Bon Appetit

Lunch time at The Independent Weekly's offices at 551 Jefferson St. is always a lively affair, especially when football season and cooler weather means that a lot of our staffers have been cooking gumbo, brisket, red beans and rice, ribs, jambalaya and countless other dishes for weekend gridiron feasts. It's not uncommon to find 10 of us huddled around our small kitchen table, eating tailgating leftovers, debating the finer points of recipes and sharing our latest restaurant discoveries.

Simply put, we love food and we love Acadiana's rich culinary traditions and bustling restaurant scene ' and we take our food coverage seriously. Independent Staff Writer Mary Tutwiler is one of the preeminent food writers in Louisiana. Her food writing has also appeared in The Times-Picayune, emerils.com, Chile Pepper magazine, The Miami Herald and the Dallas Morning News, and she's also a contributor to the forthcoming book Cornbread Nation 4. We're fortunate to have her 20-plus years of experience guiding and shaping The Independent Weekly's food coverage.

The goal for our Restaurant Guide was to provide you with a handy, informative and regularly updated reference that might inspire you to visit a restaurant you've never tried before, or remind you of the charms of some Acadiana culinary icons. In our brief write-ups of each restaurants, we've aimed to provide a snapshot of the cuisine and atmosphere of each eatery.

Here's how we constructed our Restaurant Guide. We called every restaurant included and confirmed whether they served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and what days they were open. We consulted their Web sites when available, asked them whether they accepted credit cards, and asked them if they had any recent additions or specials on their menus.

More important, we're intimately familiar with every establishment included in our guide. From humble po-boy joints and barbecue outposts in gas stations to upscale restaurants like The Townhouse or Ruth's Chris, The Independent Weekly editorial staff has eaten at every establishment multiple times, whether we were grabbing a to-go order on a story deadline or celebrating a special family occasion. We're passionate about these restaurants because they're a part of our lives ' and we know they're a part of your lives, too.

This time around, we excluded national chain restaurants with beaucoup locations. That decision's partly on space considerations; including every restaurant in Lafayette would be venturing into phone book-territory. And while outposts like Chili's, Picadilly, Logan's Steakhouse, Hooters and numerous fast-food franchises are part of our regular culinary stops and all have their own unique attributes, we trust that a terrific chain like Outback Steakhouse is such a part of Lafayette's collective consciousness that you don't need us to weigh in on its addictive Bloomin' Onion.

We're already planning another Independent Weekly Restaurant Guide issue in spring 2008, and we'll be spotlighting restaurants by categories like Cajun, Creole, Seafood, Sushi, Italian, Buffet, etc. And we want to hear from you. Do you have a favorite under-the-radar plate lunch place or a similar hidden jewel, down-home or upscale in Acadiana, that we missed? Do you think we should include national chain restaurants? Then please e-mail [email protected], Call me at 988-4607, ext. 109 or fax me a note to 983-0150. Mary Tutwiler can also be reached at [email protected]

Special thanks to Olde Tyme Grocery, which made the spectacular shrimp po-boy featured in our cover photo. Bon appetit.