Third-generation restauranteur Madonna Broussard, proprietor of Laura’s II Café, is our guest. Located at 1904 W. University Avenue, Laura’s II is named after Madonna’s grandmother, Laura Williams Broussard, who originally started a restaurant in her home kitchen on Voorhies Street in 1968.
Laura’s II offers the comforting soul foods Madonna was taught to cook by her mother, Dorothy Mae Broussard, who was in turn taught by her mother-in-law, Laura. When people ask what is her secret behind her delicious food, she says “The secret is all about time and consistency. It is a science: start cooking, cook for hours, and taste, taste, taste.”
The staples of stuffed turkey wings, fried catfish, fried pork chops, fried chicken, red beans and rice, smothered okra, and much more….all with a heavy emphasis of rice and gravy, are beloved by Madonna’s longtime customers as well as newcomers who flock to experience the rich soul consistently food offered day in and day out, from 10:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. every day except Mondays.
Lauras’ II opened on January 8, 2000, and just celebrated 24 years in business. The delicious food Madonna and her team offer have become known both in the U. S. and internationally due to the incredible exposure she gained through the late Anthony Bourdain and superblogger Mark Weins. People travel in from all over just to taste Laura II’s food. Locals also happily wait in line to enjoy the comforting Creole food cooked only like Lauras’ II can.
Madonna reminisced about the beautiful Sunday dinners she grew up on, at her grandmother Laura’s home: “My grandmother’s Sunday dinners were exceptional, like Thanksgiving every Sunday. We had beef tongue, rice dressing, beets, rice and gravy, every great staple you can think of.”
Madonna’s grandmother was the leader of this successful restaurant business concept and the menu she originally developed in 1968 is still found at Laura’s II. Madonna’s mother, Dorothy, was the one who instilled in Madonna the need for kindness and love for their clientele. “It’s about respect for your customers. We want you to feel comfortable and come back.”
Madonna says she spends “99.9%” of her time at work at the cash register. Greeting people and welcoming them into the restaurant is most important. “We want to know people’s names and have them want to come back.”
She credits Sid Williams for introducing her to Anthony Bourdain in 2018, who showed up with ten minutes notice one Sunday morning to film a segment for his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” Bourdain’s team was in the area to film a Courir de Mardi Gras Chicken Run, but rain prevented them from participating. They were looking for an alternative venue to shoot on the day that was both Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Sid had them call Madonna and she “got ten minutes heads up. He was subtle, very subtle. To have him come, as such a Foodie, was a great experience. I met him at the door. He looked around and saw people together in the dining room and asked if it “was always like this with all these people together. He said keep it like this.’ That meant a lot to me as he gave such affirmation, particularly about our culture.” People still clamor to sit at the table where Bourdain feasted on the ever-popular stuffed turkey wing dinner.
Madonna Broussard and Lauras’ II have survived 24 years in business, learning along the way how to keep the books, meet business needs, and go with the flow. The challenges presented by the COVID shutdown led Madonna to stay open, set up a tent, and learned how to be “car hops.” She described being outside in the rain and all the elements, with a note pad and pen, taking orders, while a “day care” inside consisted of kid and grandkids running around. “We curbsided a lot food!”
The business side of running a restaurant is the hardest part from Madonna’s experience. Cooking is easy compared to paying and calculating taxes, getting the right CPA, and managing overhead. When asked about upgrading to the newest technologies, she says, “After all these years. I feel it is so OK to stay in the old school mindset. I can tell people my menu, whether I call it out, put it on paper, or have a chalkboard. I don’t want QR codes for my menu. My customer base includes many elderly people and I won’t do that to them.”
Madonna’s daughter, Lacey Broussard, has worked in the restaurant since she was little, peeling potatoes at the age of two. She has great passion for the business and is an integral part of Lauras’ II, working alongside her mother every day. Madonna says, “Lacey is a mini-me. She’s great.”
Madonna encourages up-and-coming restauranteurs to “Get all the business aspects together in line and in place. Have good people you can trust, who check and balance your money, keeping things on par. It’s hard to do it by yourself.”
Lauras’ II offers catering for events, both big and small, and will deliver to your place. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100044976346735 or call (337)593-8006 to place an order.
Discover Lafayette is proud to showcase Madonna Broussard and Lauras’ II. If you haven’t eaten there yet, get with it! It is a true experience that showcases Acadiana’s beautiful culture and delicious food.