The Landing Restaurant, Natchitoches, Louisiana

We’ve been trying to include more lifestyle posts in our blog because they tend to be pretty popular whenever we do them.  We both LOVE food, so writing about it is a joy!

I apologize for the lack of photos as I didn’t know we were going to post about this until afterward.  It was a last-minute decision to eat here, so it didn’t occur to us to blog about it…lol!

Jerry’s son and his family were in town from out-of-state for the weekend, and wanted fried fish.  We were planning on going to Cane River Bar & Grill, one of our favorite restaurants (see this post), but it was packed, without any parking spaces available.  I asked Jerry if he called and made a reservation, and he said he didn’t think there was any need to do so for such a small group.  There were eight of us, and it was a Friday night, and it’s a popular place.  Oh, well!

Jerry’s mom suggested a Mexican place we really like that has great grilled fish and shrimp, but his son really wanted fried fish.  So, Jerry’s dad suggested The Landing on Front Street.  No one really wanted to go there, but since his dad noticed there were hardly any cars, it would be easy to get in.  We were still pretty apprehensive because usually if a place is empty on a Friday night, it’s because it’s not very good…lol!

Now, for a little bit of background info… The Landing used to be located on South Drive, and it had fantastic food.  Everything was fresh and homemade, and the prices were reasonable.  Then they moved to Front Street, a touristy area, with high rent and overhead.  To their credit, the atmosphere was very nice, and the service was efficient and friendly.

The bad news is the quality of food went down drastically.  The fish was frozen, sauces came from a can, and they didn’t even have baked potatoes to go with steaks on the menu.  The prices were sky-high for the quality of food.  Since Jerry knew the owners, we would still go there because there were a few menu items that we liked.

There was a bone-in pork chop, that they didn’t really do justice with on the menu.  It pretty much just said “pork chop,” but it was SO much more!  They also had prime rib night every week, and you could get a prime rib dinner for ten bucks, and listen to a local musician play piano.  It wasn’t great prime rib, but it was worth it for the price and music.

Well, The Landing has a new owner, so despite our apprehension, we were curious to try it out!  We saw a band setting up and it was only 6:30, so we were a bit worried about the noise and not being able to visit.  Turns out it was just acoustic music, and not very loud, perfect for dinner.


There was a new wood floor, painted or stained black, so it gave the restaurant a nice ambience, much better than the carpet that used to be in there.  The staff seemed very professional, friendly, and efficient.  The menu had standard fried fish and seafood, gumbo, etoufee, steaks, and a few interesting items.  I was torn between the wedge salad with flat iron steak, and the flat iron steak grillades.  Jerry and I both ordered the flat iron grillades. His son ordered the fried fish with French fries.

As it turned out, that was a mistake.  The fried fish was some of the strangest looking fish we had seen- it looked like the fish version of those cheap chicken fingers. The fries were heavy, greasy, and tasted like bagged frozen fries from the grocery store. Just not worth the price.

As for Jerry’s and my food, the dish was described as grilled flat iron steak on top of gouda grits with peppers and mushrooms covered with an onion gravy.  Sounds pretty good, right…???  First of all, the presentation just wasn’t appealing.  That didn’t bother me, though, because a lot of great foods don’t look pretty.


Gouda grits with flat iron steak grillades at The Landing Restaurant in Natchitoches, Louisiana

My food had varying temperatures of hot, cold, and warm.  It was obvious it had been microwaved.  Even stranger yet, was that it seemed to have been microwaved as a whole dish, rather than each item heated and then put together.  I understand it’s hard to get away from using a microwave, especially for a side dish or lower-priced items.  But, a main dish selling for $16 (no side or salad), should NOT be microwaved.

As for the flavor, it tasted like a cheap frozen dinner, like those Banquet meals you can get for $1.00.  The mushroom gravy tasted like it was canned or came from a mix, and the grits tasted and looked like the instant kind.  This would be acceptable for $5 at a cafeteria, but not $16 at a “nice” restaurant.

I rarely send a dish back based on quality or flavor, but this time I did.  The server was very gracious and kind about it, even though it wasn’t her fault.  I wasn’t upset with the kitchen staff, either, because I know they don’t create the recipes- they were merely doing what they were taught to do.

Since the meat itself, the flat iron steak, had decent flavor, I had the server bring me the wedge salad with flat iron steak.  It was only $13, and it’s very difficult to mess up a simple salad.  The salad was okay, and again, the meat was decent.  But, the meat for the salad tasted microwaved.  It wasn’t juicy or hot, it was almost like it had been sitting around, then heated when the salad was ordered.

Overall, I would give our experience a 5 out of 10.  It wasn’t horrible, but it just wasn’t good.  Usually, people determine with their wallets whether or not a restaurant stays in business.  With The Landing, a good portion of the business comes from tourists, who don’t know any better.  Personally, if I had a restaurant, I would take pride in what people would be eating, and my standards would be high.  I wouldn’t just depend on tourists; I would want locals to have a great experience and great food.  With the improvements and upgrades, it does seem as if the new owner wants to create that great experience.

Every tourist town has its “institution” restaurants, those that have been there seemingly forever, and continue to do well, and are highly sought out by visitors. For example, you can’t really go to New Orleans without going to Brennan’s or ACME Oyster House. The thing is, these restaurants got their reputations because of the food. It’s a shame when a restaurant has a great location, beautiful atmosphere, and fabulous service, but mediocre food. The Landing could be so much more!

Furthermore, with websites like Yelp and Urban Spoon, it’s easy for tourists to look up restaurant reviews prior to making a decision on where to go; and they would probably avoid those with not-so-great food. Louisiana is known for its Cajun dishes as well as seafood. Fish should be fresh, or at least breaded on site. Potatoes are cheap, and could easily be cut in-house daily. If fast food restaurants can manage this, so can others.

Microwaves should not be used at all in “nice” restaurants, but I know it’s hard to get away from that.  I would suggest at the very least minimizing the microwave as much as possible, and NEVER using one for a main entrée.  Can you imagine if Chef Gordon Ramsay or Chef Robert Irvine had gone into this place?  Another key would be that hot foods should be served HOT, cold foods served COLD- not some spots cold, some spots warm, some spots hot.

The flat iron grillades I had could easily be improved, even by a home cook.  First off, just using real grits, not instant grits would make a huge difference.  Get rid of the canned/instant gravy.  Cook the steak fresh with a few fresh mushrooms, then deglaze the pan with some red wine, and serve on top of the grits.  Easy-peasy!

I do applaud the improvements they have made.  The Landing is on the right track, as long as they keep improving.  I really like to see locally-owned businesses succeed, especially in times when the economy isn’t so great.  Chain restaurants tend to do well because of the standards implemented, and the need for the locations to comply with those standards.  If The Landing could get out of the “tourist trap rut,” and raise their standards by concentrating on the food, the rest would fall into place.

If you decide to patronize The Landing, you can be assured of getting good service. Just be sure to ask questions, especially regarding how your food will be prepared, so you don’t waste your money. Since the atmosphere was lovely, and the service was fantastic, we would definitely be open to returning and giving them another chance.