January 13-14, 2018: Northern Louisiana´s Largest City
I got into Shreveport on a January Saturday night around 7:30 pm. Having recently climbed to the highest point in Louisiana, I had to get a beer as per mountaineering protocol. The most famous brewery in Shreveport is Great Raft Brewing, which is closed on Sundays. There, I ordered a flight and befriended the bartender, Matt. He invited me to go out with his buddies- since I didn’t know anybody else in town.
Before going out, I first went to get dinner at the nearby Herby K’s, an old-school bar that serves creole food. It made lists of “road trip worthy” restaurants in both Dallas and New Orleans. I ordered the famed Shrimp Buster po-boy, which honestly was just okay. The vibe was really cool, but next time I would have ordered the gumbo.
I then met up with Matt and his buddy Dillon. I followed them to a local dive bar. There, I chatted with the bartender and some of the other patrons. Everyone was incredibly intrigued that I decided to visit Shreveport from California. The legendary Southern hospitality is a real thing- random people bought me drinks because I wasn’t from around Shreveport. Everyone had really thick Southern accents. Two of the people at the bar were Jewish. Another man- about 30- admitted that this was his first time meeting a Jewish person as there are apparently only 500 Jews in all of Northern Louisiana. The conversation eventually shifted to politics. About half the table supported Trump, while the other half despised him.
The bar patrons had mixed opinions of Shreveport. While many people enjoyed the many opportunities for outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, they job market here is very limited now that oil has downsized in the region. More good paying jobs are in Dallas and South Louisiana (Fun fact: Metro Dallas has a greater population than all of Louisiana). Because Shreveport is so close to both of those cities, many smart and educated people leave for better opportunities.
We then went to a bar called Strange Brews. The place was packed because local band Dirtfoot was playing. They came out with a man on stilts wearing a pig mask. The crowd and band were rocking. Around midnight, I left and headed to my hotel.
Unfortunately, my hotel, the Rodeway Inn, closed up and locked the front door. I called the hotel company’s customer service in the Philippines and- after an hour- was told they would put me up in a nearby property. When I got to the nearby hotel, they said they thought they got some call from foreign-sounding people but couldn’t understand their accent and therefore couldn’t understand the message so I had to pay the full rate. It was 2am and I was furious because this new hotel was more expensive than the one I had planned on booking and had a broken AC system. But it was 2am and I needed to sleep, so I decided to stay and take it up with the hotel management the next day when I was better rested.
The next morning, I got breakfast at the famed Strawn’s Eat Shop. They’re known for their strawberry pies, but also have a short order cook who can make pretty much any diner item.
I then headed across the Red River to Bossier City. My first stop was Barksdale Air Force Base. While the base is mostly off-limits to civilians, they do have a museum that is open to the public. The museum has an auspicious name: the Barksdale Global Power Museum. Barksdale is home to many of America’s bomber planes including the B-52 Stratofortress. The museum does a good job at explaining the history of the base and the many crews that call Barksdale home. Of note is a room on September 11th, 2001. George W. Bush landed at Barksdale before heading to Washington DC. The podium and furniture from his speech there is in the museum.
The real gem of the museum is actually outside. The Air Force set up a combo airplane graveyard/memorial park. There were 25-ish of the coolest Air Force planes with descriptions intermixed with memorials to important pilots and generals of the Air Force. The result was a powerful and informative park.
I then headed downtown to check out Bossier City’s most popular attraction: the Louisiana Boardwalk. It’s basically a giant outdoor outlet mall. The anchor stores are Bas Pro Shops and large high-rise casinos. Overall, the place was completely uninspiring- the architecture seemed really cheap. This mall is apparently the only outlet mall in the area and therefore gets packed with people who want to doubly waste all their money by gambling and shopping.
For lunch, I decided to get a Louisiana favorite: crawfish. A friend told me about a truck called Chuck Wagon Crawfish that sells them year-round despite this not being prime crawfish season. I drove 20 minutes south of town to the truck. I ordered 3 pounds of these tiny crustaceans for about $20. The guy told me how to eat them: first, peel and twist the tail off. Then, suck the juice out of the head. Finally, pinch the meat out of the tail and enjoy.
I sat in the back of my car and downed the 3 pounds of crawfish- not as much food as you think because it’s mostly shell. It was really spicy and delicious.
My next stop was the Shreveport Water Works Museum. This was a hidden gem. Shreveport’s old water treatment system is a National Historic Landmark. They were one of the first cities to pump water to all its residents and treat that water. The museum shows the machinery to achieve this process.
I then drove around downtown Shreveport. The place was completely dead. There were maybe 3 people walking around, which is a total shame because there are some cool buildings and street art. I hope that the place is busier on weekdays.
Of note is the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium where Elvis Presley got his start.
The one shining star in downtown Shreveport is the brand new Shreveport Aquarium. This obnoxiously bright blue building had been open for only 2 months. While small, it was really well done and had plenty of places to pet the animals. The place was packed and there was a well-deserved line out the door.
Just south of Downtown was the wealthy Fairfield Avenue with extremely large homes. I was surprised to see some of the homes in poor condition. I guess that some old money has moved out of town or moved out to somewhere else.
A few minutes away, I stumbled upon Southern Maid Donuts, a long-standing donut shop that has won over the stomachs of many famous people including Elvis. In fact, the only commercial Elvis ever did was for Southern Maid Donuts. They have a huge sign advertising hot donuts at 4pm. I checked my phone and it happened to be 4pm exactly.
Inside, ladies were placing mini-donuts onto a conveyor belt that would then get dunked in a waterfall of hot glaze. I ate one and then two more. They might have been the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.
For dinner, I headed over to the Superior Grill, the original location of a Tex-Mex chain. Despite the expensive food and drinks, the place was packed.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a drive-thru daiquiri bar (these are somehow legal in Louisiana). There, I ordered a daiquiri from my car window. I was alerted that, for no reason at all, there was a 2 for 1 special. So for $6, I got 2 daiquiris…in my car. To ensure I wouldn’t drink them in my car, the bartender put a plastic lid over the top of the Styrofoam cup and sealed it with a small piece of plastic tape.
After pulling away from the bar, I undid the tape, put the straws in and turned on the radio. “When The Saints Go Marching In” was playing- most likely in honor of the New Orleans Saints’ season, which ended about 30 minutes earlier. I slow-cruised the suburban streets while double fisting singing at the top of my lungs. In that moment, I understood the appeal of Louisiana.
Shreveport doesn’t have many sites and definitely was a more happening town when the oil industry was around. However, there was plenty to see in a day and the people were really wonderful. I don’t see myself spending a ton of time here again, but I am very glad that I got to visit. Next time, I hope to see more of Northern Louisiana including Monroe and Poverty Point.
Great Raft Brewing, Herby K’s, Ivan’s Pub, Strange Brew, Clarion Hotel, Strawn’s Eat Shop, Barksdale Global Power Museum, Louisiana Boardwalk, Chuck Wagon Crawfish, Shreveport Water Works Museum, Shreveport Railroad Museum, Shreveport Aquarium, Southern Maid Donut Co, Red River Brewing Company, Superior Grill, Daiquiri Unlimited