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Mary Ann's Cafe has been a part of downtown Lake Charles for over sixty years. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Mary Ann's Cafe has been a part of downtown Lake Charles for over sixty years. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Ward-Coker and her employees have put in the effort to clean up the place and it shows. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Ward-Coker and her employees have put in the effort to clean up the place and it shows. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Classic Lake Charles burger joint stays strong

Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:55 AM

By Michael Cooper / American Press

Mary Ann's Cafe has been a Lake Charles insitution for longer than I've been alive.

Actually, it opened almost 10 years before my parents were born.

The place boasts a ringing endorsement from a silver screen legend.

On the menu, John Wayne is quoted as saying “the best hamburger I ever ate was at Mary Ann’s Cafe in Lake Charles.”

Whether the Duke actually said that or if he was every even in Lake Charles is irrelevant.

For well over 60 years, Mary Ann’s has been the go-to place for a great burger.

A new owner certainly hasn’t changed that.

Melinda Ward-Coker, who has been running the restaurant since October 2011, became the official owner about a month ago.

In the past, whenever I went into Mary Ann’s I always felt like the floor, tables and counters were covered with a film of grease.

Ward-Coker and her employees have put in the effort to clean up the place and it shows.

She said they still have work to do and hope to get new floors put in but their elbow grease has made a large dent in the hamburger grease.

My wife and I took a break recently and headed to Mary Ann’s for lunch.

We “split” an order of fried mushrooms as an appetizer.

I say split in that we both agreed to order it and she agreed to eat them all.

In all fairness, and to keep out of the dog house, I don’t like fresh mushrooms and there were only five in the basket.

The small portion size was the only negative thing she had to say about the mushrooms.

She said they were fresh and clean without a hint of musty or gritty taste. She said they were juicy and the batter was really light and crispy. For $4.35 they were much cheaper than at most chain restaurants and the quality more than made up for the lack of quantity.

We also split a medium order of onion rings. Ward-Coker steered us away from a large order because it was just my wife and me.

The rings, cut paper thin and cooked to order, were the best I’ve ever had. I know other restaurants in the Lake Area are more well known for their thin-sliced onion rings but Mary Ann’s has taken over the throne.

I like things a little on the spicy side so I did add seasoning to the rings but my wife didn’t. Despite the large volume there were no leftovers and it was a race to the bottom for both of us.

For the main course my wife ordered a cheeseburger while I went with a grilled chicken sandwich.

My wife didn’t say much about it other than Mary Ann’s reputation for hamburgers is well-earned and now with Ward-Coker, well-protected.

The grilled chicken needed a little more kick for me but I think the normal diner would enjoy it straight off the grill.

Mary Ann’s is also known for its breakfast menu but we were a little too late to give it a go this time.

According to Ward-Coker, they are working on a new menu and will start having daily specials during the week.

I for one can’t wait to see what she and her staff come up with and I will be back to find out.

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