120 W. 1st. St., DeRidder, LA
Recently, I haven’t been getting up to DeRidder very often. A few years ago, my wife and I sometimes traveled there for a Friday night football game, or maybe a trip to Natchitoches during Christmas. When we came back from one of those excursions, I tended to get a little hungry as we got close to home. One night, as we were driving south through the center of town on 171, I noticed a cool little covered patio with a simple hanging neon sign. It looked like a viable place to stop. Unfortunately, my suggestion to check it out was quickly vetoed by my wife as she was eager to get home.
Recently, my buddy Greg mentioned that Cecil’s up in DeRidder was getting quite a buzz in the mentions department. I figured it was worth a road trip.
My wife is the type who really doesn’t like surprises and wants details, so she can plan her attire. So, I had to say we were going to Cecil’s Cajun Kitchen in DeRidder. The blank stare and slow blinks I witnessed assured me she had no idea what I was talking about. Even better! So, dress casual, I told her. Our daughter overhead the conversation and said she wanted to join us.
After a nice 45-minute drive north, we arrived in town. It was a clear black night with a white moon and crisp winter air as we made our way along the sidewalk to the door. As we stepped inside, there were quite a few people sitting comfortably in several cozy chairs and sofas in the entry way. Judging from the exterior of the building, I didn’t anticipate how spacious it was inside. Brick walls with a industrial mill added their appeal to the décor.
Knowing that DeRidder prides itself on being a railroad town, I asked about the history of the building. I was told the restaurant has been there 15 years. It’s said it was a car dealership in a previous life.
Not long after the hostess jotted my name down, we were offered a seat. However, she became sidetracked and another hostess seated a couple at the intended table. No worries; we all laughed it off as we were offered a table upstairs.
The upstairs dining area featured several tables, TVs and sports memorabilia on the walls and a full bar. Our server took our orders of sodas. We chose a couple of appetizers to share: house-made cheese sticks and mushrooms started us off.
The menu offered quite a bit of variety. Choices ranged from salads and gumbo, to chicken and seafood, to their popular poboys, steaks and traditional Cajun dishes. I glanced over the menu a few times, and everything sounded fantastic. But I kept coming back to the steak options. My wife ordered the blackened fish, topped with a crawfish étouffée with a side of jambalaya, while our daughter ordered the Combeaux platter with fried fish and shrimp, stuffed shrimp and crabs. My choice was a no brainer. I can’t pass up a 21-day dry aged steak. The 14-ounce ribeye over Cajun onions was my choice.
It wasn’t long before the food arrived: the blackened fish in its sauce, the basket of fried seafood, and then, my dish, crackling with sounds of onion searing on the hot skillet with a loaded baked potato on the side.
My wife and I regularly get to sample each other’s choice. It all tasted fantastic. The blackened fish, finished in the rich sauce, had great flavor and texture. Then there was this beautiful steak. Not only did it come off the grill looking pretty with its perfectly positioned sear marks, but also the aroma had my mouth watering. If you’ve never had the chance to try a truly aged steak, I implore you to do so. This was high-end steak house quality. The tenderness of the meat and the intensification of flavor were extremely rewarding, as was the entire visit.
Cecil’s is comfortable. It’s a Cajun family fun atmosphere. It’s kids dancing on the wood floor. It’s great food and service and well worth the drive from the Lake Area. Have a Happy New Year!