Waffles. Soda. Poboys. Keeping it simple may be the best recipe of all.
If chefs are artists then Collin Cormier likes to paint on small canvases. Make no mistake here, his breadth of vision escapes the physical limitations of his chosen media, at this point the waffle, the soda and now the poboy, to take humble food vehicles to exciting new places. As the entrepreneur behind Lafayette’s fi rst food truck in Viva La Waffle, the co-Wonka behind Lafayette’s dreamer of soda dreams at Swamp Pop and now the audacious purveyor of playful poboys at Pop’s Poboys Downtown, Cormier has habituated making mountains out of mole hills.
Since leaving his three-year stint as the award-winning executive chef at Blue Dog Café, Cormier has embarked on a series of local innovations, all bounded by their use of simple concepts that produce unlimited possibilities. While the poboy certainly isn’t an innovation for Lafayette, Cormier’s approach has thrown out the rule book on what a Lafayette poboy can be beyond something delicious stuffed into a loaf of Langlinais’ french bread.
“I don’t like being pigeon-holed,” Cormier says, “The one restraint is that it has to get into this bread. And beyond that the possibilities are sort of endless.”
The plain-Jane sophistication of Pop’s storefront Downtown is an outward expression of that simplicity of spirit. After leasing the space at 740 Jefferson St., Cormier and his team set about stripping the dining room back to its stunning infrastructure. Making minor repairs, adding subway tile, hanging Edison bulbs and putting a new buff on the handsome back bar, Cormier created a space as blankly potent as the fare he serves.
Pop’s delivers the goods with classic fi xings like roast beef debris and fried seafood, but has expanded the poboy vocabulary with offerings like the red bean falafel with tzatziki or weekly specials like a jerk chicken with mango chutney. Despite the oceans separating the ethnic influences on the menu, the sandwiches all seem to exist on the same continent.
“My idea here is to have some new stuff and some fun stuff that people don’t really associate with poboys, but also you could bring your grandma here and have a fried shrimp classically dressed and wouldn’t feel out of place.”
Cormier’s other ventures, Swamp Pop and Viva La Waffle, blend a similar sense of familiarity and adventure — Swamp Pop with flavors like Noble Cane Cola, a Louisiana spin on the classic cola flavor, or the aptly titled Rosceaux at Viva, bringing a taste of Louisiana’s chicken and waffle icon to diners on the move.
The results have been remarkable. Viva La Waffle did indeed spark a revolution of sorts with food trucks becoming a daily part of Lafayette dining. Swamp Pop is now regionally available with a distribution deal through Rouses Supermarkets. As for Pop’s, the humble poboy shop recently failed at a soft opening just before Festival International de Louisiane 2015, with folks lining up around Convent Street to get a taste. Within three days of the unofficial opening, Pop’s was out of food.
The ideas may be simple, but they are damn effective.