After a decade in Maurice, Cajun eatery makes its way to the Hub City.
By Lisa Hanchey
As of June 19, you don’t have to drive to Maurice to experience the boiled seafood and old-time Cajun specialties offered by Mr. Keet’s. The popular restaurant’s second location, Mr. Keet’s 2, is open at the old Ryan’s Steakhouse location at 3253 Ambassador Caffery Parkway.
A lifelong rice and crawfish farmer from Maurice, Gerard Baudoin and his business partner, Keith Ratliff, decided to open a casual eatery serving Baudoin’s own crawdads. In 2001, they started with a drive-thru business offering boiled seafood. The business quickly expanded, and in 2003 the partners constructed a 7,000-square-foot restaurant in Maurice.
Mr. Keet’s name came from Gerard’s son, Grant. As a child, Grant had trouble pronouncing the “th” in Keith’s name. So, “Mr. Keith” became “Mr. Keet;” hence the name of the restaurant. A year after opening, Baudoin bought out Keith’s share of the business, but the name stuck.
After several successful years, Gerard and his wife Helen decided to expand to Lafayette. They discovered the old Ryan’s steakhouse location, which had remained vacant for several years. “Location, location, location,” Baudoin explains as the reason for the second site. “I know the capabilities of being in the city of Lafayette.”
The Baudoins purchased the 11,400-square-foot building in March, and started the extensive renovation process. All carpeting was removed, floors stained and walls repainted. “We cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, and still cleaned,” Baudoin said. Gone is the steam station that used to house Ryan’s vast buffet. In its place is a beautiful wooden bar built by Dole Vincent. The granite-covered counter topped with pressed “tin” was inspired by a Georgetown restaurant the Baudoin family visited while in Washington, D.C., this April. “We just wanted to change the image once you walked in, and make sure that people knew that it was not a buffet; it is a family-oriented restaurant,” he says.
A massive mural of UL Lafayette’s football team made by Pixus Digital Printing separates the kitchen from the restaurant. Smaller glass panels sporting UL signage accent the back seating area. “Lafayette is the seat of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette,” Baudoin says. “We believe in supporting our hometown university, and that’s why we have the murals and the rest of our memorabilia.”
Mr. Keet’s is truly a family affair. Gerard and Helen’s three kids grew up in the Maurice restaurant. Their oldest daughter, Nicole, is a teacher at Cecil Picard Elementary in Maurice. Next daughter Haley, a kinesiology major with a concentration in exercise science at UL, works at both locations. Son Grant, a high school sophomore, “can do anything that his Daddy can do,” Baudoin says proudly. Gerard and Helen’s parents also helped get the new restaurant ready to open.
In addition to its renowned boiled crawfish, Mr. Keet’s 2 is serving boiled shrimp, Louisiana Blue Point crabs (seasonal), King “Cluster” Crabs, Alaskan Snow Crabs and Dungeness “Cluster” Crabs boiled with their famous Cajun seasoning all cooked to perfection. The new location will feature the same fare as the original restaurant, including grilled or fried shrimp, oysters, crab fingers, crab cakes and catfish, gumbo, crawfish bisque (seasonal), corn and crab soup, salads, steaks and Cajun Specialties such as seafood platters, grilled sea bass, tilapia and mahi mahi, stuffed tilapia and catfish, crawfish etouffée and crawfish fettuccine. At lunch, Mr. Keet’s will offer two plate lunches which will vary each day, fried chicken strips, po-boys, hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, salads and wraps, as well as its full menu (excluding boiled seafood). Barbeque will be served on Sundays during lunch. A new menu item, not available at the original restaurant, is oysters on the half-shell.
Baudoin is currently serving as president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Acadiana Chapter. As a Cajun, he believes that it is important for people in this area to “remember who we are. Tex-Mex is hot, sushi is hot, but day after day, we like our Cajun food. And, that’s what made Lafayette the mark on the restaurant industry that it has acquired over the years. We want to do just that – we just want to preserve our good, Cajun culture.”
With several seafood restaurants in Lafayette to choose from, Mr. Keet’s 2 hopes to distinguish itself by offering outstanding cuisine as well as excellent service. “We do a great job with all our foods,” Baudoin says. “And, we work hard. My wife and I are always around to make sure it’s done right. We have our kids with us, and our workers have become our extended family. So, we are just going to make a go out of this, and make it successful. And, I think that people will see that when they get here.”
Mr. Keet’s 2 seats 250 people in the main dining room. A banquet room, which can be divided in two, holds up to 130 patrons. Also available is a small business dining room seating 30 to 35. The new restaurant will employ nearly 30 wait staff, friendly hostesses, swift bussers and skilled kitchen staff. On- and off-site catering is available.
Hours are Sun. - Thurs., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit the website at www.misterkeets.com or call (337) 534-4345.