I’ve always wanted to try Cou-Yon’s, which bills itself as “Louisiana’s best barbecue dive” and has received some accolades from TripAdvisor and Money.com. I work a good distance from Port Allen, though, so I never had enough time to drive west over the bridge on my lunch break.
But my feelings changed when co-owners Paul and Michael Mladenka announced plans to open a second location right here in Baton Rouge by the end of the year. The owners haven’t disclosed where the new restaurant will be yet. But the idea that it would soon be closer was enough to convince me it was time to see what I was missing. On a cheery Saturday afternoon, I finally made the drive to Port Allen.
Beyond the sprawling list of barbecued meats and classic sides, Cou-Yon’s defies its limitations as a barbecue-focused restaurant. It offers tons of other options: fresh seafood, elaborate salads, and even tacos with chips and queso.
With a menu so large and so many dishes popping out at me, I wound up ordering a gargantuan meal. I started with a simple appetizer of fried green beans. I love fried green beans, so I had high expectations for these. I was not disappointed. The batter was reminiscent of flavors in a good homemade green bean casserole, with pungent seasonings and notes of onion. The accompanying ranch sauce offered a welcomed creaminess—a perfect addition to every bite.
Next, I tried the Fried Shrimp Loaded Potato. One of the owners, Michael, explained that the dish began as a Lent special a few years prior but quickly became one of the restaurant’s most popular items year-round. The potato starts with all the usual fixings—butter, cheese and sour cream—but it’s topped with a handful of fried shrimp, jalapeños, green and purple onions, and a hefty dose of bacon.
I often think of stuffed potatoes as appetizers or sides, but this was a meal. The potato itself was larger than I had ever seen, almost taking up its entire dinner plate. The crispy fried shrimp was dripping with warm, melty cheese. The chilled, crisp onions and jalapeños added brightness and cut some of the richness. The flavors and textures worked so well together, I wondered how I had gone this far in life without ever tasting fried shrimp on a baked potato. I don’t think life will ever be the same.
Though I was reaching a point of uncomfortable fullness, I couldn’t leave Port Allen without trying some barbecue. I opted for my personal go-to, smoked brisket. It was tender, smokey and juicy, and I was four or five bites in before realizing I had not even reached for barbecue sauce.
My experience at Cou-Yon’s made me even more desperate for the restaurant’s expansion over the bridge. Until then, good news for those craving it on this side of the river: Cou-Yon’s Express Food Truck will be parked on Perkins Road at Virgil Street in the Garden District every Thursday.
Whether you hit up the food truck or head to Port Allen, prepare for some dishes that might just change your perception of what a barbecue restaurant can be. The only thing you’ll have to worry is overstuffing yourself.
Cou-Yon’s is located at 470 N. Alexander Ave. in Port Allen. It is open seven days a week, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Check its website for updates on the location of the food truck.
Fast Break is a 225 Dine series that celebrates lunch in Baton Rouge. Follow along as we tour different dining options for a quick bite around the city. Read more lunch picks from the series here.