Once you’ve been seated at Market 104, the newly-opened restaurant located inside of the Hilton in downtown Shreveport, your server will present you with two things: a giant vessel of ice water and a hot cornbread muffin accompanied by a dollop of paprika honey butter. Cover the cornbread in that delicious butter and eat it immediately; it’s fantastic. If my grandmother knew what an amuse-bouche was, this would be her idea of a great one. The soft butter, swirled with honey and spiked with paprika, can rightfully be described as “slap your momma good.”
The menu at Market 104 is one Louisiana thing after another, like a drive north up I-49: duck gumbo, Natchitoches meat pies, fried catfish platters. That gumbo is serious business, and is served in a miniature, black cast iron Dutch oven. Sides like maque choux and smothered okra with tomatoes are actually very spicy. In several visits to Market 104, I have yet to encounter a bland side item. Even their French fries, huge and hand-cut, are pretty great.
My favorite thing on the lunch menu is, hands down, the chicken pot pie. An awkward, homemade thing built out of dark meat and big chunks of vegetables, it’s deep south comfort food served in a Texas-sized portion. Everything about it looks and tastes homemade, and the manager came by to tell me that they use certified organic chicken that is raised free range. I suppose that photographing my food for 15 minutes before taking a bite may have given me away as someone who’d like to know how his chicken pot pie grew up.
I feel obliged to say that there are also some more anonymous sandwiches and salads on the menu – it’s not all guns-blazing Louisiana. But there’s no way I’m having a club sandwich in a place with duck gumbo on the menu.