While you’re at Oak Alley, enjoying the history and beauty of the estate, be sure to make time for a meal at the Oak Alley Restaurant. Past the slave quarter exhibit is an iron fence, separating the estate from the rest of the compound. Beyond there are a set of buildings. On the left hand side is the gift shop, which is connected to the restaurant with a little courtyard between for those who want to take their sweet tea and gumbo in the great outdoors (I would only recommend this in seasons when the dreaded mosquitos are dead).
The restaurant has no formal name, but that doesn’t make it any less of a lovely dining experience. Their menu features good ol’ Southern Cajun and Creole dishes like crawfish etouffee, gumbo, red beans and rice, poboys, and a dish that combines all the traditional Cajun delicacies on one plate, the Cajun Medley. With every entrée, they bring a bread roll and a side salad, which can be substituted for gumbo for an upcharge. The wait staff are courteous and eager to serve. Toward the end of your meal, watch out for the dessert platter that gets brought around to showcase some of the yummy Southern sweets like bread pudding, bourbon or chocolate pecan pie, praline cheesecake, and buttermilk pie. They also offer alcoholic beverages for adults. If you’ve ever wanted to try the famous mint julep, this is your chance! They also provide an assortment of Oak Alley wines to pair with your lunch. Breakfast is also served in the restaurant and promises the same Cajun experience that comes with lunch, including Pain Perdu (Cajun French toast) and a crawfish omelet. If you happen to be staying the night at Oak Alley, they offer a dinner room service, but the restaurant is closed to the public by 3pm.
It was only on my second visit that I realized the restaurant is actually inside a reconstructed slave cabin, with its porch closed in to allow more tables. I happened to be seated on the porch both times and the two former entrances into the home leads to the other dining rooms. The building is composed of four rooms (not including the porch) with fireplaces along the inside wall. If you visit, take a look around to see where you are dining. These cabins used to house two families, sometimes with 5-8 people per family. That means two of the dining rooms would have been all the space afforded for some of the enslaved and emancipated workers on the plantation. I’m not saying this to ruin your dining experience at all, simply including the history of the structure in the narrative. When my husband and I dine inside old homes, we always look at the interior and reimagine the floorplan. Doing this for a slave cabin was not what I had expected, though.
Each time I visit this remote-ish part of the Louisiana River Road, I make sure to stop at Oak Alley for lunch. The Crawfish Etouffee Over Fried Fish has a sturdy kick to it, but was so good I used the bread roll they brought to scoop up the extra sauce left over on the plate. It’s that good! The Cajun Medley is perfect for those with an appetite and want to sample a little of everything, including gumbo, crawfish etouffee, red beans and smoked sausage. Both entrees are more than filling, so bring an empty stomach. With the salad, bread, and entrée, I’ve never been able to try out their appetizers or desserts. Each visit has been enjoyable and satisfying, perfect before going off to research or explore the surrounding area. I also make sure to stop in the gift shop to get a tin of Café Dumonde coffee.
You don’t have to purchase a ticket to go to the restaurant or gift shop. Park toward the back of their parking lot and you’ll see a gravel walkway that runs along the iron fence dissecting the property. You can get a good view of the slave cabins, as well as the back of the house from this fence line. Follow the path and it’ll take you right to the restaurant and those outside buildings that are separate from the “paid” experience. No reservations necessary, but they are open every day from 8:30am to 3pm. Expect to pay between $15-$25 per person, depending on if they get a lunch meal or full entrée.
Address: 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
Online Menu: https://www.oakalleyplantation.com/dining/menus