STEAMBOAT BILL’S: 20x BEST OF SWLA WINNER

Brad Goins Sunday, December 22, 2013 0
STEAMBOAT BILL’S: 20x BEST OF SWLA WINNER

One Of The Four Businesses That Have Appeared In Lagniappe’s Best Of Awards For 20 Consecutive Years

It’s now been 20 years since Lagniappe published the results of its first Best Of Southwest Louisiana survey.

In the two decades the Best of SWLA has existed, four businesses have made the list all 20 years. They haven’t always won in the same category, but each year they’ve managed to win the public’s support for something.

As it happens, all four are perennially popular food establishments that have stood the test of time. All serve dishes or drinks that are favorites of the public; any one of these might win a Best Of Award in any given year.

Lagniappe now takes a special look at these four repeat performers: Darrell’s, Pat’s of Henderson, Casa Mañana and Steamboat Bill’s. We’ll try to determine what they’ve changed in the last 20 years and what customer-pleasing features they’ve worked hard not to change at all. Here’s a look at Steamboat Bill’s:

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Kathi Kocik

Kathi Kocik

The story of Steamboat Bill’s is known far and wide as “A Roadside Peddler’s Dream.”

In 1982, Chicagoan Kathi Kocik and her three young daughters found themselves in Lake Charles. They had very little money and no friends or family in the area, but they had a strong will to survive.

In her new surroundings, Kocik soon became known as “Kathi, The Shrimp Lady.” The title was a reflection of her bubbling personality, honesty, hard work and deep love for all human beings.

She had a strong desire to deliver the freshest shrimp possible at a reasonable price and quickly. This gained her the respect of consumer and fisherman alike.

“Most of Lake Charles saw us when we started peddling shrimp on the side of the road, and our move to shrimp boats and a shrimp dock in Hackberry, and our tiny little place on Highway 14 that burned down,” says Kocik. But from that tragedy, and a long passage of time, two thriving restaurants in Lake Charles eventually emerged.

With the help of her brother Billy Bonamici’s, Kocik’s rapidly growing business, Steamboat Bill’s, expanded to the point that it needed a shrimp dock and buying plant to supply the demand.

Napoleonic laws and other restrictions plagued the business. In fact, Kocik eventually went to the Supreme Court on behalf of the business. To the delight of her friends, customers and business acquaintances, she emerged from court triumphant.

She, her brother and daughters used their leadership and direction to create a new phenomenon in Cajun country: one that sprang from the seafood market industry. The fruits of the labors are now enjoyed in the two Lake Charles locations of Steamboat Bill’s Cajun Seafood Restaurants.

“We realize our customers are the ones who made us No. 1,” says Kocik. “We would like to thank God for this blessing, and thank all the customers who have turned to our extended family and supported us for 30 years.”