36 Hours in (and around) Eunice, Louisiana

[imgbelt img=coryatsavoy530.jpg]Rural Louisiana birthed three styles of original music, and dance fans — local and far flung — ensure that every beat goes on.


Swamp Pop?  Of course you are. Think “Sea of Love” or “Matilda” by Cookie and the Cupcakes. As dance music, these are mainly midtempo swing tunes and smoochy slow numbers. Get out your rat tail comb.

D.I.’s Cajun Food and Music

Out in the country west of Eunice, D.I.’s is a classic Cajun restaurant, with gumbo of andouille sausage and chicken, big crabs, etouffeé and all the other SW Louisiana specialties served up at family-size tables around a dance floor. (Wimps can eat in booths in the front diningroom away from the music.) Try the Devils on Horseback appetizer (shrimp wrapped in bacon). Cajun bands Thursday-Saturday nights. We heard Mack Manuel and the Lake Charles Ramblers play waltzes, two-steps, the cotton-eyed Joe as well as some line dances we weren’t familiar with. All ages and multiple birthday parties happening.

Saturday morning:

Lodging and Breakfast: Le Village Guesthouse (guests only)/Eunice

Continental breakfast with an Acadian twist: Apricot bread with local fig preserves and marmelade, cornbread with pork (try it with a dab of Steen’s Cane Syrup). 121 Seale Ln., Eunice, 337-457-3573.

Fred’s Lounge/Mamou: Live radio broadcast of Cajun music. Doors open 7:30, bar starts selling at 8 a.m., broadcast begins at 9 a.m. on KVPI a.m. out of Ville Platte. Visitors from all over the world, including, on the day we were there, three women from Indianapolis, a family from Quebec, Canada, motorcyclists from Minnesota, and the two dudes from Florida who were drinking Hot Damn (cinnamon schnapps) at 8:30 a.m.. “If you’re going to drink all day, you gotta start in the morning.” Good point. Get there early to get a seat, or skip sitting (and drinking) and dance. 420 6th St.

Savoy Music Center/Between Eunice and Lawtell: jam session at Savoy Music Center. Marc and Ann Savoy and now two of their sons too have kept the Cajun music flowing for decades. Marc is an accordion maker as well as player. He and Ann give older local musicians pride of place at their Saturday get togethers in the front room, 9 a.m. to noon. No telling who’ll show up, but big shots better not act that way. Everybody pulling from the same songbag, at one point there were ten fiddlers, three guitar players, three accordionists, and a triangle player (limit one) jamming. See Ann Savoy’s remarkable anthology of Cajun songs; it and loads of CDs, as well as handmade accordions, are on sale. Open Tues-Fri: 9-5 but closed for lunch. 4412 U.S. 190 (3 miles E. of Eunice, look for cars) 337-457-9563

Saturday Afternoon

Cajun Smokehouse/Ville Platte
How about a catfish po’boy? All the regular suspects on the menu here. And if you make it in the evenings on weekends, there’s likely to be live music in back, maybe some local Swamp Pop. 205 W. Main St., 337-363-0800

Floyd’s Record Shop/Ville Platte
Louisiana’s oldest record store, specializing in, you guessed it, Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop. 434 E. Main St. 337-363-2185

Liberty Theater/Eunice
Rendez-Vous des Cajuns, live music show 6-7:30 (with dancing), broadcast on KRVS 88.7 FM, usually features two fine bands. Recent performers have included the Pine Leaf Boys and Donny Broussard, admission $5. 200 Park Ave. 337-457-7389

Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki/Opelousas 
Renowned music and dance club, since 1947, in the Zydeco Capital of the World. Live bands most Fridays and Saturdays but check ahead. Admission @ $7. Music from about 9:30 until 2 a.m. Pork sandwiches available. Highly recommended show coming up New Year’s Eve – powerhouse Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Boys. $25 advance, $30 at the door, includes complimentary gumbo and champagne at midnight. Nice proviso: “Ladies not prepared to dance close and get sweaty should pass this up.” Highway 182 North (Main St.) 337-942-6242 Here are directions.

Louisiana visitors may be tempted to have food dictate the trip. Don’t do it! Instead, let dance music be your guide; trust us, you’ll bump into more great boudin, gumbo and crabs along the way than you’ll be able to handle. And having danced for hours on end, you’ll be able to handle a helluva lot more than you thought possible.