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

Especially if you like varied cuisine like me. Lafayette is now full of diverse culinary delights.

When my wife and I moved to Lafayette over a decade ago, we had easy access to boudin and cracklins. There was one downside: We lost easy access to the wide variety of artisanal and ethnic foods we had in Washington, DC. There was no Ethiopian food, nor, it seemed, Korean food or places to get good pupusas. Even the selection of popular staples like good bread, pizza, and burgers was limited.

But in recent years this paradigm has changed dramatically.

Indian food from Lafayette finally makes its big appearance

Let’s take Indian food as a perfect example. For a long time, Masala Indian Kitchen was the only option for curry and naan. Then Priya’s opened, offering a taste of her home-style Indian cuisine after she started selling her delicious samosas at the Moncus Park Farmers Market. Then Destination India opened, which I’ve heard rave reviews about from friends who know Indian food, and offers a lunch buffet on the weekends.

Then recently, NJoy Curry Masala opened on the corner of Jefferson and Johnston. Although I’ve only just begun exploring their extensive menu, I can already report that their lamb biryani is amazing. Suddenly, Lafayette is awash with Indian food and other South Asian dishes because a few years ago, Bismillah opened, offering delicious Nepalese food.

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

Asian cuisine has diversified even more in recent years. Lafayette’s has long offered good sushi, Thai and, more recently, Vietnamese dishes, and some hidden gems like the Sichuan dishes at Magic Wok (don’t miss the pepper shrimp or fish!) and the Korean dishes at Osaka (plus some of the best pho in town).

But this buffet has grown significantly. Like the authentic and delicious non-American Chinese food 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 that is now available at Bushido, which I am still excited to try. And we haven’t even counted the food trucks Noodlehead, a ramen truck, and Bayou Bao, delicious steamed buns.

Lafayette Food Trucks Are Here to Stay

Food trucks are a popular destination for culinary diversity in larger cities, but until recently their impact on Lafayette’s palates has been limited. Some food trucks have evolved into delicious restaurants – like Scratch Farm Kitchen, Viva La Waffle and Blanchard’s BBQ. But for a long time, it felt like the food truck scene was over.

They are experiencing a renaissance in Lafayette, so great that not one but two food truck parks are planned. The first at Parc de Oaks on the Northside and the recently announced Uncle Bob’s Roundup in downtown Lafayette, which is set to open soon.

More about restaurants in Lafayette

The restaurant business has always been notoriously tough. This is even more true in a place like Lafayette, where so many establishments have set the bar so high for so many years.

Although flavors and ingredients differ, enjoying the taste of home is a common denominator that connects Latin America and southern Louisiana.

Grocery stores large and small have left downtown Lafayette. Local organizations are stepping in to fill gaps in the food supply chain and address the central challenge: access at the neighborhood level.

Food trucks tend to experiment and explore the culinary depths in delightful new ways. And they’re an important way for new restaurants to test the market and gain traction. We see this with Sarrica’s Delicious Pizza and Pasta, for example, which started as a food truck, then moved to a pop-up at Acadiana Beer Garden, and is now working on opening its own restaurant. So the presence of food trucks is a key driver of delicious diversity.

Good bread is available everywhere in Lafayette

Bread has exploded. Poupart’s and Great Harvest were for a long time the only alternatives to bread from the supermarket

Today, Lafayette is full of delicious gluten. Straw Cove mills its own flour and produces great bread and even greater bagels. Boscoyo brings out some really creative, artisan breads and cakes. Wild Child offers life-changing sourdough focaccia and baguettes (not to mention the best frozen pizza I’ve ever had). And there are a host of other artisans like Levain Acadian and Sunny Akers. Lucia Bakehouse has taken Lafayette’s fine baking to a whole new level.

Even local specialties have diversified. Pizza is much more interesting today than it was ten years ago. It’s no longer just Deano’s, Pizza Village, Alesi’s or national chains. The sadly defunct Bread & Circus Provisions was the first to launch Neapolitan pizzas in Lafayette, but it was soon followed by downtown’s tried-and-true Central Pizza, recently joined in the high-end pizza space by Sarrica’s and most recently Jim Deggy’s. There are also a variety of pop-up options for artisan pizza, 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 home-cooked food shop called Presh Cuisine that offers African dishes like fufu. Or my favorite farm-to-table burgers at Scratch Farm Kitchen, Five Mile Eatery and Park Bistro. Or the growing abundance of Latin American food at places like Patacon or La Papa Loca or one of the ever-increasing number of taco trucks.

More opinions from Geoff Daily

Governor Landry’s decision to deny Catholic Charities of Acadiana $1 million to operate its homeless shelter could, if left unchecked, literally cost lives.

Lafayette Parish owes city taxpayers $17 million for the Homewood Detention Pond. The debt costs taxpayers $500,000 annually in lost interest.

Louisiana’s relative plight might actually help Lafayette. If you live in a poorly located community, Lafayette is one of the best places to move.

Lafayette is enjoying a golden age when it comes to selection, and I hope it gets even better so that we can have more choices right here at home and not have to wait until we visit larger cities to satisfy our cravings for new flavors.

But this new reality isn’t guaranteed to stay that way. While eating in Lafayette may be better than ever, staying afloat in our competitive restaurant scene has always been difficult. And that’s truer now than ever, with everything so expensive.

So that means if you’re like me and want to eat more than just the delicious Cajun and Creole dishes our area is known for, then we should make a conscious effort to get out and support the restaurants we love, old and new. Let’s not take our newfound diversity for granted, but get out and enjoy everything Lafayette’s evolving dining scene has to offer.

Which restaurant do you like to go to on Monday evenings?