Thanks to an invite by Visit Lake Charles, BLACK ENTERPRISE explored the vibrant southwest Louisiana city and discovered resilient neighborhood gems along the way.
Lake Charles, a city brimming with entrepreneurial spirit and Creole and Cajun pride, is on the rise since Hurricane Laura and Delta eviscerated neighborhoods and swamped homes in 2020. During our adventure, BE met with Black locals, restauranteurs, and business owners who have had to overcome the season’s disasters. They are rebuilding and welcoming support.
From Lake Charles’ Cajun personality to its Texas flair, here is a timeless bucket list for travelers who want to spend consciously, circulate Black dollars and dive into Louisiana’s culture without the crowds.
At Alevan, the inclusive team wants guests and clients to not only feel included, but exclusive. BLACK ENTERPRISE visited the Lake Charles’ neighborhood charm envisioned by owner Charlita Delafose for one of the city’s first multicultural hair salons. In 2020, Delafose endured the impact of Hurricane Laura and sought to offer unwinding services by fostering “unity through beauty.” Alevan officially opened in October 2022, and BE got a chance to fully immerse into an oasis of self-care. Knadia, assistant manager and esthetician, told BE that Alevan is a “hidden gem.” No matter what “you’re in good hands regardless,” she added. The warm and welcoming environment provides levels of space and invites us all to enjoy a mimosa, host a wine tasting, read books in the library or celebrate in the outdoor sanctuary with a koi pond, fire pit, and waterfall features.
I tried a facial!
Knadia performed a 30-minute facial. From the calming tunes and aromatic smells to waking up with glowing skin, I was transported into a different world.
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When BE landed on the M Bar scene, the rhythm and blues was beaming and the wings was flowing. From beer to wine, signature cocktails and frozen favorites, you can enjoy happy hour Monday – Saturday. So that Thursday night was no different. The multiple high-definition televisions brought the must-see games. The crowds and couples came with the celebratory vibes. “We’re not just your typical nightclub,” the owner told BE about the different elements she brings to the neighborhood, including cajun music and brunches. She is proud in hiring a diverse team and owning the building she’s currently operating. “Own it,” she advised.
I tried firecracker shrimp!
Whether you enjoy a spicy dish or not, this dish is delicious. An order gives you six shrimp lightly battered and fried in M Bar’s spicy cajun sauce.
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Explore Lake Charles like never before with Biking Through The Lake, LLC! You can witness the stunning and serene views of the lakefront, historic downtown and the neighborhoods that stand taller than the natural disasters that swept through a year ago. Reserve a spot on a bicycle tour through Lake Charles with music, karaoke and optional light-up wheels. Whether you want to celebrate an occasion or go for a fun evening ride, Biking Through The Lake has got you covered with a high energy atmosphere. Follow them on Facebook for information about upcoming community events, and contact Donnie to book your memorable group ride. Upcoming events include The Lit Libra Ride, Rolling with the Queens of The Libras and Georgia’s Halloween Bike Ride.
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It’s typical a morning to have a catfish and grits meal for breakfast at Leonard’s Food Quarters. In fact, the establishment has been a tradition for the Lake Area since 1986. What makes Leonard’s unique is the mixture of Cajun & Creole food with a touch of soul and attention to detail. Specialties include red beans and rice, seafood platters, poboys, loaded baked potatoes, and of course, boudin links, boudin balls, and fresh cracklins’.
I tried catfish and grits!
If you are a pescatarian, don’t fret. Leonard’s can break your fast with crispy cajun catfish, shrimp, grits and biscuits.
BE stopped into Twanie’s Terrific Treats for freshly baked chocolate chip cookies right before they opened for business. Antwan Pettis II opened the doors near the heart of Downtown Lake Charles in 2022 after being a pop-up shop. The bakery features fresh baked goods including bread pudding, colossal cookies, pecan chocolate chip, magnificent cookies and cream, oatmeal and raisin, mocha coffee toffee, and so much more.
I tried chocolate chip cookies!
The richness of the cookie is even more satisfying when it is warm.
Famous for her pecan pralines, gingerbread cakes and sweet potato pies, Mrs. Johnnie’s treats are highly sought after in Southwest Louisiana. Leona Guillory Johnnie, owner of Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House, began her baking journey 40 years ago. The business transitioned from a home-based bakery to a storefront, offering pies, cakes, teacakes, pralines, and sweet breads. Her son, Kevin Ames, is continuing her legacy today. At Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House, sweet dough pies are freshly-baked daily for a sweet treat on-the-go or to enjoy in their dining room.
I tried sweet dough pie!
Mrs. Johnnie’s pies are full of love. They are reminiscent of the holidays and sweet childhood memories. The dough is golden brown and soft, while the filling gently satisfies your sweet tooth fix.
What’s more? Lake Charles offers something for everyone. If you’re not traveling at this time, support these businesses by spreading the word.