1708 Gerstner Memorial Blvd. • Lake Charles, LA
Table Salt • By Bill Coyne
There’s a busy stretch of roadway in Lake Charles that is riddled with options to grab a bite. It’s that section of town that’s blue-collar and hard working. It’s full of deeply rooted families who have held the same address for decades; where grandma’s house and the memories made there will always hold a special place in the hearts of the kids after they’ve grown up. It’s a section of town in which a stray shopping buggy commandeered by a down and out — someone just trying to make it a few more blocks to get to their spot to rest for the day — is a common sight.
Leonard’s Food Quarters has been an anchor in this area, and if you haven’t been there, you owe it to yourself to make that trip. I pass through the area almost daily, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else who promises themselves they’ll stop in there sometime in the future. I’ve tried to get in several times in the past and have failed, only to put it off for another day.
Day after day, people jockey for position to get into the small space set up for drive-thru orders. But they do get in, and all without causing some sort of melee. And they keep coming back.
Leonard’s had made a Facebook post earlier in the day that definitely caught my attention. I sent a quick message to my wife and asked if she would like to escape the office and meet up for lunch. Unfortunately, her schedule wasn’t going to allow this, which left me eating solo.
Walking up to the building, I didn’t know what to expect on the other side of the dark door. Inside, the counter before me was being overseen by two very kind people.
I was a bit surprised at the number of options available on the menu. I really had expected to walk in and order the meal I noticed on Facebook. But the menu is large, which sidetracked me for a few minutes. The menu includes Poboys, salad, pizza, burgers and dinner plates galore. There’s plenty to choose from.
Leonard’s is the type of restaurant where you order and pay at the counter. After a small internal debate, I stuck to my original plan and ordered the seafood combo — fish filet, large fried shrimp, shrimp étouffée, potato salad and garlic bread. I added a side garden salad.
I was handed my cup and my electronic buzzer that we all watch attentively but that always catches us off guard. After only a few minutes, the buzz signaled my order was ready at the pickup counter.
I wasn’t anticipating that much food. I was immediately impressed at the heft and display of food I was cradling back to my table. This wasn’t food that was scooped out of a tin and thrown onto a plate. This is cooked to order.
The fish was hot and steamy, the cornmeal coating was greaseless. The three large shrimp were lighter in the coating.
Leonard’s etouffee is unique. At least it’s unlike the many others I’ve tried. There is definitely a pronounced tomato flavor. It’s not hidden under spices and seasoning. It’s delicate, with generous amounts of shrimp placed throughout the dish, which is served over a heaping bed of rice.
I was craving a salad. I didn’t need one, especially after I saw how much food was before me. But even this little $3 side salad was impressive. There were crispy fresh greens, veggies and peppers, olives and a large portion of an egg.
I wasn’t going to let my wife miss out on this. As my day wrapped up, I sent another message that I was on my way back to Leonard’s and I would pick up something for her. She wanted the crawfish étouffée as it is kicked up a bit. You can definitely taste the flavors and heat of a good ole crawfish boil in the gravy.
Leonard’s is a staple in the community. It’s family owned and operated, and they’ve been proudly serving good food to Lake Charles for years. They’ll continue to do so for many more.