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Cajun Charity

Cajun chain joins restaurant do-gooders changing Houston's late-summer dining scene

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L.A. Bar crawfish corn beer
At Ragin' Cajun and L.A. Bar, there’s the crawfish and shrimp cooked in the spicy Low County boil - and the opportunity to participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks. L.A. Bar/Facebook
Ragin Cajun, patio, crawfish
Ragin’ Cajun also started another giving program this year called "Cuz We Care." Ragin Cajun/Facebook
L.A. Bar crawfish corn beer
Ragin Cajun, patio, crawfish
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

 There’s more than one reason to eat at Ragin’ Cajun and its fancier sister LA Bar these days.

Oh sure, there’s the crawfish and shrimp cooked in the spicy Low County boil and this time of year there’s also barbecued blue shell crabs, messy but tasty food that comes with wet naps and paper towels (a dead give away that this is finger lickin’ finger food).

 “It was great for us,” says Mandola. “Our phones were ringing off the wall for reservations. We had big crowds and it helped a good cause.” 

But there’s also the fact that you can aid the community by eating well. The Cajun chain has become involved with two programs that aid charities: Houston Restaurant Weeks and Cuz We Care, with a portion of the price of meals aiding a number of non-profits.

“Last year was our first time to join Houston Restaurant Weeks,” says founder Luke Mandola, Sr. “Because we added the sit-down, table service at LA Bar we could offer a set menu for August.”

LA Bar opened two years ago in the space next door to the original Ragin’ Cajun on Richmond Ave. It has a larger menu with more fine dining options.

And, of course, HRW is the largest fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank, which last year partnered with 186 area restaurants that donated a portion of their pre-fix lunches, dinners and brunches to the bank. The total donation was more than $1 million.

“It was great for us,” says Mandola. “Our phones were ringing off the wall for reservations. We had big crowds and it helped a good cause."

This year, LA Bar is offering two HRW options (Aug. 1 - Sept. 1): A $20 three-course lunch and a $35 three-course dinner, with a multitude of options, including their famous char-grilled oysters, fried soft shell crabs and Mama's bread pudding. $3 of each lunch and $5 of each dinner from the special menu go to the Houston Food Bank.

Busiest times

Since the onset of founder Cleverley Stone’s HRW fundraiser the summer dining scene in Houston has changed. Where August was once the time when the wealthy fled to Aspen to get out of the August heat and restaurants slowed to a crawl —servers and staff were encouraged to take off for vacation as well — now it’s one of the busiest times of the year for Houston restaurants and it’s all-hands-on-deck to handle the crowds.

And due to the special, often-lower priced menus; restaurants attract new diners who might otherwise not visit. There are foodies who wait all year for this event and try to rack up as many restaurants meals as possible during the month of August.

It’s a win-win for both business and charity.

Another giving program

And speaking of charity, Ragin’ Cajun also started another giving program this year: called Cuz We Care. All five locations of the 40-year-old Ragin’ Cajun and LA Bar will participate in a program to host one profit-share per month with a nonprofit that fits within the scope of its mission of serving the needs of children in Houston.

An e-mail from the business explains that:

A Cuz We Care combo will be designated for an entire month and any time a customer purchases the item, ten percent will go directly back to the partnering nonprofit. It is our goal to substantially impact 12 children’s charities throughout the year, and bring them together in December for an event highlighting all that they do to keep our communities happy and healthy.”

Nonprofits can sign up here for consideration, and the restaurant group is open to helping select nonprofits in other ways as well. Just ask. 

Like so many of our city’s restaurants, who donate food for nonprofit fundraisers and host charity events, Ragin’ Cajun just wants to give back to the community that has supported it for four decades. Well done mudbug folks, well done.

And kudos to all of this year’s restaurants participating in HRW.

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