A long-vacant, standalone waterfront eatery on Mother’s Beach sprang back to life last week, now open as Louisiana Charlie’s—the family-owned Louisiana-style Cajun restaurant that has been a staple in Shoreline Village for nearly a decade.
The hexagon-shaped beachside cafe has remained dark since it closed as Mom’s Beach House just before the pandemic.
Along with the Shoreline Village location, owners Shanda and Eric Laurent also operate a second Louisiana Charlie’s in San Diego. But their third location within the beachfront Naples neighborhood will offer a new twist: Guests can choose from a total of three menus, two of which stray from the Southern family recipes they’re known for.
In addition to dishes that come from both sides of the couple’s parents and grandparents across Louisiana, the Laurents will also offer a traditional beach concession menu (think hamburgers, hotdogs) and a Mexican food menu.
“We have a cotton candy machine, popcorn—your regular concession stuff, with a little Louisiana on the side,” Shanda Laurent told the Business Journal.
“Someone asked us yesterday, ‘You have Mexican food?’… And they said, ‘How is that on the Bayou?’ I said, ‘I don’t think you’ve been to Louisiana in a while.’”
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of Mexican troops rolled into the U.S. to help feed and bring medical aid to Americans in need.
“There was a lot of work to rebuild, and some settled there,” Laurent said. “So, Louisiana now has a lot of Mexican food.”
While the couple behind Louisiana Charlie’s will provide both the Cajun food and the more traditional concession stand options, they decided to bring in some outside help for the Mexican food offerings.
“You know, who doesn’t like a taco? But we wanted it to be authentic,” Laurent said.
Laurent was able to find two people who operated Mexican food stands in Long Beach before the pandemic put them out of business. Now, they work from the Mother’s Beach location.
For Laurent, cultural authenticity has always been front of mind. It’s why she spent four years working in the kitchen at the first Louisiana Charlie’s in Shoreline Village, and it’s why she’s found herself back in the kitchen at Mother’s Beach. It took two years to entrust her chefs with certain recipes she learned from her grandmother and mother.
“Jambalaya, etouffee, things like that, you can give a recipe to and a trained chef should be able to cook it correctly,” she said. “But when you’re talking collard greens and yams—it’s a matter of taste and sight.”
The Laurents first stepped into the food world in 1981, when they opened their stand, Rick’s Burgers, in Watts, across the street from Markham Middle School. Now, Laurent says they’ve fallen in love with beachside communities, which is what drew them to yet another waterfront location at Mother’s Beach.
The idea for the expanded menu options for the Mother’s Beach location came about as a way to include more options for families and children spending their day at the beach. Laurent also wondered whether Cajun food would work well at the beach.
“That’s why this menu is a little different,” Laurent said. “However, I would say a great majority—and I’m talking maybe 80, 90% of the neighborhood—I guess they were already aware of Louisiana Charlie’s Downtown, and they really want this type of food.”
At Shoreline Village, the most popular dish is catfish. At the San Diego location, it’s jambalaya. So far, Laurent said they’ve been selling a lot of gumbo at Mother’s Beach.
Louisiana Charlie’s, at 5715 Appian Way, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.