On the Road

Cajun Cooking in Kaplan, Louisiana

As part of our On the Road series, Bryan Roof heads to rural Louisiana for some Cajun home cooking.

Published Apr. 1, 2022.

Sitting alongside a breezy stretch of Highway 35 in Kaplan, Louisiana, Suire’s Grocery & Restaurant is flanked on each side by grassy flats and farmlands. It’s a squat, tin-roofed building painted with happy caricatures of crawfish; crabs; turtles; and, most notably, a smiling alligator wearing a chef’s toque and an apron near the front door.

Suire’s is split down the middle: The right side serves as the grocery store, and the left side serves as the dining room, where the tablecloths are patterned with red and black crawfish and the pepper shakers are filled with cayenne. The dining room walls are plastered with faded local news clippings and restaurant write-ups and photos of hunters posing with their trophies. 

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Suire’s caters primarily to its band of regulars, and as I arrive, a group of hunters, fresh from the blind and still dressed in camouflage, are finishing their breakfast. The menu represents a broad swath of Cajun home cooking, with everything from alligator po’ boys to crawfish étouffée to brown sugar–glazed fig cake made with local figs. Recently, Suire’s has begun to draw in tourists in search of true Cajun food. As the menu states, “If you want country cooking, come to the country.”

The exterior of Suires Grocery and Restaurant decorated with hand-painted menu items and illustrations of anthropomorphic alligators and turtles.
The exterior of Suire's Grocery & Restaurant is decorated with hand-painted menu items and illustrations of anthropomorphic alligators and turtles.

Opened on October 4, 1976, by Mary Oels and Newton Suire, Suire’s is now owned and operated by their daughters, Lisa Frederick and Joan Suire. Joan recalls her parents telling her when she was 19 years old, “If we buy the store, you’re running it.” She’s been involved with it ever since. 

In the beginning, Newton, who was a rice farmer all his life, would cook at Suire’s in the early morning, leave to go tend the farm, and then come back to cook again in the afternoon. “He was the real cook in the family,” Joan says. 

She tells me that all the recipes are family secrets, which they don’t care to share. Lisa took over the cooking when Newton was unable to carry on.

Lisa Frederick behind the counter at Suire's Grocery & Restaurant

At Suire’s, the shrimp gumbo is complex and redolent of sweet seafood, and the boudin sausage is peppery and bold. I make a comment to my server about the spiciness of the turtle sauce picante—a tomato-and-roux-based turtle stew— and she replies with a grin, “No, no, it’s not hospital food. It’s got a little kick to it.”

At the end of my meal, although Lisa won’t share any recipes, she does offer up some of her kitchen wisdom: “You don’t have to put in the kitchen sink to make the food taste good.”

For a taste of the Cajun treats served up at Suire's Grocery & Restaurant, click below for our recipe for Crab Croquettes, which is inspired by the croquettes at Suire's.

Crab Croquettes

Crab croquettes are a bayou favorite. Time to bring them home.
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