At I-10’s Exit 177 in Gonzales, hungry drivers are met with the familiar fast-food names: Wendy’s, Popeyes and Sonic, among plenty of others. But the recently married couple behind Big Bad Bites want to offer something new to the fast-food ecosystem: restaurant-quality food and ingredients.
Offering the drive-thru convenience of other nearby restaurants, Kaitlin and Cory Hebert’s food is designed to be prepared quickly without compromising quality. “Just good food fast,” the restaurant’s website reads. “The menu here is done on high volume in a short time frame,” Cory says, gesturing to the kitchen. “Every single item up there is designed to move fast, which is actually the reason for the drive-thru.”
Cory has been working to perfect the current menu of quick-service food including debris and jerk chicken sandwiches, along with the signature cheese-stuffed boudin balls since 2015. That was when he opened Cajun Kettle, a food truck that was later renamed Rouge-A-Roux’s. The truck was known around Baton Rouge for popping up at events and servicing workers at local plants.
“It’s like a little manufacturing plant, and that’s what I like,” says Cory, who is a former automotive manufacturing worker. “I still remember the first customer I had downtown when we randomly parked the truck. I still remember it because it’s the weirdest feeling having someone actually buy something from you, smile at you and leave you a review.”
Back then, the food truck was serving plate lunches. Those dishes evolved into the Big Bad Bites’ menu today—“restaurant quality, premium products,” says Kaitlin, a physical therapist at Baton Rouge General.
“What other drive-thru offers a jerk chicken sandwich?,” Kaitlin says, referring to one of the restaurant’s best sellers, the Irie.
Its debris sandwich (the Howler) and its burgers use meat from Texas’ 44 Farms, the same supplier to restaurants like Ruffino’s, Cory says. Similarly, its French bread comes from Gambino’s Bakery, and the boudin for its stuffed boudin balls comes from The Best Stop Supermarket, a local favorite in the couple’s native Acadiana. For dessert, guests can buy a gelato sandwich made fresh with City Gelato and wash it down with a bottle of Louisiana Lemonade, both Baton Rouge favorites.
“We want to push local,” Cory says.
Between the house sauce, jerk mayo, chili seasoning and made-to-order, never-frozen burgers, most everything at Big Bad Bites is made in-house. Because of these higher-quality ingredients, Cory says the restaurant’s food is not cheap but also not outrageously expensive.
“We’re not price-driven,” he says. “You’re getting exactly what you pay for with us. What we are here to do is offer up a product that’s restaurant-quality in a 5-minute ticket time.”
The interior of the restaurant is art-driven and youthful, and it finds its own ways to celebrate local talent. Under the exposed industrial vents and opposite the animation cells from classic Disney cartoons featuring the Big Bad Wolf sits a mural by Skinny Dope, a Baton Rouge muralist known for his work downtown. The mural combines elements of the restaurant’s marketing and the Gonzales community, including the town’s water tower.
Community and kinship, the Heberts say, was what made this restaurant possible.
“You can have an idea, but everyone has an idea. To properly execute something, it’s almost impossible to do something like this by yourself,” Cory says.
Even in the face of roadblocks like frequent construction delays to hurricanes, planning a wedding at the same time, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the couple says they are left with a good sense of accomplishment having endured these trials.
“We have happy customers and a happy staff,” Kaitlin says.
Big Bad Bites is at 2705 W. Highway 30 in Gonzales. It is currently open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.