Living Ind

Eat Your Heart Out

by Dege Legg

It's cool, colorful, eclectic, relaxed, and funky. And it's got a bar. If you haven't been to Lafayette's newest hip eatery, The Saint Street Inn, you need to check it out, especially if you're more about the food than the fashion show.

Posthaste with Ind alumni Mary Tutwiler and Nathan Stubbs  By Dege Legg  Photo by Robin May

It's cool, colorful, eclectic, relaxed, and funky. And it's got a bar. If you haven't been to Lafayette's newest hip eatery, The Saint Street Inn, you need to check it out, especially if you're more about the food than the fashion show. Owned and operated by two former Independent staffers, food and feature writer Mary Tutwiler and hard boiled, lid-blowing journalist Nathan Stubbs, The Saint Street Inn is Lafayette's non-corporate, all fresh, all-local eatery. "First and last is that our food has to taste great. Happily, the fresher food is, the better anything tastes," says Tutwiler. "Seasoning and skill are the other ingredients. And heart. We give our cooking all that, every day."

Life history in five words, more or less 
Mary Tutwiler: Born hungry
Nathan Stubbs: Don't burn the bread

What made you make the jump from journalists to restaurateurs?
MT: I got tired of sitting in a chair watching the cooks around town have all the fun.
NS: They're actually very similar: I'm still picking up news at the bar, blowing the lid off things, and putting in crazy hours for what often seems like a hopeless business model. But having fun doing it.

What's the biggest difference between working in a restaurant and working at a newspaper?
MT: Getting your hands dirty. Come to think of it, there's no difference.
NS: Similar to the difference between pro and college football. The pace is faster and the risk of injury more serious.

Restaurant inspections: local racket fueled by greedy bureaucrats or local officials sincerely concerned about commercial food preparation?
MT: We love our local inspectors and look forward to being evaluated.
NS: Pleasantly surprised to find it's the latter.

Jimmy Buffet was famous for "nibblin' on sponge cake and watching the sun bake." What will you one day be famous for?
MT: Disappearing down the highway with some Dickel in my hip flask.
NS: Munchin' on boudin and driving a sedan.

Name one thing you will never eat. Why?
MT: Don't be silly, Dege. After having lunch with me for years and years you know I eat anything.
NS: Nonorganic apples. Probably the most chemically treated produce in the store.

Favorite food as a kid?
MT: Butterscotch pudding from a box, and Red Drink, a New Orleans classic made by Barq's
NS: Mac n'cheese.

It's a documented fact that most, if not all, restaurant managers are addicted to cocaine. Who on the Saint Street staff fulfills this dastardly role?
MT: Red Bull is the new cocaine, and all of them are junkies.
NS: Our managers are only addicted to Excedrin, Red Bull and chicken liver pate, the combination of which can definitely make them seem like they're on cocaine.

It was discontinued years ago, but Hamburger Helper used to make something called Beef Taco Bake. It was the best thing ever. Can you bring it back from oblivion?
MT: Always wanted to try to resurrect the dead with my cooking
NS: Absolutely.
Everyone's calling their crap organic. My ass is organic, you know? What criteria determine true organic food?
MT: Organic isn't my measuring rod; it's local. If I can buy it at the Farmer's Market or from a local fisherman, farmer, rancher, butcher, baker, dairy farmer or gatherer (we do like foraged food), it goes on my table.
NS: It's supposed to mean food that is 100 percent free of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals. But of course, the government can't be counted on to adequately police and certify this. Best solution is to buy local and know the source.

Who or what has been one of the major influences on your life?
MT: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Alice Waters. Women cooks and food writers.
NS: Michael Jordan. And Cuisinart.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned about starting your own business?
MS: You have to get up early and go to work EVERY morning. No calling in sick.
NS: Be patient. Don't yell.

Worst day on the job thus far?
MT: Day 3. We were slammed the first few days we were open, before we hired Buffalo to keep our kitchen rock steady. In the weeds, people waiting for food, customers walking out the door.
NS: The day my Global chef knife disappeared. Tragic.

How many times should one refrigerate and heat and reheat leftovers?
MT: We never have leftovers; we have a well-fed wait staff.
NS: Generally not more than twice.

Name one thing no one knows about you.
MT: I love the smell of skunks.
NS: I own a very extensive collection of Ozzie Smith baseball cards I collected as a kid.