a little something creole added for flair.

They also rotate specials that can include anything from Royal Red Shrimp Boil to Cajun Chicken Pasta.

The dessert menu boasts not only authentic, made-to-order French Quarter Beignets but also a Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie. There’s also a kid’s menu. They served domestic and specialty beers including New Belgium VooDoo Ranger IPA, a favorite down on Bourbon Street. In a wink to our local product, they also serve Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails.

In general, I was impressed. The staff is friendly and very accommodating. They offer suggestions and give dish explanations without being intrusive. I didn’t expect to find a slice of authentic New Orleans right here on the historic Lynchburg Square but that’s exactly what I experienced.

They are open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They close each Monday and Tuesday. To learn more and find out what the specials are visit their Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}.

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