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On the Road

The Inspiration Behind Our Fall-Off-The-Bone Stuffed Turkey Wings

The wings at Laura II give a new identity—and life—to all of those bland turkey dishes us non-Louisianians are too familiar with.
By Published Jan. 17, 2019

Where We Went

Map of Lafayette, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

Courir de Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday Run") is one of the oldest Cajun-style Mardi Gras traditions in south Louisiana.

I have a friend who lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, who couldn't stop raving about the stuffed turkey wings from Laura's II. Their words were convincing enough that Staff Photographer Steve Klise and I decided to head down South ourselves to see if owner Madonna Broussard's turkey wings were worth the hype. They were. In fact, they were better than we anticipated. After the first bite of this dish, you'll understand how this restaurant was able to survive a devasting fire and more than one relocation. But before you get in your car and head over to their spot—or dig into our version of their Stuffed Turkey Wings in the comfort of your home—check out our experience.

The turkey wings at Laura’s II in Lafayette, Louisiana, are an impressive sight: probably close to 2 pounds each, well browned, and served without the gravy that is prevalent on every other dish.

The area along the drumstick of each wing is “stuffed” with a mixture of garlic and spices, of which cayenne is surely one, while the others remain secret. Braised in their own juices, these wings give new identity and life to the otherwise bland turkey dishes most of us non-Louisianians know and, if not love, tolerate.

“This is soul food!” owner Madonna Broussard tells me. This is the cooking she learned from her grandmother and mother.

When people eat here they are gonna feel like this is a home. And it’s a good home.

Madonna’s grandmother, Laura Broussard, ran a restaurant out of the back of her house in the 1960s. It was one of Lafayette’s first soul food “plate lunch” spots, where working-class residents could find a square meal for a reasonable price.

The restaurant and home were destroyed by a fire in the 1970s, and Laura’s relocated to a residential neighborhood. In 2000, the restaurant moved again, to a busy commercial strip on West University Avenue, reopening as Laura’s II—a name chosen to acknowledge that the location had changed while reassuring longtime customers that the food had not.

Today the dining room is tight but friendly, with carpeting throughout, a combination of painted and exposed-brick walls, and six skinny windows hung with venetian blinds to let the afternoon sun dribble in.

Customers, who line up early for the lunch rush, are greeted with the sights and smells of the day’s entrées, from smothered pork chops to shrimp fricassee. A crew of women scrambles behind the counter, writing down orders, scooping out generous portions, and shouting back to the kitchen for fried chicken and stuffed turkey wings.

All this activity reflects the spirit of Laura’s original restaurant. Madonna tells me with a sincere look in her eyes, “When people eat here they are gonna feel like this is a home. And it’s a good home.”

Laura II in Lafayette, LA.
Laura's II in Lafayette, Louisiana, has been such an important presence in the community that not even a fire could make locals forget about their good food.

If You Go

Restaurant: Laura’s II

Address: 1904 W. University Ave., Lafayette, LA 70506

What we ate (and loved): Stuffed Turkey Wings, Shrimp Fricassee

Insider tip: While there’s usually a lunch rush, it moves pretty quickly. So if you arrive and see people flowing out the door, don’t worry—you’ll be staring down a stuffed turkey wing in no time. Also, the portions are big. Don’t overorder. And just because your food is served in a foam container doesn’t mean it’s takeout. Have a seat in the dining room and make some new friends.

Don't forget to check out Cook's Country Takes America for more recipes inspired by our miles on the road (and in the air).