2624 Gerstner Memorial Drive, Lake Charles
Let’s face it, Southwest Louisiana is saturated with restaurants offering Mexican and Latin cuisine. At last count, in our parish alone, we have amassed more than four dozen food trucks and brick and mortar outlets to choose from. Some are fast food, others are long-time staples, and quite a few are newcomers vying for their spot in the mix. The competition is fierce. Rest assured, though, when it comes to each restaurant, and what they have to offer, there are many different nuances to each.
My wife, Shyla, and I had just finished our Saturday running of errands, and, in typical fashion, we were on the hunt for something good to eat. I would consider each of us to be equally fortunate in the fact that when we’re hungry, we will bounce a couple of options off of each other and come to an agreement without stonewalling or folded-arm replies of “I don’t care.” With that being said, we will often choose a cuisine, and then fine-tune to the restaurant of choice. With Mexican cuisine being one of our favorites, on this Saturday, Patron Mexican Grill became our destination.
A single elevated sign marks the indiscreet building which is tucked away on Gerstner Boulevard. You’re guaranteed to miss it if you blink twice.
As my wife and I approached the front door in a hurried walk to stymie the brisk air, the aroma of grilled fajitas and the sounds of festive music filled the air. We were not even a full step inside the door when we were cheerfully welcomed by a man in the counter space who we presumed was the owner. He escorted us to one of the many high-backed booths lining the perimeter of the dining room. The center featured tabletops lined with chairs painted in colorful Hispanic themed motifs. Festive Notreño music came from the speakers throughout.
After only a few seconds, our server, Valeria, introduced herself and presented a basket of crisp tortilla chips, accompanied by fresh salsa and black bean dip.
Quenching our thirst with a pair of house margaritas, my wife and I were eager to sample the shrimp and fish ceviche. Fanned avocado towered over the citrusy blend of seafood, tomato, onion and cilantro. While this dish traditionally incorporates the same ingredients, each creation can vary with the emphasis on certain flavors, and most often, lime. This one was obviously heavy in the tomato aspect. I wasn’t prepared for the touch of sweetness followed by a much-appreciated element of heat. I couldn’t get enough of it.
For the main dish, my wife ordered a steak fajita chimichanga. A flour tortilla loaded with seasoned strips of grilled fajita steak, sautéed onions and bell peppers, tucked and rolled for a quick deep-fried bath to give it a semi-crisp shell, finished in queso blanco, was served on a large platter with guacamole, Spanish rice and refried beans.
I’m not the type of person to ask the kitchen to alter any dish from what is presented on the menu. What you serve, that is what I like. But in this case, I found the perfect opportunity to re-create an elusive dish. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting California and diving into an authentic California burrito, that is something that will stick with you for life.
Barrett Smith, my friend and fellow food enthusiast and I have been on a bit of a quest to find this delicacy locally, only to come out disappointed. However, looking through the many options in the Patron menu, I found the perfect opportunity to re-create this, if the kitchen was willing. I asked Valeria if something like this could be done. Simply omit the cheese sauce and add fries. French fries? Yes.
Smiling as she jotted down my request, she scurried back to place our order. A simple addition to Patron’s burrito supreme will suffice. I sought the burrito supreme, a large flour tortilla layered with beans, grilled fajita steak, onion, bell pepper, cheese, tomato, cilantro, guacamole and sour cream with the addition of the California Burrito signature move, a small string of French fries, all wrapped into one glorious heft of two-handed goodness. This would be a true California burrito. I will divulge the find to Barrett when this edition hits the stands, and hope the California becomes a permanent option.
Thoroughly impressed and wanting to explore more in Patron’s menu, my wife and I vowed to return soon. And we did.
It was a Friday evening, and we were fortunate to secure a table without a wait. We each decided that rather than eat full entrées, we would share appetizers and a la carte plates.
A trio of dishes arrived. There was a simple, tasty shredded beef tostada, a chile relleno with chicken, and Patron Dip.
The chile relleno used a large mild poblano pepper, stuffed with a blend of cheese, lightly coated and topped with a red pepper and cheese sauce. Don’t let the term “chile” sway you from trying this dish. The pepper’s spiciness is slightly more pronounced than a bell pepper, but certainly does not carry the heat intensity you would expect from hatch chiles or jalapeño peppers. These red peppers are very mild and tasty.
We didn’t expect the Patron Dip to come in as one of our favorites. This combination of grilled steak, chicken and shrimp served in a bowl of melted creamy cheese sauce, topped with fresh pico de gallo and a side of warm steamed flour tortillas had my wife and I contemplating ordering a second.
Patron Mexican Grill has earned a spot near the top of our personal favorites. Outstanding service coupled with flavorful and fresh dishes in a vibrant atmosphere make it stand out in the crowd.
Bayou Boards By Gabrielle 1508 Hodges St., Lake Charles
With my love of food and cooking, I like to believe I’m fairly capable of maneuvering my way around the kitchen and creating culinary delights. Even with that notion, I humbly recognize it when someone outperforms me.
During the holidays, my wife and I attended her business Christmas party, which was hosted in a private setting. In the forefront of the hors d’oeuvres was a beautiful setting of appetizing treats on a large platter — what we lovingly refer to as the charcuterie board. It was a well-thought-out display with premium meats and cheeses that boasted a variety of seasonal nuts, fresh berries, fruit and chocolates.
With my upcoming family Christmas party, a board like this offered the perfect opportunity to take a workload off of my wife. I left it to the professional: Bayou Boards by Gabrielle.
A quick online search guided me to the Bayou Boards website, bayouboards.com, which had visuals, sizes variety descriptions of the varieties of foods, along with prices. Bayou Boards offers a variety of sizes, from a small Bite Box and Adult Lunchables, to large charcuteries for up to 15 people — and everything in between. With the number of guests we anticipated, we decided to order a large charcuterie board that accommodated 12 grazers.
With a confirmed pick-up date, I and many others had converged on Bayou Boards to retrieve our orders. A quick peek under the lid made me quite content. Surely, nobody would notice a sample or two missing. I caved. A paper thin slice of prosciutto wrapped around a little Brie on the drive home was a self-serving reward for my efforts.
With our guests arriving, conversation centered around the charcuterie board. Peppered salami, cheddar, Gruyère, blue cheese, pepperoni, clusters of pomegranate and herbed nuts, and jam-like savory spreads were strategically structured in a stunning display. To say Bayou Boards was a hit would be an understatement. With the amount of hassle, time and money saved on my end, and the satisfaction of our guests, I won’t ever hesitate to display these beautiful creations.
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