Aug 31, 2013

A Commoner Reviews Rita Mae’s Kitchen, Morgan City, La.

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows I love to find local places to eat that are a little off the beaten path.  Places where the people who run it put the heart and soul in to the food they’re fixing.  Places where the food is cooked from scratch.  Rita Mae’s Kitchen is just such a place – one where you have to be in the know to even know about it, and you have to be even more in the know to know how to get there.  

I would have not known about Rita Mae’s if it wasn't for the Internet and specifically Urbanspoon.   But it’s one of those types of places you can find out about if you do a little online research.  And when you do – and you realize the reviews are almost unanimously positive – you figure you’re probably missing something by not stopping. 

Morgan City itself is actually a pretty cool small city located on the Atchafalaya River just north of where the Atchafalaya Basin reaches the Gulf of Mexico.  I’d estimate it’s about the halfway point between New Orleans and Lafayette on U.S. 90 as you drive through Cajun Country.  It’s an interesting mix of charming small town life and gateway to the state’s shrimp and oilfield industries. 

One you get to Morgan City, Rita Mae’s is not far from where you jump off of U.S. 90 to get to the historic downtown area.  It’s just to the south of the highway on a pretty little boulevard called Federal Way.  If you’re not paying attention, you might miss it.  But then again, the unusually large number of cars parked on the street for the neighborhood will probably give it away if the storefront signs and the wheelchair accessible ramp don’t. 

Not sure how I drove past it in the first place ...
When you step inside, you soon realize that at Rita Mae’s Kitchen, you are in fact effectively eating what’s prepared daily in Rita Mae’s kitchen.  The whole restaurant is literally the downstairs of a converted home.  And it’s a small home at that.  The foyer at the entrance way is where you wait to be seated and find the cashier’s booth.  The seating is in what was probably at one time the home’s family room and dining room, and the kitchen is in the back.  It’s cozy, and it’s beautiful.

Looking into the "family room" from the "dining room"
You get a menu to peruse when you sit down, but you don’t really need it.  Just look above the kitchen entrance to see what’s standard on the menu and what new items they may be offering. 

And if you can’t find anything on the menu to tempt your appetite, you can always try one of the daily specials posted on the chalk board next to the kitchen entrance.    

You just know something magical is happening back and to the left.
To go along with its “family home” atmosphere, Rita Mae’s has earned a solidly loyal following for its authentic, down-home soul food and Southern cooking.  If you want Cajun, they’ll so it right.  Same goes for Creole.  Barbecue?  Sure.  Seafood?  They have plenty of great choices.  In fact, one of the most popular choices in online reviews and with the diners when I visited was the crab burger.  But as I have learned over the years, when there are so many choices, you can’t go wrong with choosing one of the daily specials. 

And I was right again.  The smothered pork chop with potatoes and corn was a perfectly satisfying lunch at a very reasonable price.  In fact, the Young Curmudgeon and I both ate there for around $20.   

I should also point out that the waitress who seated and served us (and doubled as cashier) was very nice and welcoming.  We were treated as equals with the regulars who were there.  It was definitely a nice, close “family and friends” atmosphere at Rita Mae’s.  And if you check out their Facebook page, you’ll see what I mean.     

My only regret – especially after staring during the entire meal at the dessert table next to our seating – was not saving room for a slice of homemade pie or cobbler. 

Oh well, I have also learned through the years that whenever you visit someplace you enjoy, you should always give yourself a good reason to come back.  And Rita Mae’s Kitchen is definitely worth a return trip when I get back to Cajun Country.

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