Golf, fishing and big time eating on less than $50 in Lake Charles, Louisiana
If you don’t like heaps of fried food, jambalaya, gumbo, fresh-caught fish or crawfish; if you don’t like eating all the Kentucky Fried Chicken you can for $4.95; if you don’t like gaming or fishing or floating down a lazy river pool that goes on forever, then perhaps you should just pick somewhere besides Lake Charles, Louisiana, for your next golf vacation.
And don’t let the press accounts of oil spills and fish contamination fool you. The folks down there are so conscious of making sure the food they serve is healthy and free from anything bad, you are probably better off eating fish or oysters here than anywhere else. (Of course they do fry everything in sight so that’s a consideration).
At the Seafood Palace, a bit of a misnomer as any resemblance to a palace makes as much sense as comparing the Holiday Inn Express to a Four Seasons, the place is packed with diners sucking the meat out of piles of crawfish while the Ember Grille & Wine Bar in the L’Auberge du Lac hotel appeals to a fine dining crowd who like their steaks thick and juicy.
Yes, it can be all about the food, but once you’re all fueled up to go, golf is waiting and what a deal. Even at L’Auberge du Lac’s slick Contraband Bayou, a Tom Fazio-designed public track running around eight lakes, rates are from $39 including a cart. This is a track which has seen some damage. The course had just been opened (2005) when Hurricane Rita roared in. They lost 80 percent of their trees and had a lot of flooding.
Billy Rase, superintendent said, “When Ike slammed in three years later, the entire course was under water and we were down for a week. “It was a challenge to get it up and running again.”
But Rase and his crew worked overtime and in restoring the course to its former condition, they even tweaked some of the greens. Now it’s one of the best around.
At Gray Plantation, one of only 12 courses in the state on the Audubon Golf Trail and home of a state-of-the-art golf academy, the cost to play is around $50. At National Golf Club, the epicenter for a master-planned community of new homes, the cart fee is about the same as the green fee (about $30). National does not over seed with rye, so early in spring, getting your tee into the ground can take some doing, but National is a well designed course with some gravitas.
For warming up your game or going out with the family, Mallard Cove Golf Course is a good choice. It’s public, green fees are around $20, there are no scary carries and the sweet scent of Ligustrum blossoms wafts through the air catching you near the first tee.
While you’re down there, tie into the Southwest Boudin Trail. No we’re not talking golf, but a food trail where you can sample a regional food made up of a rice concoction with pork, alligator or some other meat, veggies and spices pushed into sausage casings. Locals have their favorite places to go like at Hollier’s Cajun Kitchen, Sonnier’s or the corner grocery.
Lake Charles is an inexpensive family destination and for those who don’t play golf in your party, there are plenty of things to do, especially if you stay at the 1000-room L’Auberge du Lac. One of the classiest casino resorts I’ve seen, it has a 30,000-square-foot casino, an enormous pool complex with a lazy river, spa, shops and several restaurants.
Fishing charters on Big Lake and the Gulf are on the hot list of things to do here. Capt. Eric Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service knows where to take you so you can pull some big redfish so fast, it’s almost like cheating.
And back to eating, for a romantic dining experience, try Mazen’s Mediterranean Restaurant serving hearty Mediterranean cuisine along with a lot of excellent middle Eastern-style dishes like kibbe and humus. Save room for the light and sinful souffle piled high with whipped cream.
Also try one of Darrell’s Po-Boys Special sandwiches. It’s a study in messy gluttony with layers of meat and cheese dripping with jalapeno mayo sauce and butter. Take plenty of napkins.
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