Outside of Bayou Teche Brewing, lazy games of cornhole are played while children dance to a Cajun band crooning in the hazy sunlight. All while craft beer is sipped mere feet from where it is brewed. But inside, in the alternate dimension that is Cajun Saucer, a very different scene awaits. Guests are greeted by unexpected Cajun French covers of classic rock songs. Steve Riley belts the lyrics to “Down by the River,” or “Au Long De La Rivière,” over the retro whistles of the adjacent arcade room. The air hangs heavy with the scents of hops, rum and rising dough. The dining room teems with bikersand solo book readers, families and flight sampling friends, aficionados in beer themed T-shirts and seltzer sipping novices. It’s like your inner child and your midlife crisis came to a mutual agreement about where to hang out.
As you might expect, the story of how a tiki, space-themed food and drink mecca made its way to the middle of the sugar cane fields is a good one. Bayou Teche Brewing has been a mainstay in the Louisiana craft brew scene for 13 years. Until four years ago, it was against Louisiana’s alcohol rules to serve food at breweries. Once the “prohibitive rule,” as owner Karlos Knott puts it, was reinterpreted, the team was ready to create a dining experience that mirrored the standards of the brewery.
“Just before the rule change, we were trying to figure out what kind of food we wanted to dedicate ourselves to,” Knott recalls. “We knew we wanted a Cajun, Creole hint to what we were gonna’ cook, but we wanted something a little different. Watching YouTube, we saw several pizzaiolos in Naples had amazing videos of themselves and their craft. We were hooked, found a wood-oven from Italy, and started practicing.”
Not only does the culinary mashup of wood-fired pizza and Cajun food work, it is downright divine. Taking a bite from one of the slices of pie creates a cheese pull that would make the Ninja Turtles weep. The smoky Cajun toppings are so authentic that anyone’s Mawmaw would approve, even if begrudgingly. There’s a reason for that. The ingredients are geared to the Acadiana palate – cayenne and confit garlic are always key ingredients.
The menu at Cajun Saucer ranges from down home to “ET phone home.” The classics are classic – the C-3 Pepperoni is covered in puddles of mozzarella and freckled with curly pepperonis. Then, there are the far out selections, like the SPUD TREK, starring French raclette cheese, baked potato slices and green onions. This pizza is what would happen if a classically trained French chef got the munchies.
A lot of labor goes into the dough, so toppings like this can shine. “The dough is in many ways the toughest part,” Knott explains. “Ours is mixed. A percentage of the previous batch of dough is also added. So there’s a kinda’ sourdough starter quality to it. Then it’s fermented for 48 hours. The flour comes from Italy, and it takes our team a tremendous amount of dedication to keep it consistent. The dough is soft and bread-like in the middle, crunchy on the outside, and has a lactic tang to it. It’s something you can’t duplicate without the long time it takes to make and the quality of the ingredients.”
One might think, pizza and beer…the menu is complete. But that’s not the Cajun Saucer way. They chose to add cocktails as whimsical yet laborious as their pizzas. When you enter the Cajun Saucer realm, you’re also walking into the world of tiki. This ain’t your Carnival Cruise Line tiki – you’ll find no neon hued beverages here. The bar is lined with glasses of grinning totems, garden fresh herbs and kitsch garnishes. Avery the bar manager takes the tiki craft very seriously. When you tell him you love your Mai Tai, and you will love this Mai Tai, he gives an earnest and triumphant “hell yes.” It’s a cocktail menu made for celebration and the endless southern summers: zombies, banana daiquiris and blazing scorpion bowls with 20-inch straws.
“In the cocktail world, some of the hardest cocktails to perfect are the old-school tiki cocktails,” Knott reasons. “To do it right, you have to make your own syrups and flavors. You have to use pretty expensive rums and other spirits. Most of them have a long list of ingredients, and have to have amazing and intricate garnishes. Avery’s menu has eight or so of the historically accurate cocktails, and a few that we’ve created in house.”
Though it could – and no one would complain – the menu doesn’t end with pizza and tiki. There are salads made of local greens, with names like Crop Circle Salad, naturally. The small plates feature meatballs made with a blend of beef short ribs, brisket and boudin, and there are two cracklin options – one dressed like hot wings. The team has an upcoming limited menu release planned that will consist of sushi and tiki-inspired dishes.
Cajun Saucer does not take itself too seriously. Because it doesn’t have to. Behind the silly name is a serious pizza. Beneath the cocktail umbrella is a lethal libation. And it’s all executed with authenticity, integrity and a hefty dash of curiosity.
“Really good, wood-fired pizza is as difficult a craft as brewing beer – both take a lot of knowledge, experience, quality ingredients and dedication,” Knott says of his team’s willingness to make daring decisions. “At the end of the day, doing something well, something that takes craft and pride is its own reward.”