Heart of Louisiana: The Stockyard Café

You can smell the fried chicken the minute you walk inside the Stockyard Café.  Evelyn Hayes has been here, mixing the spices and frying up baskets of chicken for 33 years.

"Get my hand in the seasoning and see what it tastes like," Hayes says of her process.  "If it tastes alright to me then I figure it's alright to everybody else."

Evelyn runs the kitchen, serving up a Monday special of red beans and rice, and a pot load of sweet-smelling yams.

"You know yams are not as sweet as they used to be," says Hayes. "They need a lot of help."

There's a different plate lunch special every weekday, for just $8.00.  That's right, eight dollars, the price of a meal deal at a fast food place, gets you a tray-full of food that your mama would have been proud to cook.

But there's something more than the red beans that's special about Mondays at this café.  Walk through the wooden door at the back of the lunchroom, up a flight of stairs, and you'll see how the Stockyard Café got its name.

It's a live cattle auction.  And before the bidding ends today, 500 head of cattle will be sold.

"We sell them open at public auction where they bid against one another and can see what one another's doing," says stockyard co-owner and auctioneer Michael Dominique.  "When you finish selling an animal here, you will have gotten top price for what the market was today."

It's a business started by his grandfather in 1938.

The bidding starts before lunch, and continues until the last animal is sold, sometimes after dark.  Dominique believes sales are better when the auction moves at full speed.  And you have to look closely to see who's bidding.

"I can go from eyebrows raising, to hands hidden on the side of the leg, so the guy next to him who wants the same item can't tell it's him that's bidding," says Dominique.

The instant an animal is sold, a ticket with the price slides to the weigh master, who enters the animal's weight, and then it's entered into a computer for billing and payout.  The auction barn and café have shared this property for nearly 75 years.  And in case you're wondering, there is no shortcut from the barn to the kitchen.

"No, we don't get our beef from the stockyard," Hayes tells us.  "We get it delivered. I taste everything I cook so I'll be the first one to taste it. I wouldn't give them anything I wouldn't eat myself or feed to my family."

And that good taste is something that Evelyn's customers have come to expect at the Stockyard Cafe.

The cattle auctions are held on Mondays at Dominique's stockyard ay 1462 Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.  And you're welcome to sit in the arena and watch some of the live weekly cattle auctions.