For years, I have heard about the good work going on at the Terrebonne Association for Retarded Citizens (TARC) and the different businesses that abound at that locale.
Much to my chagrin though, I did not until recently actually try the restaurant at TARC, located at 1353 Grand Caillou Road [near the Houma Airbase], known as the “Country Store.” I have now corrected the error of my ways, and perhaps you will too.
I am not certain what I was expecting when I first ventured to the Country Store, but what I experienced was a charming little restaurant that serves good, basic lunches at a reasonable price, with a level of service and attentiveness that is both refreshing and most welcome.
The Country Store is run and operated by TARC service users, i.e., citizens with some level of mental retardation and/or developmental disabilities. The service and consistency of the Country Store causes one to question what that means, as the setting is very comfortable and relaxed.
The service is quite attentive and is as good as I have experienced in quite some time.
The Country Store’s interior consists of two main dining areas, located at each side of the main entrance. Both have ample space.
The dining room to the left has dining room tables, as well as a front counter with stools to accommodate those dining alone or for customers wanting to relive the soda shop front counter days.
The room on the right is slightly more spacious and houses the TARC Gift Shop, which gives diners the chance to view and perhaps purchase gift items while they wait for lunch. Ladies of south Louisiana beware: There may be a craft item just waiting to be taken home. I resisted the urge, but my neighbors could not so easily do so.
In addition to its regular menu, the restaurant offers daily luncheon specials – generally costing $6.50 (the Friday special is usually $7.50).
TARC produces a monthly schedule outlining each day’s anticipated schedule, which for April included such offerings as baked chicken, veal parmesan, shrimp alfredo served over angel hair pasta, meatloaf, country fried steak and barbeque ribs.
Customers can telephone the menu hotline at (985) 223-7396 to learn of the day’s selection or have a copy of the monthly schedule faxed to your locale. A scaled-back version of the daily menu is also provided.
We lunched at TARC on several different afternoons, trying an assortment of specials. I can report that the restaurant serves an amazingly consistent fare.
On our first visit, I tried the special of the day: chicken tenders, served with baked potato, green beans and a roll. There is not a lot to say about chicken tenders. The baked potato was quite good and the green beans were seasoned very well.
This was a Tuesday, but I noticed another diner eagerly consuming his red beans and rice plate lunch.
Not to be outdone, I returned the next day to try the red beans and rice dish. The beans, which were creamy and had a nice consistency, are served with brown rice, a roll and a nice sized sausage link.
My dining companion chose the special of the day: smothered pork chops accompanied with field peas, rice, salad and cornbread. The pork chops were tender and juicy and the field peas were excellent. My companion’s response to the meal was simply, “As good as your grandmother made.”
On another luncheon soirée we again went with the special, which included lasagna (with salad and garlic bread) and the fried shrimp platter.
Although good, the lasagna was my least favorite of the various meals we tried. However, the fried shrimp platter was excellent. The shrimp were golden brown, lightly battered, of good size and very ample quantity.
At this same meal, I also decided to splurge on a dessert. It was a difficult choice between bread pudding, pecan pie, ice cream, carrot cake (which was the cake of the day) or blackberry cobbler.
I decided to go with the blackberry cobbler. It came to the table warm, topped with vanilla ice cream.
The restaurant also operates as the retail hub for several of TARC’s other enterprises: Sweet Sensations Confections candy and Bon Terre Enterprises.
Sweet Sensations offers chocolate delights and homemade cakes, which can be enjoyed at the restaurant or taken home for consumption in the comfort of your own home. Bon Terre, in the meantime, specializes in Cajun salsa and pepper jellies. These items are sold in the gift area.
I must admit that this operation impressed me more with each visit. So much so that I decided I needed to stop by for breakfast one day. The morning was already getting the most of me, so I ordered a dozen beignets ($4.50) to take to the office.
When I arrived at work, I was delighted to find large, hot beignet squares, smothered in confectioner’s sugar. Just imagine taking the scent of Café Du Monde to your office to share with co-workers one morning. You may just start a new office ritual.
More information about the restaurant and TARC’s wide array of services and businesses can be found online at www.terrebonnearc.org.
I am pleased to have finally experienced firsthand this little gem I’ve heard so much about.
In the words of “The Terminator” turned governor, Arnold Schwarzenagger, “I’ll be back” … you can count on it.
TARC Restaurant & Gift Shop 1353 Grand Caillou St., Houma (985) 851-2117 (Menu hotline: 223-7396) Hours Monday through Friday Breakfast: 7 to 10:30 a.m. Lunch: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.