While covering many of my favorite food options in Austin, I’ve learned that every food trailer has a story. For most, the story began relatively recently. A few years back, perhaps. It was then a dream was formed, idea hatched, menu created, trailer purchased. This relatively recent timeline is to be expected in a city with the rapid growth of Austin.
And then you have the OG’s. The Original Gangsters. The trailers that made their names before it was commonplace to expect fine dining meals to come out of a vehicle. Baton Creole’s story began back then. And now, the Cajun and Creole cuisine creator has Godfather status in Austin’s food trailer scene. Or Godmother status, perhaps.
Back in Houma, Louisiana
Lynzy Moran, the mastermind behind Baton Creole, grew up in a town south of New Orleans called Houma. She started cooking when she was young. Like, really young. At eight years old, an age when some of us were just learning that Play-Doh isn’t edible, she was making actual meals. From that point on, creating delicious meals was always a part of her life.
Eventually, after briefly living in Florida and Holland, Moran found herself in Austin. “I moved here because I was missing live music,” she told me on my recent visit. “I had $30 and nothing else. My luggage had been stolen during the move.” That was 11 years ago.
Every trailer has a story.
Baton Creole Is Born
Moran used what she learned in Louisiana to spoil her friends with authentic Cajun and Creole deliciousness. In 2013, a couple years into living in Austin, she decided to open her own truck. While media attention came quickly, life was not easy.
“That first year was the worst year of my life,” Moran told me. “I didn’t know what I was doing.” Success in this business isn’t just knowing how to make good food, she learned. It’s not success until you figure out how to run a business, how to execute.
Moran’s first trailer, then located at 907 East Sixth St., made execution difficult. For one thing, it didn’t have a hood vent, which meant that deep frying inside was stifling. That first week, Moran didn’t even have a light. “I was cooking in the dark with a reading light,” she told me. ”I was working 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. every day. Some nights, I slept in the trailer.”
Unlike today, the places to go for advice were limited. “Even six years ago, there weren’t as many trucks as there are now,” Moran said. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about how to do this.” But as our favorite food trailer owners tend to do, she found her footing.
By Word of Mouth
First, Moran knew how to cook. Then she learned how to execute. Then she found her perfect setup. Two and a half years ago, Moran moved her trailer to the back patio at Shangri-La on East Sixth Street, and she couldn’t be happier about it. The original trailer was pink because Moran couldn’t afford to repaint it in those early days. It sat comfortably until recently, when her dream trailer appeared.
Moran and her staff now work out of a sleek black trailer that fits their needs. In addition, they have a sign out in front of Shangri-La that advertises their location in the back. “I’ve been the speakeasy of food trucks for so long,” Moran said. “No one could find me.” That she could have such success without the signage speaks to her popularity and how it spread. It’s all word of mouth, she shared. The people who eat at Baton Creole are loyal. I’m about to find out why.
➡️ Keep reading: 10 Reasons You Never Have to Leave East Austin
Moran’s excitement is palpable. She has a larger-than-life personality. If she wasn’t nourishing the Louisiana food lovers of Austin, I could see her trying her hand at acting. It’s that level of energy that she emits. Oh, and I should mention that she’s pregnant and due in a few weeks. Yet there she goes to the trailer to whip up what I know will be one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory. That is energy!
Before I begin on the food, a quick warning: do not attempt to eat the quantity of food I ate. In fact, don’t ever order as much as I did because it’ll be difficult to stop eating. I had a job to do, though. So I had to finish the five plates of food.
The chicken and sausage gumbo arrived and it was delicious. Dark and “swampy,” as Moran described it. This is “bayou style.” Saucy over rice, I got flavors in layers. Sweet, spicy, and smoky. In the middle of the bowl sat one scoop of potato salad, and not just any potato salad. This is crab-boiled potato salad, and you can taste the flavor. I alternated between eating it on its own and with the rest of the creole. Tough decisions!
Next is the fried chicken, since it was “Fried Chicken Tuesday” on the day of my visit. While waiting to speak with Lynzy, I heard a customer say “this is the best fried chicken in the city.” Let’s say that my hopes were high.
When I bit into the tender thighs (deboned thigh meat, sliced into the shape of a tender), I was not disappointed. It was crispy and perfectly spiced. The dark meat tasted fresh and full of flavor. Each order comes with three sauces and a choice of three sides (which change ever week). They were all delightful.
Everything on the menu is made from scratch, and everything is popular. I know the latter fact because when I tried to find out what the “go-to” order was, Moran gave me an answer I had never heard from an eatery: everything is sold equally. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks you can’t go wrong with your order here.
I dug into the crawfish etouffee. It’s New Orleans-style, tomato-based. They definitely did not skimp on the crawfish. Another very filling rice dish covered in delicious, dark, butter-based sauce.
The trash bowl royale arrived. This dish started out as a joke, with Moran wanting to share her favorite childhood dish with the SXSW crowds one year. But the crowds, not surprisingly, loved it. So now it’s on the permanent menu. This dish is steamed rice covered in black and brown gravy, mixed with blackened chicken, cheddar cheese, and greens on top.
When I think of the name of the trash bowl royale, I picture a filling, delicious drunk food. And it very well could be! Baton Creole is open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. But don’t be mistaken; this is not drunk food. Even the trash bowl royale feels like a delicacy–the perfect mixture of flavors and something I’d be happy with at a nice restaurant.
And just like that, I’m on my final dish: the vaunted green bean casserole. This, I’m told, is a service industry staple. A favorite of bartenders and servers in the area. I got blackened chicken added and suddenly it was a main course, not a side dish. Green beans, cheese, and jalapeños providing a kick. There are crispy fried onions on top, too. This may be my favorite dish of the evening. Traditional, with a twist. Highly recommended!
Louisiana has different types of Cajun food, depending on the region. There’s a lot of variety in the state. What I have just eaten pounds of is Bayou-style Cajun, and New Orleans-style Creole. I don’t regret it. I only wish I had more room for the jambalaya baton (which I’ve had and will be getting again soon) and the fried chicken grilled cheese. I haven’t had the latter, but it doesn’t take a leap of faith to know it’s worth ordering soon. There are always new menu items in rotation, as Moran likes to “keep it fresh.”
Baton Creole has a promise, to its customer and the bar it supports: it will be open 7 days a week, rain or shine. To have this comfort food available every day is a comforting thought. How Moran, who I mentioned is very pregnant, does it is not something I can answer. How she does all the rest of the things she does I definitely can’t answer: running a full service catering company, doing popups in different countries like France (annually), Myanmar, Spain, and Nicaragua.
Luckily, she has a talented staff to help her, which was all-female until recently. Life is good for Moran, who stays active in the community by supporting causes near and dear to her, while maintaining her Godmother status in the food trailer world. It’s been a heck of a story.
1016 E 6th St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite dish at Baton Creole?