The natural habitat for boudin is Louisiana Cajun country, and across its range you find the delicious pork and rice sausage everywhere from gas stations to bait shops. But for a long time, where you didn't find boudin was New Orleans.
Well praise the lard and pass me a link, those dark days are done. Boudin has found a second home in the Crescent City.
It now has a place on menus at restaurants grand and humble, it’s presented on charcuterie platters and it’s plated up as its own stand-alone appetizer.
But for boudin fans what’s most promising is the way it now turns up at butcher shops in New Orleans, made by hand on premises and ready to be eaten by hand, calling for no fuss, no hassles but maybe a few napkins. I’ll name some names in a moment.
But first, an important distinction: I am not talking about the grocery store boudin brands that are packaged and sold to take home and cook up. These have their place and oh how they got us boudin fanatics in New Orleans through the lean years.
But the packaged boudin brands can only take you so far into the boudin lover’s heart. The true cravings were set on the road, traveling around Acadiana, measuring the miles by links of instant gratification until the names of towns on the map started to look like menu listings. Scott, Breaux Bridge, Eunice, Krotz Springs – these all said boudin to those who felt the yen. Whole road trips could be rationalized around filling an ice chest with link after link, to compare, to share, to hoard.
Now though, in New Orleans it is possible to assemble an in-town road trip, with a whole circuit of shops now making boudin in the metro area. We can thank several trends, or curse them if all of this has pushed your willpower up against the wall.
It’s country food come to the city, and it’s the rising awareness and pride of our regional cooking. And some of it’s just the market dynamic of supply and demand. There was a boudin vacuum in New Orleans for too long, and now the list of places to Hoover it all up is growing.
Some are butcher shops that double as eateries, like Shank Charcuterie and the Cheezy Cajun on St. Claude Avenue, Tres Bon in River Ridge, Cleaver & Co. Uptown, Bourree at Boucherie in Carrollton and Butcher in the Warehouse District. And it’s butcher shops that just serve up hot links as an over-the-counter snack, like Chris’ Specialty Meats in Lakeview and the great granddaddy of Cajun butcher shops in these parts, Gourmet Butcher Block in Gretna.
Great boudin will always be worth a journey, like any particular and compelling pleasure. But now, in New Orleans, some of those journeys might lead right down the street.
Bourrée at Boucherie
1510 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-510-4040; www.bourreenola.com
930 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-588-7675; www.cochonbutcher.com
The Cheezy Cajun
3325 St. Claude Ave., 504-265-0045; www.thecheezycajun.com
Chris’ Specialty Meats
6521 West End Blvd., 504-309-0010; www.chrisspecialtymeats.com
Cleaver & Co.
3917 Baronne St., 504-227-3830; www.cleaverand.co
Gourmet Butcher Block
2144 Belle Chasse Hwy, Gretna, 504-392-5700; www.thegourmetbutcherblock.com
Très Bon Cajun Meats
10316 Jefferson Hwy., 504-405-5355; www.tresbonmeats.com
2352 St. Claude Ave., 504-218-5281; www.shankcharcuterie.com