The Weekly Dish: Vautrot’s Cajun Cuisine
By Lauren Dodd
By Brandi Haskett
The Vautrots believe in big smiles and bigger proportions. They have been serving up this family tradition for more than 21 years. The resilient restaurant, Vautrot’s Cajun Cuisine, is a testament to the family’s spirit – having survived four disasters: a flood, two hurricanes, and most recently, a devastating fire.
The hidden gem
Vautrot’s is off of Highway 105, just past Tram Road between Beaumont and Bevil Oaks, and if you are driving too fast, you’ll miss it. The eatery looks like a residence to a first timer, but a full parking lot is a dead giveaway you are at the right place.
Smells of delicious home cooking lead customers up the porch where “Fluffy” the stuffed alligator greets diners. Depending on the holiday, Fluffy is known to dress in festive attire, and always has a smile on his face.
After taking your seat, be sure to glance around and soak in the folksy feng shui. Seemingly random, miscellaneous, objects line the top shelves.
French writing can be found on a lot of the knick-knacks — a wink at the family’s Cajun heritage.
The Vautrots’ bond with their loyal customers can be seen on every wall. After the fire, the Vautrots were left to rebuild and redecorate the restaurant. Regulars from all over Southeast Texas donated pictures, art and even framed matchbooks to aid in the rejuvenation of their favorite place to eat. Looking to the private dining area, there is a wall almost entirely filled with an assortment of plates. Every plate tells a story of a different patron of the restaurant.
“We started out with four or five plates, as you can see the wall is almost full, people have brought me these plates – well over half are customer’s plates,” said Martha Vautrot.
Ode to the food
Appetizers such as boudain balls, eggplant and green beans are fried with homemade batter and give an accurate introduction for the flavorsome entrée to come.
The Super Sampler Platter is big enough for the table, but if you don’t want to share, we don’t blame ya! The savory smorgasbord of seafood incudes crawfish, frog legs, jumbo shrimp, alligator bites, sweet potato fries, catfish, stuffed crab and oysters all fried to crispy-crunchy perfection. Bowls of Uncle Frank’s shrimp gumbo and Martha’s award winning crawfish e’touffee are centered in the middle of the platter and add to the heaping meal.
Prepare to-go boxes for this one, or bring friends – the platter could easily feed four people. Overwhelming at first, we sampled every item on the platter. The seafood batter was seasoned just right, served with homemade “gator sauce.” Vautrot’s doesn’t skimp on quality.
New to the fried green beans, I was hesitant but pleasantly surprised. The batter wasn’t overpowering or greasy, but instead lightly seasoned and the green beans was fresh and crisp inside. I could snack on these all day! Nothing says “stretchy pants” like a chicken fried steak the size of one’s head. The 7-ounce chicken fried steak is more than just an entrée. It’s comfort food at its finest! The hand-battered steak is perfectly crispy underneath a blanket of creamy homemade milk gravy. This is an entrée sure to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. We – rather, I – tried the banana pudding. With the first bite, it was obvious this desert is not your average puddin’. This was too tasty to share!
I love boudain balls, and thought these were perfectly seasoned and had a mouthwatering, flakey batter. The fried green beans were a favorite. The crunchy coating gives way to the surprisingly crispy bean inside. The Super Sampler Platter was a simply breathtaking sight with all the different types of food, and everything was bursting with flavor! I can only describe the deluxe chicken fried steak as being humongous and so tender you could cut it with a plastic spoon. You can tell the restaurant uses the family’s own recipes, and between the food and friendly service, it was like eating dinner at Grandma’s. The Cherry Coke I ordered came in a glass mug with a cherry on top and was a perfect addition to my southern cuisine. I heard the banana pudding was to die for.
The Deluxe Taunte’ Pat’s Chicken Fried Steak is something to admire. A homemade hand-battered steak is fried and topped with creamy gravy. To say the steak is “deluxe” is an understatement! Giant onion rings come with this meal as well as buttered toast.
Vautrot’s offers a variety of pies by the slice and other deserts. We can’t emphasize how refreshing it is to try homemade desserts like Grandma used to make.
Spreading the love
Martha, the patriarch of the family, is currently spreading Cajun flair around Kansas and parts of the Midwest with a Vautrot’s on wheels, so to speak. Fresh alligator, shrimp and other Southeast Texas cuisine is shipped regularly to Martha, who shares it with people at fairs, festivals and military bases. And what do northerners think of the homecookin?
“Oh they love it!” she said. “People are always asking ‘What’s boudain balls?’ and I say, ‘Let me show ya how it’s done.”
Martha added, “They really like its spicy, and boy they will spice it up!”
About four months ago, the Vautrots started spicing things up by selling their own seasonings. The ingredients are plain and simple and “you can eat it with everything.”
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