By Rachel Bertone
Despite its reputation for some of the best Cajun-style cooking in the country, there’s no need to travel to the Louisiana bayou for its signature eats. You can find it right in the heart of Middle Tennessee.
Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Cafe in downtown Franklin has been serving dishes out of the Deep South for a little more than a year. From red beans and rice to top-selling etouffee, gumbo and jambalaya, the family who owns and operates the restaurant prides themselves on their traditional New Orleans menu. The inviting space, featuring a menu written on a chalkboard and Mardi Gras colors and LSU flags adorning the walls, has picnic-style tables allowing customers to enjoy the food while meeting new people.
Papa Boudreaux’s owner, Guy Bader, born and raised in Louisiana, says he learned the recipes from his dad, who opened the original Papa Boudreaux’s in Santa Fe, Tenn., a few years ago.
“In general, Louisiana knows how to cook as a culture,” he says.
Guy learned his way around a kitchen at a young age from his parents – some of his favorite dishes to cook and eat include casseroles, lasagna and dressing. Although he learned the ropes from his father, Guy constantly tweaks and plays with recipes to make them his own. He says a lot of his dad’s recipes are very spicy, but Guy likes to tone down the heat without losing the flavor.
As for the menu, Guy says three major dishes at Papa Boudreaux’s keep customers coming back. Etouffee, which is a Creole dish typically served with shellfish over rice, is the cafe’s biggest seller. Personally, Guy likes the gumbo and jambalaya the best. The restaurant takes a unique approach with their jambalaya by making it to order on the stovetop. (Traditionally, jambalaya is baked in the oven.) And Guy’s gumbo recipe, a staple of Cajun cuisine, is the only one that he won’t share with his other chefs. He believes it is the one recipe that will ensure people return.
“My dad always told me to try the gumbo first. If it isn’t good, you might as well leave the restaurant,” he says.
Guy runs the restaurant with his wife, Erin, who takes care of the front of the house and business side, and his brother, Brad, who is also a chef. He’s proud of their success, noting that if you sat and listened to customers’ comments, it would be easy to see that people love their food.
“We use all fresh seafood and fresh ingredients,” Guy says. “We always encourage people to just come in and try our food. Ask for me; I’ll make you something unique.”
If You Go…
Address: 328 Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064
Phone: (615) 807-2324
Hours of Operation: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Mondays.
As always, please call ahead before traveling long distances.