Road Food: The New Cankton Drive-In

by Mary Tutwiler

I sat down at my desk last week, and as predictable as the maddening smell of bacon and brown gravy wafting up from the kitchens at Antlers filling the parking garage about 10 in the morning, my cube mate, Dege Legg, the Ind's resident rock star, asked me what I was thinking about for lunch. "I dunno," is my usual response while I'm waiting for my second cup of coffee to kick in. "Where's Cankton?" he asked.
"North of Crowley," I responded. Then I looked it up on the map, it's actually west of Carencro. "You ever been to the Drive-In?" Dege asked.
"What?," I responded, not yet awake, and any way, the only thing I know about Cankton is defunct, the notorious Jay's Cockpit.
"I saw this ad on TV for the Cankton Drive-In last night," Dege said. "You want to go?"
Now normally, I'm the road food adventurer, the weirder it is, the more likely Dege is to walk down to the Filling Station for his fave burger.
But this time he was focused, intent on finding the drive-in.
"Where did you hear about it," I asked.
"I was watching TV at Joni's [artist Joni Landreneau is Dege's girlfriend] house, babysitting the puppy, while she was cooking dinner. This kind of kooky localized commercial came on the TV, and it had a shot of a big juicy burger on there." Dege is our resident burger expert. "It looked as if it were a full pounder made of real meat." And real meat is Dege's criteria for great burgers.
"Sure," I said.
By that time, Joni had pulled up at the front door of the Ind, Dege having correctly calculated that I'm a sucker for a road trip that ends in food.
It was a gorgeous day, we backroaded it, cows and horses pasturing in the sunshine, hay rolled up into white plastic bales like giant marshmallows. Jay's, shuttered, signless, looks no more dilapidated than it did toward the end of its heyday. I bored Dege and Joni with a long windy description of the heyday of the old lounge, when Clifton Chenier played there.
The drive-in, the New Cankton Drive-In, is painted bright white, red and yellow, fresh paint on a building that has been there forever. The lady who took our order, however, said they had only been in business for three months. I guess that explains the "New" in the name.
It was just noon, but the restaurant was already finished with its lunch rush, there was only one order of the daily special, a smothered pork chop plate, left.
I opted for the barbecued pork chop sandwich. Joni got a meat pie. Dege wasn't going to be deterred from his burger quest. He added in fries and a shake. We waited. That's a good sign. It means the food was being cooked to order, not shuffling down the corporate conveyer belt. And honest food was what we got.
Leaning on the trunk of the car in the parking lot of Jay's, where I insisted we stop for a nostalgic picnic, Dege rhapsodized over his burger. "This is better than the one from the two ladies on the Breaux Bridge highway. It's as good as the Filling Station." Then he had his mouth full. I liked my barbecue sandwich and Joni shared her meat pie. All good. We got December sunburns from lolling around in a food coma for a while.
Rolling home, we took La. 93, right past the Best Stop and I made them stop for a boudin ball dessert.
Later that day, I went to get my hair cut at Brian Frederick's shop on Jefferson St. Brian asked me about my day and I waxed rhapsodic about our lunch. Brian, who lives in the Carencro area is familiar with Cankton and Jay's.
"You say you ate lunch at Jay's?" he asked.
"Yep, right in front of the building," I replied.
"You do know it was torn down years ago," he responded.
I looked him in the eye in the mirror as he smirked and snipped.
"What kind of shape were you in when you went to Jay's?" he asked.
I tend to be prone to blushing, it's the red-head skin I inherited from my mother.
"Where was I eating lunch?" I finally asked him.
"The old auction barn across the street from Jay's," he said.
Ah, the ghosts of cattle past, rather than the spirit of fighting cocks I thought I was channelling.
I'll go back to the New Cankton Drive-In soon, it was great. But perhaps I should be ordering humble pie for dessert.

Cankton Drive-In, 613 Main St., Cankton, (337) 668-4473