By David Hamilton,
Rick Paul prides his Cajun chow nestled in his Saint Clair Street shack for being different.
Rick’s White Light Diner cooks up Louisiana flavor right here in Frankfort. With items such as oyster po’ boys and crawfish pies, the menu appears more bayou than bluegrass.
Aside from the unique offerings on the menu, Paul said his restaurant’s practices make it stand out from the rest.
First of all, he said, Rick’s White Light purchases all of its seafood from the United States rather than importing it from China.
Secondly, the food is prepared in a “scratch kitchen.”
“Meaning anything that you buy, we made it back here,” Paul said. “Sauces, desserts, bread — everything.”
And while Paul said the utmost care goes into preparing the finest ingredients, he added that interacting with customers to give them “lunch and a show” — as described by the Food Network — is also important.
Though the restaurant has been around for nearly three decades, a 2010 appearance on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” made it a destination not just for those traveling the United States, but also from overseas.
Both the U.S. and world maps hanging on the shack’s walls are laden with thumbtacks marking where those who traveled to the diner have come from.
“We have travelers from all over the world now because of that exposure,” Paul said.
Since the Food Network featured the restaurant, Paul said the White Light has made more than 100,000 loaves of French bread.
The diner features a breakfast and lunch menu. Those who visit in the morning can treat themselves to Paul’s eggs benedict or an order of beignets, which Paul said customers have told him rival those of the famous Café Du Monde in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
The lunch menu contains plenty of Cajun fixings, including a plethora of po’ boys, but it also offers burgers and Memphis-style pulled pork.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, the restaurant offers lunch specials on a 4-oz. cheeseburger for $4.95 and a quarter-pound cheeseburger with grilled potatoes for $7.95.
Paul’s connection to Cajun food stems from his love for Louisiana, he said. After his time in the U.S. Navy concluded, Paul in 1973 would go off to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He would go on to operate many diners and nightclubs over the years.
During his two years of studies at the institute, Paul said he met someone from Baton Rouge — the capital of Louisiana — that would teach Paul about Cajun cooking.
With the help of his two primary employees, daughter Hannah Davis and sous chef Catherine Baxter, Paul said he’s able to successfully give his customers that aforementioned “lunch and a show.”
As for what newcomers can expect from their first trip to White Light, Paul keeps it concise.
“Simply, they can expect a good time,” Paul said.
Rick’s White Light Diner is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The diner is located at 114 Bridge St.