3 Fleur
Average check per person $25-$35
BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchNo Lunch SundayLunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayNo Lunch Saturday
DinnerNo Dinner SundayDinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayNo Dinner Saturday

Bon Ton Cafe

CBD: 401 Magazine. 504-524-3386. Map.
Nice Casual.
AE DC MC V
Website

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when crawfish was almost entirely unavailable in New Orleans restaurants. The Bon Ton–long a good place for eating all the dishes made with the mudbugs–was the first restaurant in town to serve unambiguously Cajun food, instead of the related but subtly different Creole cooking in every other local restaurant. After over a half-century, the same old-fashioned style of Cajun cooking is still in place, changeless and good.

WHAT’S GOOD
The style is one you don’t even see in Cajun country much anymore. It’s not as highly seasoned as current Cajun cooking usually is, for example. But the recipes are honest and good, and the signature dishes are among the best of their kind. Here is the finest crabmeat au gratin around. The etouffee and other parts of the four-way crawfish dinner are always there for a crawfish fix.

BACKSTORY
The Bon Ton opened in the mid-1920s across the street from where it is now. It was a standard French-Creole restaurant until the 1950s, when Raceland citizens Alvin and Alzina Pierce bought the restaurant. They shifted the kitchen almost entirely to the cooking of Acadiana. This won the restaurant tremendous national acclaim, keeping it packed lunch and dinner, and popular enough that the Bon Ton could remain closed on Saturdays (as it still is).

DINING ROOM
Taking up the entire bottom floor of an 1840s building, the dining room is a tall, bright space, with bog windows on two sides and brick walls on the other. The red-checked tablecloths and the homey style of the waitresses–many of whom have worked her for decades–gives the place a decided informality. Despite that, many of the lunch customers are in jacket and tie.

ESSENTIAL DISHES
Starters
Turtle soup
»Shrimp and crab okra gumbo
»Crawfish bisque
»Bayou jambalaya
»Tidbits of fried catfish
Fried crawfish tails
»Salad Bon Ton
Asparagus, mixed greens
»Debbie’s salad
»Shrimp remoulade
Entrees
»Crabmeat imperial
»Crabmeat au gratin
»Redfish Bon Ton (with crabmeat)
»Redfish Alzina
Grilled Gulf fish, grilled oysters
Grilled Gulf fish, grilled shrimp
»Broiled or grilled Gulf fish, lemon butter sauce
»Fillet of speckled trout, fried or broiled
Fried freshwater catfish
Pan broiled shrimp, garlic-lemon butter sauce
»Shrimp etouffee
Fried shrimp
Fried crawfish tails
»Crawfish etouffee
»Crawfish bisque
»Crawfish jambalaya
Crawfish dinner (etouffee, jambalaya, Laurie, omelette)
»Eggplant, shrimp and crabmeat etouffee, parsley buttered rice
Fried oysters
Pan-broiled oysters
»Oysters Alvin (brown butter sauce)
Fried soft shell crab
»Soft shell crab Alvin, crabmeat
Grilled ribeye steak
Grilled veal rib chop, mushrooms, Cabernet wine sauce
»Grilled center-cut filet mignon, mushrooms, Cabernet wine sauce
Desserts
»Bread pudding, whiskey sauce
Butter pecan ice cream
Pineapple sherbet

FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation for lunch, which gets crowded by noon and usually stays that way. Be aware that in many ways this restaurant is a throwback to a time of simpler cooking and service, and that some practices are long out of vogue. Begin with a rum Ramsey, the house cocktail. It predates the Pierce era, and is a kind of sour.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I have never been comfortable with the practice here of serving crawfish out of season. (It’s frozen.) Many of the recipes use margarine. This restaurant should be above the practice of serving foil-wrapped pats of butter, but there they are.

FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.

  • Dining Environment +1
  • Consistency +2
  • Service+1
  • Value +1
  • Attitude +1
  • Wine & Bar
  • Hipness -2
  • Local Color +2

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Romantic
  • Good for business meetings
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Historic
  • Good for children
  • Reservations recommended

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
We may see the first crawfish of the year in the coming weeks (don’t hold your breath; mudbugs are unpredictable). Whenever I hear that news, my mind immediately goes to the Bon Ton, the first New Orleans restaurant to make a major specialty of crawfish. The old CBD standby also comes to mind when the weather gets cold, because of the memory of dinner I had there on a blustery night between Thanksgiving and New Year back in a pivotal time in my life. The Bon Ton is the kind of place that memories are made of, mainly because it’s one of the last of its kind. And still good in its specialties.


7 Readers Commented

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  1. Patsy Schroth on January 31, 2014

    I have been going to the Bon Ton since the late 70’s and every dish that I order, typically the appetizer of fried crawfish tails and catfish tidbits, and the Red Fish Bon Ton followed by their bread pudding (when it is possible to eat more), all are exactly the same time every time, just perfect. The owners are always extremely accommodating. The service always excellent.. That’s what I look for in a perfect dinner at an upscale restaurant. You won’t be disappointed!

    • Tom Fitzmorris on January 31, 2014

      Hello, Patsy. ..

      This is what I say in the review on this website. I’ve been dining there since the late 1960s, and it’s always been good, if old-fashioned and in need of an upgrade here and there.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Kenny on January 8, 2015

    I have also been dining here since the 80’s, it’s one of my favorite restaurant’s and your right Tom it’s pleasantly different than anyplace else I’ve been. It’s an informal formal dining experience. My favorite is the Red Fish Bon Ton, the moist fish filet melts in your mouth and the sauce is light and delicious. Tom, do you know what basic ingredients make up that sauce ? I would love to try it at home.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on January 8, 2015

      Margarine (yes) and paprika make up most of that sauce.

  3. The Offhsore Gourmet on February 15, 2015

    The Oyster Lafourche at Emily’s Cajun Cafe’ in Labadieville is much better than the Oysters Alzina at Bon Ton but the restaurant is well worth a visit or two or three …

  4. Geri on June 16, 2016

    Would it be possible to get the recipe for there cauliflower au gratin

    • Tom Fitzmorris on June 16, 2016

      Hello, Geri. . .
      I don’t have it, but I know who does. Call Wayne Pierce at the Bon Ton, or go there for dinner and ask him. I’m sure he’ll give it to you.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

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