Fort Polk was one of those places we never wanted to go, but settled in so beautifully we were heartbroken to leave. There is so much to love about this place: the year-round warm weather, beautiful scenery, unique activities, phenomenal food, and friendly people. This was one of my top duty stations, and I am so excited to share some of my favorite parts about it with you.
Where to live off post: Ideally, in one of the developments off of Tank Trail Road. They have some cute little communities with lovely new construction homes. There are some good options in Rosepine and Deridder, but you have to be okay with a long commute and rarely having company. On post is the best bet, assuming you can get into a newly renovated property.
Where to eat: Hazel’s Tea Parlor. Hazel’s is a hidden gem in Leesville. It has some of the best food and atmosphere, but most people don’t even know it’s there. Their crawfish chowder is one of the best things I have ever had, and their chicken salad wraps and roast beef melts are drool-worthy. They also have an extensive tea menu that will satisfy the pickiest customer. They rotate seasonal specials like spicy tomato soup and bacon grilled cheese, “Thanksgiving on a biscuit” with butternut squash soup, etc. For a slightly more formal dining experience, we would head to Lake Charles and pick one of the restaurants in the Golden Nugget Casino — Saltgrass Steakhouse was a favorite. For hot and fresh pork cracklins, Quebedeaux’s Boudin & Cracklins can do no wrong.
Local activities: Downtown at Sundown happens on Friday nights during the spring and summer. They take over a park downtown and set up gourmet food trucks, and bring in local entertainers. It’s a great way to hang out with friends in a different setting and get to meet new faces from around town. Mayfest is also a lot of fun. Plenty of farmers’ market stands, food trucks, and live music. Not to mention the elaborate Mardi Gras events every year.
Travel opportunities: If you don’t go to New Orleans, you are wrong. The Big Easy is an absolute must-see, so plan to go at least once for a weekend. You can probably squeeze everything into a two-night trip if you arrive early and leave late, but I would budget a minimum of three nights to be safe. The Omni Royal Orleans is our favorite hotel due to its great location and rooftop pool with 360 views of the city. We also enjoyed the Ritz on Canal and the Bourbon Orleans on Bourbon Street (that was a lot of fun during Mardi Gras). I don’t actually like staying at the Roosevelt – the rooms are small and outdated. We are diehards for The Bombay Club for dinner. It’s an amazing prohibition-era style speakeasy with a great hors d’oeuvres menu. For drinks and late-night entertainment, my favorite spot is the Famous Door; they have an amazing classic rock cover band that plays all night. Dave’s favorite spot is the Bourbon O Bar with their insane whiskey collection and live jazz. You have to try chargrilled oysters at the Royal House, Ramos Gin Fizzes at the Roosevelt, and beignets at Café Beignet (Café Du Monde is historical and touristy, but the beignets are not that good.) Check out the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, Lafayette Cemetery #1, go for a paddleboat ride on the Mississippi River, stroll the river walk, try High Tea at the Ritz, and of course, check out Bourbon Street in all its crazy glory. Skip the ghost tours; they are just a tourist scam.