I’m a firm believer that you can build any trip around food. But a complex culinary itinerary isn’t necessarily required. Last month I tested my theory with my nephew, Stone, an intrepid traveler and second-grade pie expert. We hit the road and headed east to Louisiana in pursuit of the famous Natchitoches meat pies.
Natchitoches (“Nack-a-tish”) is the oldest city in Louisiana. It’s known for its National Historic Landmark District and its collection of bed-and-breakfast inns. But Natchitoches also boasts a robust dining scene, including Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant, the most famous place to try one of the region’s savory pastries.
Stone and I arrived just before the lunch rush, and we squeezed into a tiny table in Lasyone’s modest dining room.
The menu at Lasyone’s is extensive, but Stone and I were laser-focused on the meat pies. We ordered one for each of us, and we dug in.
The beef and pork filling in the pies tasted smoky, in a Spanish and Creole type of way. The pastry was hot and fluffy. We dipped everything in brown gravy and cleaned our plates. Natchitoches meat pies accomplished!
But what would we do after finishing our food mission? I had two ideas up my sleeve: sports and history.
So next we set off to explore the stunning and modern Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
A sports fan of the highest order, Stone was in his element.
Even though the exhibits were not designed for kids, they were well organized and easy to understand. And the contemporary interior of the building was fun to explore.
After leaving the Hall of Fame, we briefly strolled under the wrought iron balconies along Front Street, in the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District, and then we walked down to nearby Cane River Lake.
Stone diplomatically expressed his further interest in exploring the architecture of the National Historic Landmark District this way.
So we checked into our hotel and went to the pool!
The next morning, Stone attended the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Junior Training Camp on the campus of Northwestern State University.
The 2016 inductees to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame spoke to the camp participants about sportsmanship and teamwork, and then the kids had a chance to run NFL and NBA drills with volunteer trainers.
Stone won a prize for being a champ at sports trivia. (Who was the New Orleans Pelicans’ top pick in the 2016 NBA draft? Buddy Hield from Oklahoma, of course! Stone knew it off the top of his head.) His prize, an Anthony Davis bobble-head (complete with unibrow,) became our weekend companion.
After sports camp, I offered Stone another history option – one that was a little more rugged than the genteel buildings in old downtown Natchitoches. This time, he was game.
In the heat of the afternoon, we were the only visitors at the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, a reconstructed French military outpost and trading center dating from the early 18th century. Stone walked among the fortifications and the timbered barracks, and he met a park employee in period dress who was happy to share insight into daily life at the fort.
He took particular interest in trade goods (like furs) and personal items (like quill pens and inkpots.) It’s hard for a lefty to write with a feather!
As we wrapped up our last evening in Natchitoches, we laughed and chattered about sports camp and the cool old fort. And since we’d come all the way to Louisiana just to eat meat pies, we considered whether to have another round. Stone weighed in on the matter.
So we skipped it, satisfied that we’d already had our fill.
On our way out of town, we picked up a Northwestern State University t-shirt and cap, then stopped by the campus to snap some photos with the university’s Demon mascot. Stone’s a big NSU fan now, and I’m a big fan of Natchitoches, because its meat pies inspired a whole weekend of fun with my favorite second-grader.
If You Go
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. The admission fee is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors, students and active military. Kids 12 and under are admitted free. Check the events calendar to find the next New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Junior Training Camp, which has historically been scheduled in June during the week of new inductions.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site is open Wednesday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm. The admission fee is $4 per person, but seniors and kids 12 and under are admitted free.