You have to be a little wrong in the head to take on a food challenge. First off, I closely follow Texas State Bobcats sports, a fact which many fellow alums will say is one strike against my sanity. I also voluntarily watch Sun Belt Conference games like Georgia Southern vs. Idaho on a second screen during college football Saturdays, a revelation which caused my editor to accurately describe my human condition:
@THETXSTUniv you are still a delinquent college football fan who needs professional help.— Matthew Monte (@MatthewMonte) October 19, 2014
Seeing as Texas State was playing the ULM Warhawks this past weekend and I'd decided to feed my voracious appetite for college football and make the 7 hour trip east, I asked our Underdog Dynasty Louisiana contingent about the Cajun food options available in Monroe. The Ragin' Cajun and Bulldog factions gave me a solid "meh" in response. I didn't hear any real rebuttal from our ULM representation. I was despondent.
Then, out of nowhere, salvation came in the form of Louisiana Tech beat writer Jason Jones:
Jason Jones (@BigJasonJones) October 23, 2014
Wait, eat the what?
Oh my god.
Then, this happened:
Insanity? Check. Motivation? Check. An editor rather insistent that I do the challenge?
Check. I would definitely make this happen.
Obviously, I didn't have breakfast Saturday morning. Our local hosts and ULM grads Courtney, Josh, and his wife Stacy, had never heard of the place; neither had my ride and fellow Bobcat, Jason, who grew up nearby in Lake Providence and has ties to Monroe.
As we neared the restaurant it was easy to see why the place may have escaped the attention of some locals. "For the Love of N'awlins" is actually located northeast of ULM and Monroe proper on Highway 80 and is closer to the suburb of Swartz than Monroe itself.
At least a few locals knew of the place as they ate their lunch with little more than a mildly curious glance at the Texas State t-shirts that college buddy (and Jason's wife) Hillary and I were wearing. "N'Awlins" also had gotten some solid reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, and the restaurant interior was clean as Cajun music wafted throughout the building. All good signs thus far.
Facing Down the Roux-Ga-Roux
For those of you who are curious as I was about what "Roux-Ga-Roux" means, a quick jump over to our handy friend Wikipedia shows that a "Rougarou" is the following:
So, a giant mound of seafood based on a Cajun legend warning that if you're a glutton you'll turn into a werewolf.
Fifteen minutes or so after ordering, the mountain of seafood came out. Of course, I had to document this momentous occasion. Just for this moment, I'd previously set up an Instagram account earlier in the day. Apparently Instagram prefers that people take their videos with their phones facing up, so you might wanna tilt your head to take in the majesty of the Roux-Ga-Roux in all its glory.
Destroying a Beautiful Seafood Creation
Every last bit of the seafood was excellent. The stuffed crabs were piping hot and full of delicious crab filling, the oysters, butterfly shrimp, and crawfish tails were crispy and juicy, and the popcorn shrimp were fried perfectly. I had then saved the hushpuppies for "last," and they were still fresh and had just the right amount of crispiness and flavor that you'd expect out of the best hushpuppies.
As my stomach started to push back at me, I then realized that I still had a significant portion of fries, rice, and cole slaw left. I looked upon my works, ye mighty, and despaired.
Seafood: conquered. Now for the fries pic.twitter.com/J13LRR7FpX— Will Butler (@THETXSTUniv) October 25, 2014
Hitting the Wall
The fries themselves were delicious. They were well-seasoned and had the right texture, and ended up still being quite edible by the time they'd become lukewarm, a trait not shared by some french fries at other restaurants (looking at you, Whataburger). However, when I'd gotten about halfway through the mound, I was struggling.
By this time I'd added the brown rice to the fries for efficiency. However, I was eyeing the two cups of cole slaw warily, and for good reason: both times that I'd tried cole slaw many years ago, it ended up coming back out on the dinner table. Hillary wasn't going to let me get away with taking down the Roux-Ga-Roux without eating everything, so I was rightly concerned about my ability to keep everything down.
However, when I tried a bite of the cole slaw, a miracle descended upon Monroe, Louisiana: I actually liked it. It had just the right amount of sweetness and wasn't overbearing on the taste buds. In fact, I liked the cole slaw so much that I decided to combine it with the fries and rice to try and shovel everything down at once.
So close. Starting to hit the wall. pic.twitter.com/1AGTi0E8qD— Will Butler (@THETXSTUniv) October 25, 2014
This turned out to be a bad idea.
The Final Gauntlet
For about 15 minutes I would take a bite, wonder why in the hell I ever thought putting the cole slaw in the mix was a good idea, take a sip of water, and wait another minute before taking another bite. The remaining fries and rice were soggy at this point and tasting like cole slaw dressing. By now, the process of eating felt more like work.
At this point I was starting to get a little bit delirious and I began to contemplate the beauty and depravity of a state that Thomas Jefferson had bought for pennies on the dollar so America could experience:
- Drive-thru daiquiri stands
- Being pulled over by a donut-munching werewolf and getting a $5,000 traffic ticket for going 55 in a 60 mph zone
- Les Miles bending the laws of time, space, and sanity, and:
- Eating ungodly amounts of seafood and gumbo.
Suddenly, I had shoved down my last bite. By that time I was too woozy to operate my phone properly and I wasn't able to take a video of the bite, but I did manage to get proof that I took down the beast.
Just like Mitchell after his conquest of the Chessie crap dip pretzel, I simultaneously felt like a champion and incredibly awful.
The owner, Dain Boyd, was indeed in the restaurant and came out to shake my hand. Much like myself, he is a mountain of a man who loves his football. He is also a seafood artist who was happy to give me the $26 meal on the house. I thanked him for everything, complimented him on his culinary masterpiece, and stumbled out of the restaurant.
I did not eat anything for the rest of the day aside from one bite of some fantastic homemade gumbo at the game, and even that made me feel slightly...afloat. Amazingly enough, I never threw up or really came close, but oh the post-meal sweats were very, very real. It's now approaching Tuesday as I write this and the only real hunger I've felt is for exercise.
For those of you wanting to know what it's like to take in a ULM game from an opposing fan's eyes, I'll have more coverage of my trip to Monroe later this week.
Thanks again to Dain Boyd, the wait staff, and my hosts for making this all happen. If you're ever in the Monroe area, I highly recommend that you check out "For the Love of N'Awlins" and try any of its seafood, but I'd only recommend the Roux-Ga-Roux if you're feeling particularly adventurous or have an acute case of lycanthropy.