September 28, 2022

Get to know hosts Brady Renard and Anna Strider as they share their story of how they wound up in Southwest Louisiana. Kyle Edmiston, President and CEO of Visit Lake Charles, joins Louisiana's Playground Podcast to discuss the many ways one can choose to play in Southwest Louisiana. Topics include the juxtaposing amenities that the region has to offer from the types of headliner entertainment, new sports betting bars, and a wide range of outdoor recreation that define Sportsman Paradise.  We touch on luxurious dining options to down-home local favorites that you can only get here in Lake Charles. 

“We enjoy celebrating in Louisiana, especially Southwest Louisiana, so we’re always gathering around a melting pot of some type of food, we’re celebrating that food and then we’re eating it and listing to good music while we’re doing it. And that’s where Louisiana’s Playground name comes from.” - Kyle Edmiston  


Kyle Edmiston is the President/CEO of Visit Lake Charles serving in this capacity since 2019.  Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer of the CVB, which he served for 6 years as the Director of the Louisiana Office of Tourism under two different Lt. Governor administrations and served for 6 ½ years as the President/CEO of Experience Ruston.    

Kyle was awarded the Marion “Butch” Fox Advocacy Award by Louisiana Travel Association in 2022, and Visit Lake Charles was honored by LTA as the CVB of the Year for 2019.  In 2017, Kyle was honored as the National State Tourism Director of the Year by his colleagues and was named one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in the United States for Marketing by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).  He was awarded the Southeast Tourism Society Rising Star Award in 2009 and earned his Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) from Destinations International in 2008.    

Currently, he is the Chair of the Board for the Louisiana Travel Association, past chair of the Brand USA board of directors, serves on the executive committee of the Destinations International board, and he is on the board of directors of the U.S. Travel Association. He previously served as Chair of the Travel South USA Board of Directors and the Louisiana Association of CVBs. 

Connect with Kyle Edmiston on LinkedIn 



Darrell’s Famous Po-boys is a casual eatery that’s conveniently located off I-210 in Lake Charles. The community staple opened in 1985 by Susie and Darrell DeRouen and has since become a local legacy. 

@visitlakecharles Envie Eats... The segment on the new Louisiana's Playground podcast where you listen to co-hosts Brady Renard and Anna talk about food SO much that you're hungry for lunch at 9:30 a.m. and make dinner plans by 12:30 p.m. 😂 Listen to Episode 1 featuring the Lake Charles staple, Darrell's Famous Poboys 😋 🎙Listen here or anywhere you get your podcast: visitlakecharles.org/podcast/ Envie (sounds like an·vi) Eats: The desire to eat. A lot. #LouisianasPlayground #podcast #podcasting #podcasts #podcastlife #podcaster #VisitLakeCharles #OnlyLouisiana #FeedYourSoul #lakecharles #lakecharlesla #BayouKrewe #Louisiana #darrells #darrellspoboys #cajun #cajuntiktok #cajuncooking #cajunfood ♬ Yummy - Justin Bieber



Kyle Edmiston: [00:00:00] We enjoy celebrating in Louisiana, especially in Southwest Louisiana. So we're always gathering around a melting pot of some type of food and we're celebrating that food, and then we're eating that food and listening to good music while we're doing it. That's where the Louisiana’s Playground name came from.

Brady Renard: [00:00:22] Thanks for joining us on Louisiana‘s Playground, your road map to all things Lake Charles, Louisiana nicely packaged into a podcast format. I'm Brady Renard.

Anna Strider: [00:00:33] And I'm Anna Strider. We're excited to bring you the authentic stories and experiences of Southwest Louisiana with all the tools that you need to build your personal Lake Charles itinerary.

Brady Renard: [00:00:44] And I'm excited that we finally got this thing off the ground Anna. You know, this has been a few months in progress trying to get this podcast going and the days finally here and we’ve finally revealed it to the public.

Anna Strider: [00:00:56] Yes, I'm equally as excited.

Brady Renard: [00:00:58] Before we really get to the show and what we've got for you, we thought it would be a good time to introduce ourselves, so to speak, and kind of allow you guys to listeners to kind of better understand Anna and myself. You ready Anna?

Anna Strider: [00:01:10] I'm ready.

Brady Renard: [00:01:11] Alright. Where are you from?

Anna Strider: [00:01:13] I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, spent much of my time down there in the Shenandoah Valley area, and then moved to West Virginia and spent some time there before actually winding up in South Louisiana through one of my very best friends.

We were chatting one day and she simply said, ‘you know, on a you would love Southeastern, and you would love Louisiana. I know you've only been here once in your life, but I have an open room so you and your dog can move down here. Come on down.’

And sure enough, she was right and I moved three months later and I've been here ever since

Brady Renard: [00:01:52] So I think that you bring an interesting perspective to our show because of the fact that you've made Louisiana home. I've always said Louisiana is such a great place because you don't have to be from Louisiana, to be from Louisiana. You can make it your home. What about Louisiana has made you want to stay?

Anna Strider: [00:02:15]

Well, when I moved down here, Louisiana opened its arms and welcomed me in. And I really agree with that line and what it means to become a Louisiana native, because that's almost how I feel living down here and spending much of my career time and college time where you really create those passions and goals of life. Between all of our different cultural traditions, the way football fills our weekends, the many, many festivals and events and I love to attend anything that I can in the communities here in South Louisiana, especially Southwest Louisiana.

I live in the downtown area, so I can walk to many of these events. So that's been a great transition for me. I'm also a huge outdoors person. I love to kayak. I love to go hiking. So the waterways, Creole Nature Trail, Sam Houston Jones State Park and all of those assets that we have here in the community have really made this transition and my joy just shine because I'm able to be my best self here.

Brady Renard: [00:03:20]

And that's kind of the epitome of what Louisiana is. You can live your best life through the experiences that we have because we have just a little bit of everything. That's what makes the state and this area so great.

Anna Strider: [00:03:33]

So, Brady, I know that you've had a similar experience where you haven't just lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana your entire life either. Tell us a little bit about your travels around the state and your experiences as a Louisiana native.

Brady Renard: [00:03:51]

Yeah, I consider myself a bit of a Louisiana nomad. I've lived in all four corners, whether it be for work or school or just growing up. The Houma area in southeast, the Shreveport area in northwest, the Monroe area in Northeast. Even the central area when I went to school at Northwestern State in Natchitoches and now Southwest Louisiana for the last seven years or so.

And you know, we've just really planted our roots here, my wife and I. We've really enjoyed being back in South Louisiana, there's nothing like it. The weather, the food, the culture, and the people. It's all so special and dear to me. As much as I enjoyed my time in other parts of the state, I t always felt like home was calling in a way and to have that call answered, has been really special for me. To be able to stay here has meant a lot obviously and to be able to raise my family here is something that that means a lot me. I get to raise my kids in a similar place to where I was raised.

Anna Strider: [00:04:51]

I think that's really special that you have found Southwest Louisiana to be that home calling because I know many of us spend so much time looking for that and chasing that and the fact that you and your family get to be here and experience all the different things that we have to do and raise your child the way that you were raised, I think that's really special.

So, you mentioned a little bit about work as to why you moved all around the state. But your career didn't just start in tourism, it started in sportscasting, correct?

Brady Renard: [00:05:23]

Yeah, in television news. I came out of college and I worked for three years as a weekend sports anchor in the Monroe area. And then for the last seven, I was the sports director at the local TV station (KPLC) here in Lake Charles and was able to cover Super Bowls, National Championships and high school championships and everything in between from there. And so, it's been a heck of a ride for the last for the last 10 years, a full decade in the industry.

But, I wanted a change. I wanted to be able to do something a little different you know? It's funny how things work, right? So to have this opportunity in the tourism space to promote a passion of mine, which is Louisiana, which is food, which is the Louisiana culture, I mean it's always kind of felt like a perfect fit and I get to kind of do the video side and now the podcast side, and I think that's what makes this podcast exciting for me.

Anna Strider: [00:06:23] I think we're going to be really a great duo to bring our listeners and audience a perspective on Southwest Louisiana that they haven't heard before and we're really excited to unearth some of those hidden gems, remind you of some of those local favorites and just share the authentic stories that we have here in Southwest Louisiana.

Brady Renard: [00:06:47] Well, enough about us.

We've got a terrific show for you as we have our first guest. It will be President/CEO Kyle Edmiston of Visit Lake Charles, the DMMO here in the city. Such a great guest and such a great get. He is technically our boss, but he's also a fantastic guest and I think he did a great job of taking us through the experiences that we offer here in Lake Charles.

Anna Strider: [00:07:16] Before we get to our conversation with Kyle today, we're going to kick off with a segment that we call on Envie Eats.

Brady Renard: [00:07:24]

Ultimately, Envie is a French/Creole/Cajun word. It means a desire, a want, which, gosh, I mean, when I talk Southwest Louisiana food, there is definitely a desire to put more of that on my plate, you know what I mean?

Anna Strider: [00:07:40] Oh, I know what you mean.

Each episode, Brady and I will be bringing you our personal take on where we've eaten in the community in Southwest Louisiana and talk to you a little bit about the food, the atmosphere, and why we love the restaurant.

I'm sure you're going to be finding a few new places to try and a few places you might have forgotten about that you need to make your way over to.

Brady Renard: [00:08:03]

The first one doesn't fit any of those because it is really THE Lake Charles staple. When you think of Lake Charles restaurants, or you get a recommendation. I guarantee you on everyone’s list is where we open the Envie Eats segment.

Of course, I'm talking about Darrell’s Po-Boys. Darrell’s really is THE Lake Charles staple. I mean, right?

Anna Strider: [00:08:28]

I mean when I moved here it was the first place that I heard about of where I had to get the Darrell’s Special and boy, did it not let me down.







Brady Renard: [00:08:41]

And I think one thing that has always impressed me is that they're not one of those restaurants that you open and there's two sides of the menu because they know what they do, they do it well and they try to just take the option out.

They're like, look, you get one of three choices, you're going to love any of the three that you get. Just choose.

Anna Strider: [00:09:03]

It really does make the whole process that much easier. It's a casual spot that people come in. You know, if you're traveling with the group or the family sports teams in town, you can always guarantee that you're going to show up and there's going to be someone to greet you right out the door.

You might have a little bit of a wait if you come around lunch because it's such a hot spot, but that menu makes a huge difference in turning over tables and being able for everyone to have that comfortable experience at Darrell’s.

Brady Renard: [00:09:29]

Yeah, and it's because of what they offer too, I think is really why they're such a staple.

While the creation of the Po-boy is still up for interpretation, it's kind of widely believed that a restaurant in New Orleans was feeding strikers back in, I think, 1929 or so, but it's migrated itself all over the state.

It’s a loaf of French loaf bread stuffed to the brim with meats and what have you.

At Darrell’s, they choose a few different options. I personally I love the sausage po-boy, the huge slices of fresh cheese with sliced sausage in there and they put a BBQ sauce on it, but it's not a sweet sauce that you would normally see. It's much more of a BBQ gravy, is kind of the way that I would explain it.

It's not a clean sandwich. And what I mean by that is it's messy. I mean, they have a stack of napkins that they leave on the table to make sure... And I say stack-- it's a tower! Because they know you're going to make a mess.

Anna Strider: [00:10:35]

Think about the different po-boys than that the state of Louisiana is known for. That really varies across the state. Everybody does theirs a little bit differently, and I know the staple at Darrell’s is the Darrell’s Special, which is all I've ever gotten there because it's so great. And that the Darrell’s special consists of three different meats on it, which are ham, turkey and roast beef.

They top it with roast beef gravy and jalapeno mayo that isn't your typical jalapeno mayo, it's really jalapeno and mayo.

Brady Renard: [00:11:09]

Imagine that.

Anna Strider: [00:11:10]

Imagine that, and you can get the sandwich in either a small or a large size. I typically go with the small.

Brady Renard: [00:11:18]

A small fills you up. It's about six inches of sandwich versus... I mean, you either get a half French loaf or a full French loaf.

It comes with a bag of chips, as you kind of said. But that that Darrell’s Special really is the what everyone really suggests. It's those meats with that gravy that is, you know, so rich and the way it pairs with the cheese and the lettuce and then that jalapeno mayo that people rave about.

I mean, there's a reason that this sandwich is as famous as it is.

Anna Strider: [00:11:48]

I can promise you that I used a whole handful of that tower of napkins, so it's there for a reason.

And we also ordered the cheesy bread while we were there, and they had the roast beef gravy that you can dip in while you're there.

Oh my goodness, it is the perfect meal.

Brady Renard: [00:12:04]

And at the end of the day, what makes a po-boy so special really is the bread. The bread can make or break the sandwich, and theirs is so buttery, flaky, that really salty, buttery top on their bread really ties together that sandwich.

There's a reason that they have the reputation they have.

Anna Strider: [00:12:21]

They absolutely know what they're doing.  And they are such a staple here in Southwest Louisiana. And what's really great about it is it's so conveniently located, which makes it even better and is the perfect reason to stop in.

 So if you're coming in off the I-210 loop, or if you're near McNeese State University or maybe you stop that Prien Lake Mall, you're within a mile of things that you might be doing around town. So definitely stop in. Grab yourself some lunch or dinner and let us know what you thought of Darrell’s.

So that's it for our on the Eats segment and we'll dive into our conversation with Kyle.

Brady Renard: [00:12:59]

From one Lake Charles staple to another, we welcome on Kyle Edmiston, the President/CEO at Visit Lake Charles. He's been in the role since 2019, previously serving six years as a director of the Louisiana Office of Tourism under two different Lieutenant governor administrations. Needless to say, Kyle knows Louisiana and he's been honored for it previously being named the national state tourism director of the year, while also leading Visit Lake Charles to the Louisiana convention and visitors bureau of the year back in 2019.

In addition, Hospitality, Sales and Marketing Association International named him a top 25 extraordinary mind in the United States for marketing.

Currently, he's the chair of the board for the Louisiana Travel Association, the past chair of the Brand USA Board of Directors and he serves on the executive committee of the Destinations International Board and he's also on the Board of Directors for US Travel Association.

Welcome to the show, Kyle.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:13:56]

I'm glad to be here with both of you. Thank you for inviting me.

Let's get started. This is going to be a fun day.

Anna Strider: [00:14:02]

It sure is.

So as we all know, Southwest Louisiana is known for our big city entertainment and amenities combined with our small-town charm that makes for a vast array of experiences which one can add to their itinerary when visiting Lake Charles.

Brady Renard: [00:14:16 ]

Our opening segment with each guest will allow our listeners to get to know our guests better, and it's all centered around juxtaposing questions about how do you play in Louisiana’s Playground?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:14:27]

I like to play often in Louisiana’s Playground when I can get away from all the boards that you listed off, as well as my regular duties as CEO of Visit Lake Charles.

Brady Renard: [00:14:36]

For sure. Alright, we'll start the rapid-fire questions here with number one, crawfish or gumbo?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:14:46]

You know, I'm going to have to go with gumbo, only because it's year-round. I love crawfish and certainly crawfish season, December to May or June, depending on the weather.

I love eating crawfish of course. That's, you know, what we're about here is the culture and the family atmosphere of family and friends at a crawfish bowl, but gumbo is year-round and it's never too hot to eat gumbo.

So don't let anybody fool you and tell you that oh, I can't eat gumbo in July or August be cause it's too hot.

No, it's never too hot to eat gumbo.

Brady Renard: [00:15:19]

I endorse that message. I'm pro-gumbo.

Anna Strider: [00:15:23]

Crawfish over here.

Brady Renard: [00:15:25]

My wife has said that I have an unhealthy obsession with ordering gumbo everywhere we go.

I don't think it's very unhealthy.

Anna Strider: [00:15:30]

I’ve seen this first-hand.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:15:32]

I don’t think it's unhealthy. I just would not suggest doing it outside of the state of Louisiana because the rest of the country does not truly understand how to cook a good roux.

And as we all know, the gumbo is about the roux.

Brady Renard: [00:15:45]

I agree 100%.

All right. Poolside or beachside?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:15:49]

Poolside. I love the water. I like to be out on the water.

But just on a personal note, I don't really like the sand all over me, you know?

Not so much, so poolside every time.

Brady Renard: [00:16:03]

I agree.

And finally, concert or comedy show?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:16:07]

Concert. Live music in Southwest Louisiana, you can find it seven days a week, all across town and different genres and live music to me is far, far better than comedic action on the on the stage.

Brady Renard: [00:16:24]

Comedic action. I like that.

Anna Strider: [00:16:27]

So now that we've gotten to know you a little bit better through our juxtaposing questions, we're going to dive into our question at hand of what is visit Lake Charles and what do you do here?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:16:38]

The first thing I would say is that Visit Lake Charles is a DMMO, a destination marketing and management organization, which is far more than a Convention and Visitors Bureau because what we do is far more about not only promoting the destination but growing the destination and really where you've seen over the course of the last five years  organizations like ours changing is being far more involved in issues that affect the community, the way of life in the community and the citizens. F for years you didn't worry about what those within the community really thought, because your job was to go outside the community and bring visitors in.

Now, there's a whole different context to that.

So, Visit Lake Charles brings opportunities for people to visit whether it's leisure travelers, business travelers, sports events or transient international. So, we spend a lot of time, effort and tax dollars to enhance the experience and to grow the market for people who want to visit Lake Charles.

Anna Strider: [00:17:55]

We certainly have much to offer visitors both in state and out of state for why Lake Charles, is such a great destination to visit.

Brady Renard: [00:18:03]

We're smack dab in the middle of Sportsman's Paradise. Louisiana.

Hunting and fishing, obviously such a big piece of our culture and the experiences that we offer. I know you are a bit of a big hunter yourself.

I know you've recently went down the Creole Nature Trail right in Sulphur and obviously down to Cameron Parish to duck hunt recently.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:18:23]

Yes, there is a special season in September. Teal season. It's a specific species of duck that has an early season and what it really allows us to do during the the three-week season is what is called, ‘Cast and Blast.’ Not only do we have great hunting, but we are Louisiana’s Playground. Sportsman's Paradise.

We have great fishing and so ‘Cast and Blast’ is an opportunity to fish in the afternoon and hunt teal in the morning.

Teal are very fast and and most of the action happens very quickly. By 8 a.m. if you're not finished, you're probably going to have a hard time getting your limit that day.

You can hunt first thing in the morning and then fish in the afternoon or with our guide services, you actually come in the day before around noon, you fish in the afternoon, spend the night and then hunt the next morning mostly in the marsh and the rice fields.

Like I said, there's no place like it in the world. It's a special three weeks that happens from the second weekend in September to the end of September. It then closes and then during regular duck season that begins in November, we have guides all over the rice fields and the in the marsh area that can really enhance people who want to come and and stay and play and experience duck hunting at its finest.

Brady Renard: [00:19:59]

And you kind of touched on fishing, we've got so many opportunities here whether it's in the gulf there down in the Cameron Parish, guide services like what they offer at Big Lake or if you just want to crab on the side of the road. What do you think that offers someone that that wants to come down and it feels like the the best thing about it is that... We have something for each and every experience level.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:20:23]

Right. We have several of the guide services that that also operate lodges and so you can literally stay on property with them. They have chefs that provide, five-star meals while you're staying there and literally you walk out of your bedroom and onto the boat to go fishing, likewise, we have some guide services that aren't tied to any properties and so you can stay where you want to stay.

So you can stay in the Lake Charles area and have a lower cost experience at some of our hotel properties and then drive the 20 minutes to the guide service and fish and then come back and take part in the day.

Or if you would like, you can stay at L'Auberge or Golden Nugget. The guides will actually pick you up at their marinas on the backside, take you to Big Lake or wherever the fish are biting. Catch your fish and they’ll bring you back, and you can spend the afternoon playing golf, going to the spa or hanging out at the Lazy River.

So, the the experiences are as you mentioned Brady, just a a wide variety of outdoor or luxury all around catching fish at Big Lake and Calcasieu Parish.

Anna Strider: [00:21:39]

Can I assume on this recent trip that you went down to the Creole Nature Trail that you all caught your limit of fish?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:21:46]

We actually did not catch our limit of fish. We killed our limit of teal, but we  were catching redfish and we actually did not catch our limit. But we caught enough that my freezer is now full.

I'm feeling really good about getting to cook some redfish on the half shell here in the coming weeks when the temperature drops a little bit.

Anna Strider: [00:22:06]

Well, speaking of the temperature dropping, that means that it's festival and event season here in Southwest Louisiana and we have festival events going on year-round.

Can you talk a little bit about those?

Kyle Edmiston: [00:22:17]

Sure. You know, we're definitely the festival capital of Louisiana as well, over 75 fairs and festivals during the year, you know, spring is a huge time for festivals and again we talked about the crawfish when we were doing the juxtaposition questions and so much of the the weather is perfect.

Going into fall now, we've got several events coming up in the next month, month and a half that starts with Rouge et Blanc, which is a a great fund-raising opportunity for banners at McNeese which is a wine and food event and again that will actually be on the campus of McNeese and the tickets have sold out already. Maybe folks should plan now for what they want to do in 2023 when the tickets go up for sale again.

Later in October is Chuck Fest. That’s the celebration of food and music in Downtown Lake Charles. There’s multiple stages all day on October 22 and it will be a full day of celebration. The weather should be perfect mid-October to do that and then on up into November for one of our largest festivals, which is a relatively new festival Smoke and Barrel.

Smoke and Barrel celebrates whiskey, bourbon and BBQ. How can you go wrong with bourbon and BBQ? They'll have some live music out there.

But, pretty much every weekend in the fall and every weekend in the spring we have festivals and/or live music, celebrating food, culture and music of our state and specifically Southwest Louisiana.

Brady Renard: [00:24:03]

I love that feeling that if you come down sometime in the spring, chances are, we're celebrating something.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:24:07]

There’s no question we enjoy celebrating in Louisiana, especially in Southwest Louisiana. So we're always gathering around a melting pot of some type of food and we're celebrating that food, and then we're eating that food and listening to good music while we're doing it. That's where the Louisiana’s Playground name came from when we were branding, both our local citizens and our visitors had input into that.

There's no question that it's very true, when you come, you're going to have a good time.

Anna Strider: [00:24:40]

And that's whether you're in downtown, in Sulphur or the Moss Bluff area, they have festivals going on throughout the year. We also have great entertainment and regional/national acts that come into our casinos that are a huge draw for visitors, and locals alike, to hang out there as well.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:24:57]

Absolutely, in the last few weeks I've seen Jamey Johnson, Travis Tritt and Clint Black.

As you can tell I do have a affinity for country music but all three of those are our national acts that are traveling through and made stops here at different casino resort properties.

And the entertainment list that both of them have is long and extensive and then like I said, we have great local acts that you can see at Live at the Lakefront, Downtown Alive, Chuck Fest and Smoke and Barrel. They all bring that local music flavor out and so it is a great time to be in Lake Charles, La.

Brady Renard: [00:25:38]

Now, you mentioned a while ago gathering around the table to eat... if there's one thing, and I say it as often as I can, if there's one thing that Louisiana knows, it's food, at the end of the day.

With what we offer here, I think it's such a special place in terms of the variety of what we can give you, whether it's kind of an upscale experience or a down home kind of meal, the list is impressive.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:26:03]

The variety, the list and the number of locally owned restaurants is very impressive because of where we're located.

The Golden Nugget has nothing but Landry's restaurants in it and there are some outstanding restaurants there and you know L’Auberge has certainly upped its culinary game and has one of our most famous chefs in Lyle Broussard who has participated with us in every one of the Louisiana Culinary Trails.

When you get outside of those two properties, the number of locally owned, locally sourced... I would I would call it farm to table, but it's really sea to table. Understand that we're 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, so we're dealing with the freshest of Louisiana seafood every day and so that that really allows these chefs in these restaurants an opportunity to sample some of the best and brightest in the in the world.

Brady Renard: [00:27:07]

You had mentioned some of the more fine dining there, but we also really specialized... because at the end of the day, Cajun cooking is about cooking from your heart and cooking from the soul and we have a lot of that too.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:27:18]

We do. One of, I have many, but one of my favorite places to eat lunch is Mama Reta’s. And you know, Mama cooks some of the best fried chicken and she was displaced after the storm, went over to Lafayette for a little while, and is now re-opened. She's just off of I-10. You can drive through and pick it up. She does a different plate lunch every day, but her specialty is the fried chicken.

Just getting by Mama Reta’s is great.

We've got Mrs. Johnnie's pies and if you haven't experienced one of those, I highly suggest that you put Mrs. Johnnie's on your list and stop by.

It's outstanding and you just can't find that anywhere else. It's one-of-a-kind. It's not a chain, it's not something that you can get somewhere else down the road. You have to be in our community to to go by and get Mrs. Johnnie's pies.

Brady Renard: [00:28:10]

Yeah, that smothered chicken that Mama Reta does... I think about it daily.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:28:15]

It's a little dangerous because her proximity to our office is really close and so you know, I can only do it once a month or so because you know I have to stay fitted into my clothes and and you know Mama Reta’s gives you a lot to eat for lunch. She piles the food on.

Brady Renard: [00:28:35]

Obviously, as part of the playground too, tons of great places to grab a drink, even if you're not interested in indulging, so to speak, on the great culinary scene.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:28:45]

Oh, absolutely. We've got some mixologists that are that are as good as anywhere you can find in the world. And you know there's a new restaurant in town, the James 710 and they've got some really creative minds that are working behind the bar in the way that they mix some things together.

And so, you know, in a multitude of our restaurants do the same thing. Luna Bar and Grill has some great mixologists and typically from four to six, you could go in and have some of these specialty cocktails. Typically they have something special from an appetizer or something that you can snack on that teases your culinary delights.

It's all part of the culinary scene that is what we offer here in Southwest Louisiana.

Brady Renard: [00:29:33]

And then beyond that, because of what sports is to Louisiana, we've got a lot of great places to watch the game and You know you're never too far from catching a game here in Louisiana, either.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:29:46]

We've always had great places here to to watch sports and Walk-Ons is a is a nationally known entity and they’ve been here in Lake Charles for quite a while.

And we've just opened a new sports place called the G.O.A.T. For you non-sports fans, it stands for greatest of all time. And there's always a discussion on any sport, on who is the G.O.A.T.

Then of course in our casino properties with the advent of sports betting, we now have the world’s largest Barstool Sports and the world’s largest DraftKings and soon to have a Caesar’s property that is going to have a sports book as well.

The visuals in the two that are open and I'm absolutely positive the Horseshoe will be equal, are just fantastic. They have massive screens, you literally can't turn in any direction and not watch a game or sports. The food in both of those places is outstanding.

And so, it's just a great place to spend a Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Thursday.

Or a Tuesday, Wednesday or any day of the week.

Brady Renard: [00:30:59]

Yeah, it it feels like every guy or girls' sports cave personified.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:31:05]

You sit in these comfortable seats and they bring you drinks and cocktails and then they bring you this food and you're literally watching every game that's going on around the country at the same time and it just entices you in and you look at your watch and all sudden you've been there two or three hours.

It just grabs you and holds you in those spots.

Anna Strider: [00:31:25]

It's definitely an experience one needs to take part in to truly understand.

Brady Renard: [00:31:30]

Earlier this year, sports betting became legal in Louisiana, and you could then while you're watching the game, you feel like you know what this is... you know something is about to happen.

You can bet on it there in the facilities as well as on your phone, but you can bet there in the facilities and that's something that we offer here too within those restaurants.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:31:51]

It's about the experience.

If you want to, part of the sports betting is certainly the legalization of mobile sports betting. And so, you can sit in your house, in one of the 55 parishes in Louisiana that that legalized it, it wasn't all 64, and make that bet and watch it on your own TV.

But the experience of coming out to a DraftKings or Barstool is completely different and you're engulfed with the fans. It's like being in the stadium itself with the seating.

People have skin in the game, so they they're very interested in who scores and who does what and how the game ends and you just feel that level of excitement that's tied to that.

And then you add to that, the the food and beverage that they offer.

It's, like I said, an experience you can't get anywhere else.

Brady Renard: [00:32:47]

From seeing the sports there on the screen, to seeing it in person.

Having a Division I university in town like McNeese State, is such a great great get for Lake Charles having that as an opportunity when you come and visit.

You’re able to see future, and we've seen it, future NFL, future MLB and even future professional softball players have all graced these fields at McNeese State.

And I know you take part in a lot of football games and I know baseball is big in in the Edmiston household.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:33:20]

Yes, it is. Our son is playing at LSUE, but you know, having football back at McNeese is such a huge part again of our community.

The team itself is certainly growing and is going to only get better, but it’s a huge part of the South and certainly a huge part of what we do here in Southwest Louisiana.

Anna Strider: [00:33:41]

I was at the tailgate as well and just the energy that was radiating from everybody who was there with the band and the students on campus and I know they had their block parties back the night before, which has been really great asset to really just amplify everything going on with the sports at McNeese.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:33:57]

Anna, you mentioned it... we talked earlier about all the culinary experiences in Southwest Louisiana and one of the best culinary experiences you can get is going to a tailgate in the state of Louisiana and certainly out at McNeese.

You just walk around and you can smell what people are cooking and the people will invite you to join their tailgate and happily let you partake in whatever they've cooked. It's some of the best food you can find anywhere right there in the parking lot,

Anna Strider: [00:34:27]

We certainly want to share when we have it too.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:34:29]

That's right, everybody wants to share.

Brady Renard: [00:34:31]

Well, if you want to actually get into the game, our golf scene has really improved over the last few years in terms of what we've been able to bring guests like multiple courses at our casino resorts and even Mallard our new city course, kind of a Scottish based if you kind of watch the The Open this year. We have such a great golf scene, and I know you're a big golfer too.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:34:51]

Well, I play. I would not say that I play well, but I do enjoy being out there and you know Brady the interesting part about Mallard is the fact that there's not a single tree anywhere on the course. It truly is a Scottish links course that has the rough, it has marsh, it has sand traps but no trees anywhere.

For people like myself that can't necessarily control their driver all the time, it's a great place to go.

Then on the flip side of that is the course we have over in Westlake, The National, which is a fantastic golf course and has a brand-new restaurant clubhouse that's just been completed in the last year. It was carved out of the woods and so literally every hole has trees lining all the fairways and is a beautiful course itself, fun to play, but completely different than Mallard.

We have Contraband Bayou, which is a Tom Fazio designed course, and he's probably the world’s foremost golf course designer. It's a challenging course.

Next door is the Country Club at Golden Nugget, you know both of those courses are very playable and of course, if you are a really good golfer, you can back up to the back tees and it become very challenging.

Both Contraband and Country Club at Golden Nugget are affected, because they're right on the water, by the wind and it swirls and comes from different directions and can be a very challenging 18 holes.

Brady Renard: [00:36:24]

It just seems here in Lake Charles everything we have, is variety, whether it be in our people in the experiences that you can have, or even our golf courses, you can play at four different courses and have completely different experiences because of how each course sets itself up.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:36:42]

Again, we go back to the very beginning, the juxtaposition. I think that is truly the epitome of what experiences are like, whether it's culinary, golf, outdoors, sports, leisure or whatever you're thinking about doing here. The juxtaposition is there because there is a a huge variety across all of the spectrums of those different activities.

Anna Strider: [00:37:10]

Well, we've talked so much about all the great things that we have currently going on in Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana. But what's really exciting for us is that we have just as many things on our horizon.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:37:22]

You know, after Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta, we had a lot to overcome and to come back from. And, you know, the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana stepped forward and they got a tremendous gift from the Filo family to really take an in-depth look at how we can become a more resilient community and really spent time listening all across Southwest Louisiana to the citizens of what was needed and what we had to have to be a better place over the next 50 years. So it this was not a three-year strategic plan or a 5 year. This is a 50-year plan of growing all of Southwest Louisiana.

So the what's come from that, is titled, ‘Just Imagine.’ It's just imagine what we could could be and as we look forward tourism is a big part of that ‘Just Imagine’ program. Since I've moved here people have been talking about lakefront development and under Mayor Nick Hunter's leadership, we now have lakefront development.

Port Wonder, a 30,000 square foot museum is being constructed right now on the lakefront, the former Harrah's parking garage which was such an eyesore for many years. Right along, I-10 is being cleaned up and you know, Crying Eagle is putting up a second location on the lake right next to the museum and is going to be just a fantastic addition with a second-floor open-air dining and bar that overlooks the lake.

We've got Paul's Rib Shack and Lake Area Adventures coming in down more towards North Beach and of course with Lake Area Adventures that will bring lake rentals that you can participate on the lakefront with jet skis, party barges, paddle boards, kayaks and all of the different water activities that are right here for our citizens and our guests to enjoy.

There's several more things that we can't quite discuss yet that that are on the drawing board that will be coming up along the lakefront and as we are just imagining these, these are just the start and you know I think both will look and try to be open by late 2023 for Crying Eagle and for Port Wonder.

There’s obviously a lot of supply chain issues going on in the country right now and that certainly will affect their ability, but you know they're moving dirt and will be opened very soon for our visitors.

And so, we're very excited about where that is and more importantly where it's going in the next three to five years.

Brady Renard: [00:40:17]

I'm just imagining how much fun I'm going to be having in the next few years.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:40:22]

And like I said, it will be such a beautiful walk. One of the things that they’ve already started on is the boardwalk, but it wasn't made of boards, it was made of concrete and so it didn't withstand the storms very well. But it’s a walkway, a pathway connecting the marina, which is just to the south of the the Civic Center, all the way to North Beach.

And so you can walk, you can ride your bike. It will be the connectivity to bring all of this together around the entire lakefront here in Lake Charles.

Anna Strider: [00:40:55]

This is all so exciting. I know there's a few other things are on the horizon, including a family center that has been announced that will be coming, which will be really huge for families in the area, as well as the Louisiana Food and Wine Festival that will be happening next fall. So that's really exciting as well.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:41:13]

It was just announced last week about the Louisiana Food and Wine Festival having its inaugural event next year, September of 2023, here in Lake Charles. We're very excited about adding this to that fall schedule and you see by the dates early September, mid-September, it falls right in there in line with the other food and festival events that we have for the fall.

It will just stack up and fit perfectly with what we already have and add a new element that we haven't had before.

Brady Renard: [00:41:48]

Well, we thank you for spending some time with us to discuss your experiences and all that we offer as a destination.

Kyle Edmiston: [00:41:55]

Well, we feel like we certainly have a place where people want to come, they want to relax and they want to have fun. We are Louisiana’s Playground and how you choose to play, you come and see us.

Brady Renard: [00:42:08]

Thanks again to Kyle for joining the show and thank you for taking time out of your day to join us here on the podcast.

If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a rating or a review wherever you get your podcasts.

Anna Strider: [00:42:19]

It will help us grow our audience and further share the unique experiences Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana has to offer. Go to visitlakecharles.org for more episodes, where to eat and events happening this weekend, and if you're in town, right off the exit is our visitor center, so you can stop in and see us.

I'm Anna Strider.

Brady Renard: [00:42:37]

And I'm Brady Renard. Thanks for coming play at Louisiana’s Playground.

C’est tout.