Tucked away in northern Louisiana and seated on the banks of the Ouachita River and Bayou Desiard is a delightful duo of cities rich with history and connection: Monroe-West Monroe. Many years ago, this area blossomed due to its distinct role in the industrial and commercial sectors. Nowadays, the area is often referred to as “twin cities,” generously dotted with memorable restaurants, local goods and antiques stores, a vibrant community, and, quite simply, more than meets the eye.
DELICIOUS EATS YOU CAN’T MISS
Boasting more than 100 locally owned restaurants, Monroe-West Monroe has something for every craving. If you’re looking to rise and shine with a traditional Southern breakfast, you can’t beat Lea’s of Lecompte in Monroe. This family-owned establishment opened more than a decade ago, and its down-home feel hits you the moment you sit in one of their well-worn booths. Come hungry, because the Stuffed Biscuit with egg, cheese, bacon, and sausage gravy will keep you full until lunch, and their chocolate chip pancakes are fluffy perfection. The lunch hour is bustling, too, as they offer daily lunch plate specials and hearty slices of their famous house-made pies.
Another enticing lunch spot is local joint Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats, located in West Monroe. This pleasant eatery offers so many lunch specials, from chicken pot pie with a biscuit topping to a Chicken Salad Sandwich and tomato soup. Just know that you can’t leave without indulging in a Carmelita, Miss Kay’s specialty oat cookie bar with chocolate chips, pecans, and caramel.
Or head on over to Trapp’s, perched on the riverbank in West Monroe, which serves up delicious Cajun fare and weekly live music. Share a plate of Mom Bourque’s Seafood Nachos—a heaping pile of house-made chips topped with fried crawfish tails, grilled shrimp, and queso—before diving into a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo, red beans and rice, or jambalaya.
If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, Standard Coffee Co. in Monroe is an ideal place to snag a carefully curated caffeinated beverage and a sweet treat. Opened in 2019 by Louisiana native and award-winning chef Cory Bahr and his wife, Whitney, Standard Coffee Co. has a revolving door of seasonal drinks and pastries, including a scrumptious lemon ricotta scone—just what you need to get you through the day. Their catchy motto of “Drink good coffee, be a good human” makes dining there even sweeter.
For a bite with a view, check out one of Monroe’s longstanding establishments, Warehouse No. 1 Restaurant, which has been keeping locals full and happy for 40 years. Snack on some Fried Green Tomatoes or Crispy Gulf Oysters before dining on one of their crowd favorites, like Redfish Louisianne or Catfish Sierra. If you’re lucky, grab a spot on their patio so you can take in views of the Ouachita River.
Just a few blocks away is Parish Restaurant & Bar, another culinary creation from the mind of Cory Bahr, which gives off an upscale vibe while simultaneously remaining unfussy. Visually appealing and with an explosion of flavor, his innovative takes on Southern flavors are a real treat for diners of any age. For snacks, you can’t go wrong with the Original Duck Wrap with local honey glaze (Cory’s specialty) or the deviled eggs with caramelized miso and hot sauce; for entrées, any of their house-made pastas or Southern-skewed mains will not disappoint. This restaurant is a must-visit when in Monroe.
WHERE TO SHOP & STAY
If you’re looking to stay in the heart of it all, Hamilton House Inn & Reception Gallery in West Monroe is the place for you. This historic building turned five-room bed-and-breakfast is full of character, with each room featuring its own sense of flair. The owner, Tonya Hamilton, is warm and inviting (and cooks up a delicious, wholesome breakfast specifically for you). Not to mention, it’s located on Trenton Street and is part of one of the city’s huge draws, Antique Alley. Like the name suggests, this thriving collection of antiques shops, specialty stores, restaurants, and boutiques flanks either side of Trenton Street. You can spend hours getting lost in Traditions, a fine antiques shop with hand-selected items from Europe; The Spice & Tea Exchange, which serves up tasty hot and iced teas and unique gift sets; and Eleven 26 Boutique, a fabulous shop stocked with affordable and stylish clothes and accessories.
INTERESTING CULTURAL & HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS
While the population is on the smaller side, Monroe-West Monroe has a wide range of exciting attractions that beckon visitors to the area, from museums and gardens to art galleries and nature preserves. Located just a short drive from downtown Monroe, Landry Vineyards is run by Libby and Jeff Landry, who opened the vineyard’s doors in 1999. The couple have since put their heart and soul into making it a landing spot for everyone in their community to enjoy locally produced wine—the Redneck Red and Blanc Du Bois Dry are popular choices—while taking in views of the countryside or catching some tunes at one of the outdoor concert series.
If you have time to explore, you won’t regret educating yourself at one of the many museums Monroe-West Monroe has to offer. Biedenharn Museum & Gardens houses nostalgic early Coca-Cola memorabilia and tells the story of the man who first bottled Coca-Cola, Joseph Biedenharn, and recounts the legacy of his children, including Emy-Lou Biedenharn, a renowned opera singer prior to World War II.
Masur Museum houses a mix of exhibits with compelling paintings, sculptures, and prints within its 1920s Tudor-style walls, and at Chennault Aviation & Military Museum, you’ll find an extensive exhibit on the life of General Claire Lee Chennault, a Louisiana native and leader of the Flying Tigers fighter squadron, in addition to the rich history about the birth of Delta Airlines, which began as a regional crop-dusting service.
True to its roots and proud of its history, Monroe-West Monroe has a little something for everyone, so why not take a trip to embrace all this Louisiana hidden gem has to offer. Visit monroe-westmonroe.org to learn more.