A Visit to Duck Commander & Dinner at Cotton in Monroe, LA

Duck Commander, Duck Dynasty, Buck Commander

Duck Commander Sign

As part of a blog dedicated to sharing with you some of my favorite parts of Southern life and culture, I’d be remiss if there weren’t visits to special shops selling one-of-a-kind items, or outstanding design. Hunting and the outdoors are important parts of the Southern culture that I love, so I enjoy sharing those with the blogging world, too. And small towns with good people and good food are the hometowns of most Southern memory or at least idealized memory. This post is the result of an afternoon well wasted in pursuit of all three.

Most locals are far friendlier

Most locals are far friendlier

Monroe and West Monroe, LA, are twin cities on the Ouachita river in north-central Louisiana. They’re about an hour and a half west of Jackson, an hour and a half east of Shreveport, and about one meal’s distance from either Dallas or Tuscaloosa if you’re driving I-20. West Monroe is home to one of the most famous Southern families of recent years, the Robertsons, of Duck Dynasty on A&E. Monroe is an old cotton port town that’s fallen on rough times but is in the midst of something of a recovery. On either side of the river are beautiful old houses, high levies, and the dead, decaying infrastructure of an agricultural economy that’s long gone. West Monroe has cast its downtown as “Antique Alley,” and all of the old stores of main street are now well-managed antique stores, with some good old guns and watches mixed in among the furniture and other relics. Monroe’s downtown is having a harder time of it, with taller buildings and warehouses that don’t lend themselves as well to light retail. Still, there’s life stirring. More on that later. By the way, it’s “MUN-roe” to the locals.

Duck Commander trailer, Duck Dynasty, Buck Commander

Not hard to spot, despite camo

The most famous local citizens are the Robertsons, and they’re every bit the local celebrities you might expect of legitimate international celebrities. The stars of Duck Dynasty are pretty easy to spot, with long hair, huge beards, and the occasional bandanna. Locals will tell you that they go to the gym with one or another of them, buy shoes along side one or another of them, and church with the whole family. I stood in line behind a member of the family at Chick-fil-a just down the road from their warehouse. If you’re into celebrity watching, visit West Monroe. They may be camo’d, but they’re easy to spot.

Duck Commander bus, duck commander, buck commander, duck dynasty

Command Post

Just as the stars themselves are accessible and part of the local community, the Duck Commander headquarters is too. A half-mile off I-20, it looks just like the warehouse and duck call factory it is. You can park next to their tour buses and see the awning that required police cherry picker rescue in one episode. You can walk right up to the warehouse and watch them at work. Tourists come all day, and the parking lot during my visit had a number of Harleys just passing through, as well as plenty of kids getting photos with the signs and cardboard cutouts. Judging by accents and overheard conversations, though, I’d bet most of the visitors were relatively local.

Duck Commander warehouse, Duck Commander, Buck Commander

Hard at work

This is the part where a blog would usually discuss the latest Spring fashions at the small boutique they visited for the post, so I’ll mention that Duck Commander has a pretty cool waxed cotton baseball cap that matches a Barbour well. They also have a full range of Duck Commander and Buck Commander merchandise: hats, t-shirts, DVDs, stickers, mugs, trailer hitch covers, etc. The factory store is a gift shop for the TV show, mainly, but they do have some calls available. Not many, but some. One thing worth mentioning is that even though this building is shown in 12 million households each week on TV, there was no rude urgency about anybody shopping in the small store. I’ve rarely heard the word “ma’am” used politely so many times in such a short period. I bought a DVD of some of the early duck hunting videos and went on my way.

Duck Commander factory store

Factory Store

After a visit to Antique Alley, during which I decided that I really didn’t need an antique Omega bumper automatic, even if I really wanted it (I was probably wrong about not needing it.),  I crossed the river to downtown Monroe. In an ancient brick cotton warehouse beside a decrepit railroad bridge is what has to be the only destination restaurant in north-central Louisiana. Cotton is the creation of chef Cory Bahr, a native of Monroe, the winner of Food Network’s reality show Chopped in 2012, and the 2011 King of Louisiana Seafood. It’s not the kind of place you expect to find among the boarded-up windows of downtown Monroe, but judging by the “coming soon” signs all around, it might have inspired its own better surroundings.

Restaurant Cotton, Cory Bahr, Monroe LA

Downstairs Bar, Cotton

Cotton’s menu is self-described as “creative Southern cuisine,” and it nicely walks the line between modern seasonality and imagination and traditional Southern dishes. Appetizers like corn bread with sweet potato jam, pimento cheese beignets, buttermilk-fried Mississippi quail, and deviled farm eggs are familiar enough for any Southerner to order, but nothing like the church lunch favorites they resemble in text. The duck wraps are just like what you’d get at a deer camp anywhere in north Louisiana, but executed perfectly enough to fit any menu anywhere. This month’s entrees include pork belly & cheeks with pepper jelly and collard green marmalade, and shrimp & grits with Louisiana andouille sausage, Louisiana shrimp, and Alabama grits. Yes, please.

Cotton, Monroe LA, Corey Bahr, Chef Cory Bahr

Dining Room

Cotton has three bars, three dining rooms, and a balcony over the Ouachita river. Each of the bars is well-stocked with usual and unusual whiskeys, and the house cocktails are creative and tasty. The Ole Smokey resembles a Sazerac, but it’s served under a glass globe full of cherry wood smoke. The Sharecropper is a refreshing drink of bourbon, ginger, lemon, and rhubarb syrup. Worth a try.

Sharecropper

Sharecropper

Service was great, bartenders were quick, precise, and pleasant, all food orders quick. Frankly, I have nothing bad to say at all. That’s why I’m writing about it! On exit, I shook Chef Bahr’s hand and wished him well. He’s making terrific food and revitalizing his hometown. God bless him.

Cotton, Monroe LA, Chef Cory Bahr

Cool gloves

If you find yourself driving I-20 in Louisiana during work hours, you should stop in at Duck Commander. If your visit keeps you in town through dinner, get a table at Cotton. You’ll enjoy yourself among some wonderful people and food. You might meet a reality TV star or two while you’re at it.

12 People have left comments on this post



» Jeannine Rauch said: { May 13, 2013 - 09:05:56 }

On May 25, our family is making a special trip to Monroe to visit Duck Commander, gift shop and grounds. We are all hoping to catch a glimpse of a Robertson family member! And after reading this blog, we plan to visit the antique alley in Monroe! We’ll see you there!

» ACSG said: { May 14, 2013 - 06:05:04 }

Jeannine, I hope your visit is great. Please let us know how it turns out!

» Kelly Renee said: { Aug 20, 2013 - 03:08:42 }

Hey y’all!

We will be Florida bound in September, coming from Texas. We would like to stop in the Duck Commander to tour and of course take pics (an of course we can cross our fingers and hope we see Si and everyone else). Would also love to eat and the Cotton Bar/Grille.

Can you please let me know the days of operation/hours we would be able to stop in.

Thanks so much!

» ACSG said: { Aug 20, 2013 - 04:08:43 }

Kelly, Duck Commander is open Monday through Friday 9 to 6, and Saturday 10 to 5. Cotton’s open every day Monday to Saturday. Sunday, they do brunch. Have a great time and come back to let us know how it went!

» Larry said: { Aug 24, 2013 - 03:08:58 }

We’re planning to stop in West Monroe and visit the Duck Commander warehouse in early November. Are there tours available for the warehouse, or driving tours to see any of the Robertsons houses? Are there any RV Parks close by for us to stay in our motor home overnight?

Larry

» ACSG said: { Aug 24, 2013 - 06:08:41 }

Larry, there’s a campground and an RV park up at the Bayou D’Arbonne National Wildlife Refuge, not far away at all. I can’t speak to any tours, but their church is easy to find if you’re in town on a Sunday. -Andrew

» Larry said: { Aug 25, 2013 - 08:08:13 }

Thank you, I’ll check out the RV park. What denomination is their church?

Larry

» Valla Brossman said: { Jan 2, 2014 - 12:01:28 }

I’m so excited…it will take us several hours from Bedias , Tx lmy husband is taking me to Monroe, La to go by Duck Commander! I’ve be waiting a very long time. I do hope I get to see the family that would be a quacken good time for us both! Monroe here we come.

» Lisa said: { Mar 4, 2014 - 03:03:31 }

I’m planning on a trip from Whiteway, Newfoundland, Canada. I’ll be there early April. I am very excited about visiting Duck Commander Warehouse. Hoping to eat at Cotton. Visit Antique Alley and as an added bonus, Hopefully I will get some wonderful pictures and would be awesome to see anyone of the Robertson’s. Just wondering if there is any advice you can give me so that I don’t miss something that I should see. Very excited.
Lisa

» Vickie said: { Nov 6, 2014 - 08:11:16 }

three of us girls took our yearly vacation this year to West Monroe, late April 2014…residents of this town are wonderful (we come from south central Illinois) not uppity like where we live. Stayed at Best Western about 4 blocks north of the Duck Commander Warehouse, great place to stay. Went to the Warehouse a couple times, shopped, but didnt get to see Si, Jase or any of these, but did get to see John Luke and Corty.Be sure and eat at Willie’s Diner best meatloat in the world and a small BBQ place called Pard Nuhs (or something like that.) great trip great food and great people

» RICHARD TINGLEY said: { Nov 10, 2014 - 11:11:45 }

my life dream is to deer hunt with with the Robertson’s I work 7 days week to take care of my family putting my wife in colligee and 2 kids going to a cristen collige my daughter want to be a church school teacher and my son will be a paster. i try hard to hunt but i know my duty as a father and husband to take care of them. so some day i hope to have my dream come true.

» Jamakin fam said: { Nov 16, 2014 - 12:11:20 }

We are wanting to travel and visit duck commander and take the tour. What is arround there? Where is a good place to stay?



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