LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL News) - Everyone has a favorite restaurant, and you can tell which ones are practically everyone's favorite restaurants because they're always so crowded. But there are some restaurants that few people seem to know about yet have the most die-hard fans.

In Lafayette, we have a number of restaurants, and several of them are sometimes out of the way, yet worth the trip. They offer unique foods and experiences, and if you bring them up in front of the right person, they'll defend that restaurant to the death.

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What Is A "Hidden Gem"?

A hidden gem restaurant is a dining establishment that is relatively unknown or underrated but offers exceptional food, service, or ambiance. These restaurants may not have widespread recognition or be located in prominent areas, making them less frequented by tourists or locals unaware of their existence.

What sets hidden gem restaurants apart is their ability to exceed expectations despite their lesser-known status. They often offer unique or innovative cuisine, prepared with skill and creativity by talented chefs. Additionally, hidden gem restaurants may provide a cozy and intimate atmosphere, personalized service, or other special touches that contribute to a memorable dining experience.

Discovering a hidden gem restaurant can be a delightful surprise for diners seeking something new or off the beaten path. These establishments often rely on word-of-mouth recommendations or online reviews from satisfied customers to attract patrons and build a loyal following. Overall, hidden gem restaurants offer a chance to explore culinary treasures and enjoy exceptional dining experiences beyond the mainstream restaurant scene.

With a vibrant and colorful restaurant scene in Lafayette, it's easy to be constantly attracted to the big local names. They're the ones that get the most reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. They're the ones that everyone says "You've gotta try here!" They're the ones you take pictures of and share with friends. And, most of the time, we don't go scouring for something new and unfamiliar.

But, there is nothing wrong with the new and unfamiliar. In fact, "new and unfamiliar" is what makes the restaurant business so unique. Everyone can serve food, but it's the unique options at each one that makes us want to try it once and go back again. Some of the best places you can find are a bit off the beaten path, if you make the trip to try something new then you might find a new favorite.

Cafe Habana City

If you're looking for good, authentic Caribbean cooking, then you'll find that Cafe Habana City on Bertrand has what you're looking for. As one review on Yelp put it: "Stopped in on a sleepy Monday. Amazing food and authentic atmosphere. The wait staff was perfect. I had the Cuban sandwich and fries. $10. Unbeatable value."

Scratch Kitchen

A newer place on the scene, Scratch Farm Kitchen offers farm-to-table preparations, supporting local farms in the area. Their menu is unique and flavorful and, yes, the drinks are delightful, too.

"What a gem in area," one reviewer said. "Surprise to find Vietnamese coffee and wonderful farm to table dishes.  Just high quality food, friendly staffs, and welcoming space.  I highly recommend this place, it stacks up there with the best places in the country.  I will be back."

Jane's French Cuisine

When we talk about Lafayette, we do find ourselves talking about Cajun French, but is there enough room in the area for Parisian French? One restaurant thought so and opened to offer classic French cuisine in Lafayette - Jane's French Cuisine. If you haven't gotten a chance to try it, it should probably go on your To Do list soon.

"Intimate setting, you can see the chef and staff work, so yes, you can hear the fussing and stuff too," someone noted on Yelp. "It can get pretty hectic in there, we witnessed it, but we thought it was funny, and felt like Hell's Kitchen.  Overall, service was very good and food was also good."

Thai With Love

This is about as hole-in-the-wall as it gets. Thai With Love is a little-known place in Lafayette with big flavor and a small but loyal fan base. Thai cooking is extremely flavorful, and this restaurant does it justice with their menu.

The comments are almost universally positive, with one person calling it "One of my all-time favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants!" Another said "Every time I am in Lafayette, I stop at Thai With Love. The food is just that good."

Oishi Sushi

Sure, there are an abundance of sushi places in Lafayette, but what's unique about this one is that it's small, quiet, and perfect for a relaxing dinner (or lunch). Oishi Sushi isn't filled with the hustle and bustle of some of the more well-known establishments in Lafayette, but that appears to be part of its charm.

"Quiet. Quaint," one comment notes. "I have been to Oishi many times over the past 10 years and I can say that each visit has been consistent and tasty. The prices are AMAZING for the quality and quantity of food you receive. The fish is so fresh and perfectly sliced."

Hideaway on Lee

Living up to the "Hidden Gems" namesake is Hideaway on Lee. With a variety of options for all tastes, it's difficult to find something you can't eat, and it's another restaurant with a devoted fanbase.

"Hideaway on Lee is a hidden gem," a Yelp reviewer noted. "The food and service never disappoint. If you can catch an evening with live music you will be swept off your feet with the charm of this restaurant. The staff have always been so kind and provide the best recommendations. Our waiter Randy was wonderful! The staff seem happy to be at work and enjoy their jobs."

Mercy Kitchen

Another restaurant that's newer to the scene, Mercy Kitchen is quickly growing in popularity and may not be a hidden gem for long at this rate. The atmosphere mixes well with the food to provide a fantastic experience that you'll definitely enjoy over and over again.

"Food was great and healthy. Ambiance was funky. Will definitely return next trip for sure," one person noted. Another added that it is an "adorable, inviting space" with "fantastic cocktails and knowledgeable staff."

Where Are Your "Hidden Gems"?

Of course, these aren't the only hidden gems out there. Lafayette has an amazing selection of restaurants you can visit. So, tell us on our social media pages: Where are your favorite "hidden gems" located?

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