When Keith Dartez, co-owner of Cajun Pizza Place, sees a regular customer walk through the door, he sometimes starts preparing their meal before they sit down or place an order, Samantha Dartez said. Fellow Louisiana natives, she said, are especially loyal.
“It’s like coming home for a lot of people. They see familiar faces,” said Samantha, who helps her father out at the restaurant.
Some patrons recognize Keith from the pizza shop he worked at in Lafayette, Louisiana, for 38 years, Samantha said. After several moves between Lafayette and Austin, the Dartez family settled here in 2009. They opened Cajun Pizza Place originally on McNeil Drive but added a Cajun twist with shrimp and smoked sausage toppings. Soon, customers were asking for gumbo, too, Samantha said.
“We only had a little countertop burner that we could make one pot of gumbo on,” she said.
The restaurant soon outgrew its space, and the Dartezes were having to rearrange tables before New Orleans Saints football games, Samantha said.
“I remember people literally brought their own foldout table and chairs to put on our patio,” she said.
After relocating to 6001 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 440, in 2015, the Dartezes added other Cajun classics, such as muffulettas and crawfish etouffee, Samantha said.
“Now, it takes our entire six-burner stove to make our giant pot of gumbo,” Samantha said.
When shipments of French bread from Lafayette are not enough for a busy week of po’boy and muffuletta orders, Keith will drive to Lafayette or ask family members to bring more when visiting Austin, Samantha said.
The Dartezes also ship smoked sausage and olive tapenade from Lafayette, Samantha said.
While looking for more ways to fill their larger dining space, such as offering happy hour specials and hosting Cajun bands, creating a home away from home is most important, she said.
“When I was pregnant … the whole counter was filled with things from all of our guests: clothes, quilts, towels, all just for [my daughter],” she said. “Our regulars become our friends.”
Cajun Pizza Place
6001 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 440, Austin
Hours: Sun.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.