When I was growing up, for some reason, we called them “catfish camps.” These restaurants – always located outside of town, usually situated on the banks of a lake or creek, sometimes all-you-can-eat – have become harder and harder to find as tastes have changed and the cost of serving real catfish has climbed. Recently, Shreveport-Bossier lost a great one, when Shockley’s Fish and Fixins in Elm Grove, La. ceased operations. However, we’ve still got Port Au Prince on Cross Lake, and it’s pretty fantastic.
A lot of younger foodie-types who I know have never been to Port Au Prince on Cross Lake, and that’s a shame. The building has been there since 1953, when it opened as Smith’s Cross Lake Inn. It has, undeniably, one of the best – and most romantic – views from any restaurant in North Louisiana. There’s a quiet bar attached, where a few couples always seem to linger over cocktails.
And, for the longest time, it had a very simple menu: Do you want catfish fillets, or whole fried catfish? Or would you prefer a steak? That was, pretty much, the menu. Recently, owners Brett and K’Lanie Gordon introduced new menu options in response to customer feedback that they’ve received since taking over the business in 2015.
“The questions that we heard most often were ‘When are you gonna get a salad? When are you gonna get a burger?’,” K’Lanie said.
Of course, diners can still get fried American, farm-raised catfish from Mississippi (all-you-can-eat is promoted as a weeknight-only special) and steaks, but now they have healthier options. There are grilled chicken entrees, grilled catfish (I snagged a bite of this, it was fantastic), salad options, and more. There’s also a pretty great-sounding jalapeño burger. But, during my recent visit, I stuck to the script: catfish, coleslaw, hand-cut fries…and pie.
I should emphasize that Port Au Prince’s fresh strawberry custard pie, made from scratch using K’Lanie’s grandmother’s recipe, may very well be the best restaurant pie in Shreveport-Bossier. And I understand that, to some locals, those will be “fighting words.” I can’t help it. This pie is absurdly good and – unlike so many pies in restaurants these days – I am 100% certain that it is, indeed, made from scratch. Crust and all.
“I like to stay true to those old-fashioned Southern recipes. The cake recipes are from my mom, and the pie recipes are from my grandmother,” K’Lanie said. “I feel like people know the difference. So, every single dessert here is homemade.”
I rolled out of Port Au Prince on Cross Lake stuffed to the gills and grateful that this restaurant remains intact. It may have gotten a little fancier over the years, but you can still eat catfish and hush puppies until you pass out, if you’d like.
“Catfish will always be our staple,” Brett Gordon said. “But a good business has always got to be evolving.”
Please Note: In a turn of events that I was unable to prevent, Port Au Prince on Cross Lake refused to allow me to pay for my meal. This rarely happens, as I insist on paying for all meals that I write about, and it does not have any influence on what I write.