Eat Lafayette is underway; time to get out of the house and into locally owned restaurants.
Driving south toward Milton on Kaliste Saloom Road, it would be easy to mistake Dark Roux as another chain restaurant. The exterior is boxy and wrapped with faux stucco, with an inviting but easily replicable patio staring out out into a parking lot ringed with the usual strip mall neighbors: an insurance agency, a nail salon and a 24-hour gym. Take a seat on that patio and you realize something is entirely out of place. The garden boxes are full of herbs like rosemary, chives, sage and oregano, as well as edible flowers. Dark Roux is not a chain headquartered out of state, it is a voraciously locavore eatery in the hand-me-down digs of the Brick & Spoon chain that once called the building home. Still in his first year of operation, owner Ryan Trahan knows he needs to get his brand identity and locally sourced fare out to the growing hordes of Lafayette eaters. That’s where Eat Lafayette steps in.
Entering its 11th year, the campaign by Lafayette Travel aims to promote all-things-Lafayette dining each summer, this year for its longest season yet — June 22 through Sept. 20. Participating restaurants dangle all sorts of enticements to visitors and residents alike, tempting patrons with discounts and combos, new dishes and secret deals. All you need to know are the magic words, “Eat Lafayette.”
For newer restaurants like Dark Roux, a campaign like this can be crucial to establishing word-of-mouth clientele, as well as credibility by association. This year’s list of nearly 100 participating vendors, the largest in the campaign’s history, touts heavy hitters like Charley G’s, Olde Tyme Grocery and Dark Roux’s alphabetical neighbor Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse. Timed intentionally with a typically slow summer restaurant season, Eat Lafayette is proving its success with its ever-growing list of eager participants.
As a farm-to-table, hyper-local restaurant, Dark Roux supports an ecosystem of small producers and vendors. Its partnership with Gotreaux Family Farms generates $8,000 to $9,000 of orders per week that would otherwise go to large restaurant suppliers like national giant Sysco and Capitol City Produce in Baton Rouge. With a growing number of vendors and restaurants taking an invested stake in locally produced ingredients and cuisine, campaigns like Eat Lafayette become even more significant to the local economy, steering visitors away from more familiar national brands and into the loving arms of locally owned and operated eateries.
Making it even easier to support your favorite Lafayette restaurant, Eat Lafayette has partnered with dining app Waitr, which will provide mobile ordering and delivery service for participating restaurants. If you’re looking for a more libatious way to join the fun, check out Eat Lafayette’s second annual Food, Wine, Beer & Spirits Experience this August, showcasing food and beverage pairings by local brewers, bottlers, wine and liquor merchants in restaurants around the city.
If you’re looking to get a taste of the who’s who in this year’s campaign, check out the official Eat Lafayette Kick-Off Event at the Heymann Center June 25 (visit eatlafayette.com for more info). More than 50 of the participating Eat Lafayette restaurants will gather for a pop up bazaar of Lafayette’s best local tastes.