Papa Boudreaux's Cajun Café
When he opened up his first restaurant, he was already retired. He didn't need the money, he just wanted to bring some good ole fashioned Cajun to the mid-state.
C.J. Bader, or more famously known as "Papa," opened his small restaurant in Santa Fe, just an hour outside Music City. Papa Boudreaux’s quickly gained notoriety after it opened in May of 2004, just four short months before Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans.
He moved up north to retire but wanted Tennesseans to experience the flavors of the Bayou, so he set out to create a menu of some classic Creole dishes, as well as a few of his own creations.
“I grew up on this stuff,” he said.
Papa is a man who knows his Cajun food. The New Orleans native used ingredients from the traditional dishes of his yesteryears—thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and the “Holy Trinity” of Creole food: onions, bell peppers and celery.
The restaurateur has two signature dishes: the Swamp Muffin, stuffed with the flavors of the Big Easy, and his Gospel Creole. The dish, filled with tomatoes, bay leaf, real butter, shrimp, crawfish tails and more, is the spiciest thing on the menu. He named it after hearing his customers’ responses to the dish: “Jesus Christ!” and “Oh Lord have mercy!” are just a few comments that come to his mind.
The flavors aren’t the only authentic things about the restaurant. The dining room has that Big Easy air about it; Christmas lights strung along the ceiling and tables laden with Mardi Gras beads. You can always count on watching LSU games, even when they’re not on; Papa’s got years of the games recorded on stacks of DVD’s in the window.
This writer recommends the chicken and Andouille pasta dish, with made-from-scratch pasta, sautéed chicken, and Andouille sausage in a creamy garlic wine sauce; and you can’t make the trek to Papa Boudreaux’s and not get the fluffy beignets. They’ll bring you to a cool spring night at a coffee shop in New Orleans. The restaurant is BYOB, so bring your favorite boozy drink with you to dinner.
Get there early, because the seven tables at the single-room restaurant fill up pretty quickly. Additionally, the restaurant only takes cash payments. For more information on hours and the menu, visit his website.