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Brenda's Diner

409 W. Pershing, New Iberia, LA - (337) 367-0868
Posted By Michael Stern on 5/2/2004 5:53:00 AM
What a gem! As we ate our way through lunch of fried chicken, fried pork chops, red beans with sausage, rice and gravy, candied yams, and smothered cabbage, we looked at each other and smiled ear to ear. This is the sort of restaurant we pray to find.

Each dish Brenda Placide served us that day was just about the best version of itself that we have had since, maybe, forever. The hard-crusted pork chop was audibly juicy inside, with an earthy tenderness that had us gnawing to the bone. The chicken had a more fragile crust; its juices burst forth at first bite. The red beans were New Iberia HOT; the yams were spicy-sweet; the smothered cabbage, rich with nuggets of garlicky sausage, brought new honor to the vegetable kingdom.

We ate this magnificent food in a tidy little dining room where a CD of Southern gospel music set a rapturous tone. When we asked Brenda Placide's daughter Tealeab if the voice we were hearing was that of Shirley Caesar, she did a double take and grinned ear-to-ear. "You like gospel?" she said. When we nodded yes, she said, "You've got to hear Debra Snipes. She is from around here." Unable to find the CD, she put on her coat and disappeared for a while, leaving us to oo and aah over the food while the other gospel recording lifted our spirits heavenward.

Meanwhile, Tealeab's mother did a poor job of answering our questions about exactly why and how the food she cooked was so delicious. "It's from my mamma's kitchen," she said. "I couldn't tell you how to do it because she never taught me to measure anything. You add seasoning and spice until it's right." It occurred to us that we could study Brenda Placide as she cooked, taking scrupulous notes about every grain of every ingredient she used, and we couldn't in a lifetime make food like this. It would be like watching Isaac Stern play the violin, then copying his every move.

Such a likable place! On the wrong side of the tracks, that's for sure, but once inside the tiny home (with seats for no more than 20), you feel the warmth of honest hospitality. It is well-worn and yet immaculate, its walls a gallery of gratitude: prints and posters celebrating African-American culture, as well as photos marking the achievements of Brenda's kin (graduations, weddings, reunions). We never felt so at home as when Tealeab returned with the Debra Snipes CD in hand. She had had used a felt maker to sign the plastic case from herself and her mom, with love to us, and she insisted we take the uplifting music along on our trip. It turned out to be a great CD, but it was not the only inspiration we received from our visit to this humble diner in the Queen City of the Teche.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Smothered Cabbage
Fried Chicken
Pork Chops
Red Beans
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A pork chop ready to spurt juice at first bite.
"A pork chop ready to spurt juice at first bite."
Michael Stern





A south Louisiana classic: red beans with discs of sausage. This version is unique to the pepper country of New Iberia because it is H-O-T!
"A south Louisiana classic: red beans with discs of sausage. This version is unique to the pepper country of New Iberia because it is H-O-T!"
Michael Stern


Looking at this picture, we can practically hear the skin crunch on this four-star chicken. That's rice and gravy on the side.
"Looking at this picture, we can practically hear the skin crunch on this four-star chicken. That's rice and gravy on the side."
Michael Stern


It really doesn't matter if you like cabbage or not; Brenda's version, smothered cabbage, is a whole other kind of food, as savory as sausage.
"It really doesn't matter if you like cabbage or not; Brenda's version, smothered cabbage, is a whole other kind of food, as savory as sausage."
Michael Stern


Brenda Placide pauses a moment for a picture during lunch hour.
"Brenda Placide pauses a moment for a picture during lunch hour. "
Michael Stern


Among the many pictures and mementos on the walls is this image of saying grace. Brenda's is indeed home-like.
"Among the many pictures and mementos on the walls is this image of saying grace. Brenda's is indeed home-like."
Michael Stern


A wall in the dining room depicts Brenda's family and the highlights of their lives.
"A wall in the dining room depicts Brenda's family and the highlights of their lives."
Michael Stern


If you are waiting for an order to go, the front room has this folksy bench for relaxing.
"If you are waiting for an order to go, the front room has this folksy bench for relaxing."
Michael Stern


Notice of Brenda's security system is posted on the front door.
"Notice of Brenda's security system is posted on the front door."
Michael Stern


There is nothing fancy about Brenda's restaurant, outside or in. But this humble diner serves some of the best soul food in Cajun country.
"There is nothing fancy about Brenda's restaurant, outside or in. But this humble diner serves some of the best soul food in Cajun country."
Michael Stern



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