Onizim’s steps up to the Louisiana plate

Lexington, KY – Great-tasting, high-quality Louisiana cuisine is embedded in Charles Verrette’s DNA, and Verrette, the owner of Furlongs on East Main Street, just evolved the restaurant with a name change to Onizim’s to better project the emphasis and heritage of its menu.
Verrette was born in Mamou, La., and many of his childhood weekends were spent with his extended family at the home of his grandparents, Onizim and EnaBelle Vidrine.
The kitchen and cooking was the nexus of family interaction and activity. Typically, some family members would go hunting or fishing on those weekend mornings, and what they came back with was the centerpiece of their lunch (called dinner) and the evening meal, which was referred to as supper. It was through these experiences that he absorbed his culinary knowledge from his grandparents and his parents, Burke and Mary Verrette.
Later in life, he moved to Lexington and worked for Vine Street Trust and subsequently operated his own money management business. Verrette would often play host to friends and business associates and enjoyed cooking for them. As he did this, he kept getting feedback that he was a natural in the kitchen and should be in the restaurant or food business.
On October 23, 2007, he opened Furlongs Restaurant on East Main Street, the same location where it had operated years before. Verrette is the sole owner and decided for several reasons that it was time to evolve the restaurant to project its Louisiana food focus, while at the same time making some other changes to make it more family friendly. The restaurant is now officially Onizim’s (www.onizims.com) in honor of his grandfather. Two of the family-friendly changes that have been implemented are an expanded children’s menu and a New Orleans Sunday Brunch.
The underlying operating culture of this restaurant is grounded in cooking and hospitality. The team that makes this happen includes Verrette as general manager, his daughter Amanda Verrette as manager, and executive chef John Thomason. One of the nice things about this restaurant is it has three distinct sections with a cozy bar area, the main dining room and the recently added outdoor area, called Onizim’s Porch. The menu is Louisiana influenced and includes both Cajun and Creole dishes. However, it is a broad menu with items appealing to a broad variety of tastes and also dining occasions.
This is a great place for a simple bowl of gumbo, a sandwich or a great seafood or steak dinner. Onizim’s is one of the only restaurants in town that serves authentic beignets, and it uses Gambino’s bread for its po’ boy sandwiches. The menu also features a variety of pasta dishes, steak and rib entrees, seafood entrees, hamburgers, salads and Louisiana specialties such as gumbo, crawfish, shrimp etouffee and jambalaya. Two popular dessert dishes are bread pudding and Bananas Foster.
The food at Onizim’s is made fresh, and the staff members are careful to be authentic in the recipes. Additionally, it’s important to note that true Louisiana, Cajun and Creole cuisine is flavorful so food can be enjoyed, but not overwhelmed with too much spicy heat. Cajun recipes are derived from the Acadians who settled in the then-French territories of Louisiana. Creole recipes were developed in New Orleans and are more cross-cultural, with French, Spanish, other European and African influences.
The restaurant also takes pride in its bar operations. Its bartenders are required to have considerable knowledge of drinks, mixology and the like. There is a nice wine list and beer line-up, and the special drink menu, called Onizim’s Cocktail Favorites, features several drink categories. One category is its classic cocktails, with offerings like the Sidecar, Rob Roy, Rusty Nail, Mojito and the Algonquin. Then there is the My Old Kentucky home category, with the Mint Julep, Bourbon Street Iced Tea, Kentucky Sunrise and the Riding Lesson, which is a Kentucky variation on the Manhattan. Another category is The French Quarter, with drinks like the Sazerac, Hurricane, the Roffignac, the St. Charles, and Onizim’s own version of the Crusta. Rounding out the favorites is the Modern Twists category, with the Singapore Sling, Sangria, the Cablecar, the Absolut Berri Acai Martini and others. They also offer half-price bottles of wine all day every day.
Verrette and his Onizim’s team have an established independent restaurant that they are taking to a new level by embracing their core strength of Louisiana-influenced cuisine and at the same time broadening their appeal. Verrette also has some innovative ideas for his business and some contiguous business trade areas. These include exploring a different route for the free downtown trolley service and, possibly, a Mardi Gras parade or event.
I encourage you to give this restaurant a try, if you haven’t already. The website (www.onizims.com) has information on many standing specials, and you can also follow them on their Facebook page.

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