Good food, good times, in the heart of historic Opelousas
Back in Time Café is one of those memorable places that you stumble upon when you’re passing through Opelousas, or there for the Zydeco Festival, or the Step-N-Strut Super Trail Ride, or enjoying the gorgeous fiddle sculptures on the courthouse lawn.
Located on the Highway 190 drag through downtown—across the street from the historic courthouse square and in the same block as the famous Jim Bowie oak tree—is this old town café filled with memorabilia from decades ago. It is also the residence of Mr. Greco’s ghost. He operated a shoe shop here more than twenty years ago and Wanda Juneau, owner of the café, will share stories of her encounters with him if you ask.
Twenty-one years ago, Juneau chucked her job with an insurance agency and relocated from Bunkie to Opelousas to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a café, one that harkens back to Norman Rockwell’s illustration of the nostalgic ice cream parlor.
Let us start with what you will not be ordering at Back in Time Café—the usual local Creole fare. Wanda purposefully does not want to compete with the other local eateries, preferring to serve her own food creations, each named for a famous person or event of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Her specialty salads, the Pearl Harbor and Grapes of Wrath, for instance, have received fifteen awards from area culinary competitions.
The experience begins with reading the menu—with sandwiches named for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Amos and Andy, or Bonnie and Clyde, each made with ingredients that relate to their namesakes. And her muffalettas are often praised as being superior to those in New Orleans. She attributes this to their being served heated, noting, “it makes the flavors dance.” You will want to wash those down with a glass of her noteworthy Italian Ice tea; unsweetened tea served over lemon Italian Ice and including both a straw and a spoon.
Other specialties include the Sweet Georgia Brownie (plain or à la mode, chocolate syrup and whipped cream). Another favorite dessert that is only available for catered events is a strawberry bread pudding made from strawberry Danish pastries with cream cheese and an incredible Anglaise sauce.
Carolyn Sofranco, her kitchen manager, informs newbies that everything is fresh and made from scratch to order, and diners will be impressed that the wait is not nearly as long as one may imagine. Besides, there is plenty of reminiscent distraction to amuse yourself with—bric-a-brac, photos and posters of movie stars, old Coca Cola drink boxes, and racks of home-canned figs and other preserves that were put up old school style by her mother.
So, what is a Pearl Harbor salad, you ask? There are two kinds, a summer and a winter version. Both are a mix of fresh greens blended with sautéed chicken, fresh broccoli, dried cranberries, nuggets of Delicious and Granny Smith apples,walnuts, pecans, and sliced almonds, and fresh feta cheese. It’s all tossed with her own secret recipe red wine vinegar sweet and sour dressing; a recipe she guards, but bottles are available for purchase. The summer version boasts fresh slices of strawberries while the winter features Mandarin orange slices. Both are filling and refreshing.
And what about that Frank Sinatra sandwich? Ham, turkey, mortadella, swiss and provolone cheeses loaded with sundried tomatoes, and basil garlic sauce on focaccia. “Now that’s amore,” as Dean Martin would say.
Catering and orders to-go round out her brisk business. If you just happen to be in the area, drive that one-mile detour into town off I-49 and make some memories while feasting on the goodness at Back in Time Café. If you do not have time to sit and experience the ambience, call ahead and pick it up for your road trip.
Details. Details. Details.
Back in Time Café 123 W. Landry Street Opelousas, LA (337) 942-2413 Lunch only 11 am–2:30 pm, Monday—Saturday