Fondly called "Cajun fast food," boudin is seasoned rice and pork stuffed into a sausage casing and steamed, smoked, or grilled.
Easily one of the most unique foods found in Acadiana—otherwise known as South Louisiana—boudin has gone from being an obscure dish loved by locals and fastidious foodies to a country-wide phenomenon. Everyone wants boudin these days and it's easy to get with major brands like Manda and Savoie's distributing country-wide to supermarket chains like Safeway, Albertsons, and even Walmart. But the best way to enjoy authentic Cajun boudin is to go to the source.
Where is the Boudin Trail?
In and around Scott, a small municipality within Lafayette Parish, there's a well-traveled trail. It's not a wildlife or nature trail—oh no. It's a boudin trail. While there are a couple of actual restaurants on this pilgrimage, most of the spots along the trail are gas stations, family grocery stores, convenience marts, slaughterhouses, and butcher shops or meat markets. For locals, boudin is something you pick up before heading to work—a fatty, savory treat squeezed from the casing into your mouth between sips of hot coffee while sitting on the hood of your car outside the gas station.
The Best Stop Supermarket
If you're going to take the boudin trail, you might want to start with the best…The Best Stop Supermarket, of course. While what is actually the "best" is truly subjective, tied in with a heavy dose of nostalgia, Best Stop is certainly one of the most noted stops for boudin, and it's not difficult to see (and taste) why. Launched in 1986 by Lawrence Menard and Robert Cormier, the Best Stop Supermarket with its iconic red signage and brick red exterior has become one of the biggest names in boudin. The market is a great source for specialty Louisiana meat products, from jerky and tasso to several different types of boudin. In addition to pork, they offer chicken, shrimp, and crawfish boudin, plus boudin "egg rolls" with the boudin filling wrapped in thin pastry dough and fried. They also make Louisiana's answer to Scottish haggis called, chaudin or ponce, made with rice, pork, onions, peppers, and Cajun seasonings sewn up in a pig's stomach which is then baked, braised, or smoked.
Right in the center of Lafayette proper on St. John Street, Johnson's Boucaniere is a new iteration of a Cajun country classic. The restaurant which opened in 2008 is based on the iconic Johnson's Grocery, a neighborhood dry goods store launched by Arneastor Johnson in 1937. Along with selling grocery items, Johnson's was probably the first place to sell boudin commercially, buying the sausage for resale from local boucheries or butcher shops.
"Then in the 1940s, they started making their own boudin," says Greg Walls, owner of Johnson's Boucaniere. "They also started making tasso and sausages and, you know, beef jerky—pretty much anything that can be made with pigs or cows." After Arneastor died, the store was passed to his five siblings, including the famous Wallace Johnson, who at 94 years old, makes regular appearances at the restaurant.
In 2005, the Johnson siblings retired and closed the store in Eunice, but Wallace's granddaughter Lori and her husband Greg couldn't let the Johnson legacy end, thus the creation of Johnson's Boucaniere. An amateur pit master, Walls opened the restaurant in Lafayette selling mostly BBQ, but they also offer that famous boudin, a super secret recipe they keep close to the chest. "In the old store in Eunice, there was this door that was nailed to the wall and when it was removed, we found all of the sausage recipes were behind it," confides Walls. "My wife doesn't even tell me [the recipe]. She actually blends the seasonings and gives them to our guy who makes the boudin, so he doesn't even know what goes in there." Hopefully, it's a secret that won't be lost in future generations.
Guidroz's Food Center
Also in Lafayette, boudin fans will discover Guidroz's Food Center. For over 50 years, this family-run, unassuming, neighborhood grocery and butcher shop offers "boudin with an attitude," though we're not quite sure what that means, other than excellent boudin. The multi-generational shop also offers plate lunches like smothered beef, crawfish etouffee, and po-boys, and they are extremely active in their community. More often than not, they're involved in food drives, fundraisers, and revitalization projects throughout Lafayette.
Another name in boudin you'll hear thrown about is Billy's. There are now four Billy's, with the original in Krotz Springs, a short drive out from Lafayette. A combination meat market, grocery and restaurant, Billy's offers everything from stuffed chicken breasts and seasoned rib eyes to boiled crawfish, boneless pork chops and hot, crispy cracklins, but most go for the boudin. Offering three different flavors—regular, smoked and crawfish—one of the biggest draws to Billy's are their deep fried boudin balls. Much larger than your average, New Orleans-style boudin ball, Billy's are about the size of a tennis ball, dipped in a peppery batter and fried. You can also get them stuffed with pepper jack cheese.
Nunu's Fresh Market
Finally, but not even close to last, any die-hard, boudin aficionado should visit Nunu's Fresh Market in Youngsville. Located on Lafayette Street, Nunu's is a third-generation family grocery and specialty meat market specializing in, you guessed it, boudin. Though getting a pack of their house-made boudin and taking it home to steam or grill is an excellent plan, you might also want to try Nunu's boudin stuffed cheese bread with pepper jelly, boudin-stuffed quail, or boudin-stuffed pork chops and boneless chicken. They also make over 15 different types of sausage, and it's said their chili dogs are to die for.
With dozens of boudin purveyors in Lafayette Parish alone, the above list barely scratches the surface of what's available. Tendrils of the trail even stretch out to Lake Charles, Southeast Texas, and beyond. But you're treading on hallowed ground when you ask who has the best. "You always get the question 'Who has the best boudin?''' says Walls. "To me, it should be rephrased into 'What's your favorite boudin?' It's about what brings back those memories. You need to be careful when you ask that question, because it involves a whole lot more than boudin."