HISTORY & CULTURE
For travelers wishing to experience authentic Cajun culture in a gorgeous environment that isn’t far from major airports, Houma and Terrebonne Parish offer exceptional opportunities for good food and memorable attractions.
The area was originally settled by the Chitimacha and Houma peoples before colonial Europeans arrived, and the town of Houma was eventually founded in 1834. Sugarcane plantations began popping up along the area’s rivers and bayous. Fishing and shrimping were primary economic drivers until the discovery of crude oil and natural gas in the region, and many residents still make their livelihoods on the waterways, marshes and bayous. Houma has retained its Cajun heritage through culinary traditions and festivals.
In Houma and throughout the surrounding villages and towns, visitors have chances to experience Cajun staples, from down home favorites to exceptional white tablecloth meals. For boiled seafood, seafood gumbo, crowd-pleasing snacks like crabmeat stuffed jalapeños and a comforting, casual atmosphere, 1921 Seafood is a can’t-miss.
Though high summer isn’t peak season for local oysters, they’re still quite delicious, especially when they come freshly shucked at 1921’s raw bar. Diners looking for a more upscale experience should make the quick trip to neighboring Thibodaux, where Chef Logan Boudreaux takes local flavors and traditions and gives them a world-class treatment at Cinclare Southern Bistro. Alligator and andouille rangoons, pickled shrimp spring rolls and crispy skin Gulf fish served with kimchi and crab fried rice are examples of a few of the menu’s enticing options.
Back in Houma, Chef Lindsay Mason’s Chargrilled Oysters (not to mention the rest of his Italian-influenced menu) have kept customers coming back to Cristiano Ristorante for years. Other favorites include the Cioppino del Sud (a rich seafood stew featuring Gulf shrimp and house-made papparedelle) and the Piccolo Filetto (filet of beef with Brie risotto and topped with butter poached crabmeat).
Before embarking on a day full of adventures, start off with some hot, fresh doughnuts at Mr. Ronnie’s Hot Famous Donuts near downtown Houma. Serving the area since 1994, Mr. Ronnie’s is known for its glazed yeast doughnuts, but there’s something for everyone in the dizzying array of offerings. For a fast-casual take on Cajun classics, Off the Hook offers crispy fried catfish, smoked sausage & chicken gumbo and New Orleans-style po’ boys at a few locations throughout Houma and south Louisiana.
WETLANDS CULTURAL TRAIL
More than 65 percent of Terrebonne Parish consists of wetlands and open water, so visitors should make it a point to experience it firsthand. The majority of the Wetlands Cultural Trail runs from Thibodaux through Houma and Terrebonne Parish, southeast to Lafourche Parish and the Gulf of Mexico.
Along the way, visitors will find historic homes including E. D. White Historic Site and Laurel Valley Plantation, museums that detail the area’s cultural history such as the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum and Terrebonne Folklife Culture Cente, plus parks and preserves that are perfect for walking, kayaking or birding.
Just a few miles from Houma, the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 4,000 acres of freshwater marsh and offers prime opportunities to see migratory birds and various marsh and cypress-tupelo swamp habitats, including floating marsh. See all the trail highlights at byways.louisianatravel.com.
When visiting, it’s best to come with a large ice chest to bring home some of your favorite local flavors. Throughout Terrebonne Parish and the surrounding areas, there are countless small markets and butcher shops with house-made Cajun specialties, sausages, gumbos, etouffees, and more. In Houma, be sure to stop by Boutique Dominique. This charming shop is packed with delightful food gifts and fresh lunch options as well as freezers full of local fare including items like boudin-stuffed chicken breasts.
Up the road in nearby Thibodaux, Bourgeois Meat Market is known for its old-timey Cajun meats like andouille, boudin, tasso and hogshead cheese. Along with its selection of fresh meats and sausages, Bourgeois also offers a variety of hot items, including crispy cracklin’s and its famous cheesy boudin burrito.
In downtown Houma, you’ll want to sidle up to a tasting at Noah Lirette’s Bayou Terrebonne Distillers. He started making whiskey with his great-grandmother Lily’s original still from the 1930s and now includes a clear Louisiana corn whiskey, called Contraband, and Good Earth Whiskey.
Along with tastings, the distillery hosts local music and live events throughout the year.
Must-Dos in Houma