Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
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United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Swamp Boat Tour and Two Tasty Casual Meals

When Win planned our New Orleans trip, he booked a swamp boat tour as a surprise for me. He thought that these kinds of tours sounded fun and that it would help us to explore parts of Louisiana outside of New Orleans proper. He was absolutely right on both fronts.

Our two-hour swamp boat tour was scheduled for noon, so we decided to have an early lunch before setting off. We were in Manchac, LA and there really aren't too many places to eat in Manchac, especially when you're looking for lunch on the early side. We were really pleasantly surprised to find Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant. Even at 11am, Middendorf's was bustling with an early lunch crowd. We found out later that they are known for their catfish, so it was a happy coincidence that Win ordered a catfish po' boy. Check out the photo below; this sandwich was a little bundle of fried goodness.

You'll also notice some hush puppies in the photo. I love hush puppies and since I so rarely see them on menus in Chicago I order them every chance I get in the South. These were nicely seasoned and delicious. I ordered shrimp gumbo that was outstanding too. We opted not to photograph it because while it was heavenly, a big brown bowl of gumbo wasn't terribly photogenic.

Middendorf's was a big hit and the customers kept coming, right through the lunch rush. Satisfied and happy, we headed off for our swamp boat tour. When Win planned the tour, he wanted to go out with a company that seemed as non-touristy and non-gimmicky as possible. He selected Airboat Adventures for our tourguides and they fit the bill perfectly.

We drove up to the bayou and our airboat (also called a fanboat) was waiting for us. No corporate office, no gift shop, no signs even...just a guy and his boat waiting to take us on the tour. Chris was our captain and he did an excellent job steering us through the bayou, answering questions, and telling us about the bayou and neighboring swamplands. It's almost impossible to describe how gorgeous the scenery was. As we'd weave our way through the bayou and the swamp, we'd see different kinds of trees and plants and we even encountered several interesting swamp birds, owls, and alligators.

At times, the airboat took us for a wild ride through the swamp grasses that was exhilirating and unlike any other experience we ever had and then at other times Chris would pilot the boat slowly so that we could learn about the swamp and look closely at specific sights. To help entice an alligator over to us, Chris fed it a chicken neck.

Both Win and Chris reached out and stroked the alligator's head. I had seen the alligator snap up that chicken and was way too scared to put my hand near those jaws. (I'm not an animal petter, you see. Even petting zoos with tame little goats make me nervous, so you can imagine my reserve with an alligator.)

Our tour lasted a bit over two hours and we were thrilled with how it went. It was fun, educational, and totally unique. If you are looking to experience some of Louisiana's natural beauty, I'd highly recommend a swamp tour.

After the tour, we decided to stop and visit a plantation. While there were several Win had highlighted as possibilities, it was getting late in the day and for the sake of time we decided just to go to the closest one. It was the San Francisco Plantation. This plantation is very brightly painted on the outside and ornately decorated on the inside and somewhat different in style than the traditional Southern plantation look. We had a really lovely tour there. Great, informed tour guide and it was especially interesting to visit the slave quarters and see the disparity in living conditions between the master and servant.

After the plantation tour, we were hungry again so we decided to stop for a lighter meal on the way back to New Orleans. We happened upon a sweet little roadside stand called Connie's. It's a cute place that serves a large menu of lunch and snack foods and ice cream. Win had a meatball po' boy and I got a grilled cheese. Not Louisiana specialties, we know, but we were saving our stomachs for New Orleans' best later that night.

Something interesting happened when we ordered our drinks. Win ordered a Coke and the girl behind the counter said "What kind of Coke? I have Pepsi and root beer." Win's from the South and on more than one occassion he's told me that in parts of the South people refer to all soft drinks as "Cokes," the way some people call all tissues "Kleenex." I hadn't really encountered this before but this exchange leads me to believe what Win's been saying.

We got our food and ate at a picnic table next to the takeput window. Then something funny happened: a cat invasion! All of these cats came over and hung out while we ate:

Win's the cat fan in our duo, so the cats kindly stayed on his side of the table and enjoyed tidbits of his meatball sandwich. Happy day for the cats too.

Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant
Highway 51 North (exit 15 off of I-55 North)
Manchac, LA
Telephone: 985-386-6666

Airboat Adventures

Connie's Grill
1462 Highway 44
Reserve, LA 70084
Telephone: 985-536-3027

Next time: We're back in New Orleans, dining in style