The first time I had the Shrimp Buster at Herby K’s I could have fallen off of my counter barstool and cracked my head on the floor. It was years ago and I was dining with my friend Chris Jay, public relations and social media manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau and tireless proponent for all of the culinary goodness to be found in the area. (Disclosure: Jay is an occasional Louisiana Life contributor.)
Shrimp Buster is a platter of large deep-fried Gulf specimens that have been deveined, butterflied, pounded flat and served with a magic potion/sauce atop buttered toasted bread with a side of fries. Herby K’s, a dive to be sure, has been serving this crave-worthy signature dish since 1945, which is probably about the time the place saw its last paint job. Who cares? With grub this good nothing else matters. The Shrimp Buster, a pretty hefty meal, is a bargain for $12.95. A Baby Shrimp Buster is available for $9.95 but life is simply too short for that. Go for the gusto and get the full monty. If you have leftovers you will be happy as you pad to the ‘fridge after them in the middle of the night.
Shreveport takes shrimp seriously. Aside from Shrimp Buster, which belongs solely to Herby K’s, the most visible shrimp dish to be found seemingly anywhere, everywhere on the city’s west side, is stuffed shrimp. They look like corndogs and, so beloved are they, as to be featured like porn stars in color photographs adorning the walls of some of the places that serve them.
Chris Jay explained to me that the gargantuan shrimp (an oxymoron for sure) dish dates back to the long gone Freeman and Harris Café, established in 1923 in the 1000 block of Texas Avenue. At the time, the black-owned cafe was one of a small handful where black people could dine.
Following the 1993 death of co-owner Pete Harris squabbling broke out among the surviving partners, the competing Pete Harris Café opened, and Freeman and Harris Café closed. When it closed, Freeman and Harris was the oldest continuously-operated, black-owned restaurant in the United States. It was a huge economic and political driver in Shreveport’s black community.
Pete Harris Café closed in 2006 and Orlando Chapman, son of co-owner Willie Chapman, opened Brother’s Seafood with, you guessed it, the “original” stuffed shrimp as the menu highlight. He has since renamed the business Orlandeaux’s Cafe.
Though copied all over town, some more successfully than others, Orlandeaux’s version of the Freeman and Harris original stuffed shrimp rings in around four inches in length and are fried to a golden crisp. They usually come three to an order ($12.50) but in a pinch one of these monsters will stave off cravings and hunger for the thrifty price of $4.20 (yep). This blissful concoction starts with U10-to-15 count shrimp that are peeled, split, and stuffed with an assertive crabmeat dressing, then rolled in a flour batter before frying. Chef Orlando Chapman serves them with his signature spicy tartar sauce for which he is becoming justifiably well known. The sauce is available in numerous grocery stores throughout northwestern Louisiana.
Get your fill of those heavenly stuffed shrimp at the Inaugural Shreveport Stuffed Shrimp Festival on May 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Eleven Events. This family-friendly event will celebrate the unique style of stuffed shrimp that was created and popularized in Shreveport as well as the cultural and historical significance of this beloved regional specialty. The festival will include live musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations, historical presentations, food trucks and more.
Inaugural Shreveport Stuffed Shrimp Festival at Eleven Events
1529 Texas Ave., Shreveport | 318-510-6759 | 11building.com
1833 Pierre Ave., Shreveport | 318-424-2724 | herbyks.net
4916 Monkhouse Dr., Shreveport | 318-635-1641 | orlandeauxs.com