With all due respect to several other really exciting restaurant openings that are in the works, the opening of Orlandeaux’s Café is likely to be the most significant happening in Shreveport’s restaurant scene in 2018. Damien Lewis Chapman, the son of late Shreveport chef and restaurateur Orlando Chapman, is currently putting the finishing touches on Orlandeaux’s Café, a Creole eatery that will occupy the space that formerly housed his father’s restaurant, Brother’s Seafood to Go, at 4916 Monkhouse Drive in Shreveport. Chef Orlando Chapman opened Brother’s Seafood after parting ways with Pete Harris Café, which had been born of Freeman & Harris Café. Along the way, Chef Orlando and Brother’s Seafood contributed mightily to the popularity of Shreveport-style stuffed shrimp. Chef Orlando passed away suddenly in 2013, and Brother’s Seafood to Go – a restaurant named in honor of Orlando Chapman’s father, “Brother” Chapman – declined and eventually closed.
It is poetic and, honestly, awe-inspiring that 29-year-old Damien Chapman has stepped up to breathe new life into the restaurant. The new name, Orlandeaux’s, does what the previous name did: honors a father and chef who contributed to one of Shreveport’s most authentic and lasting culinary traditions. Damien showed me around the extensively renovated space recently and shared a bowl of gumbo and a few stuffed shrimp.
“When my father passed, I knew that this was something that I had to do,” Damien said. “My family has a 100-year legacy in the restaurant business. That will not end on my watch. This place means too much to too many people.”
The space itself is impressive. Once a small, diner-like space with a homey but dated feel, the dining room has been opened up and transformed into what feels like a modern gastropub. Reclaimed wood surfaces, polished concrete floors, and a booming stereo system blaring modern zydeco greeted me when I arrived. An inviting-looking bar has replaced the walk-up counter from Brother’s. The whole place is brighter, bolder, and hipper.
One thing hasn’t changed, however: the stuffed shrimp recipe. Damien was kind enough to share a few stuffed shrimp during my visit. When I asked if he’d changed the recipe at all, he shot me a glare. “Why would they change?!” I understood what he was saying; I had asked a stupid question.
At the risk of sounding too breathless about this place, I have to add that the chicken and sausage gumbo at Orlandeaux’s Café is among the best I’ve tasted in Louisiana. I married into a family of Heberts who hail from a city that is promoted as “the most Cajun place on earth,” so I can be kind of snobby about the whole gumbo thing. There are some very bad gumbos out there, y’all. This is not one of them. It is a thick, deeply flavored stew that’s smoky, spicy and immensely delicious. Some folks are going to find it too spicy. It’s not. It’s perfect.
Damien Chapman, interviewed on May 2, guessed that the restaurant would be opening within a few weeks, but had not identified a specific date. Which is understandable. When you’re re-launching a restaurant that is this significant, you want to get things right.