Success Story: Southern Chef Teaches How to Be Inspired by Dessert

Ooey-gooey goodness puts waffle cheesecake right at home on Cajun menu.

There are four seasons in Louisiana: shrimp, crab, crawfish and oyster. Padna’s Eatery wanted to bring food from each one to Houston diners … then top it off with an irresistible dessert like Praline Waffle Cheesecake.

Authenticity is the promise owner Ryan Eglé makes to each guest. And it all starts with the restaurant’s name. Padna is a Southern spin on “partner.” In his hometown of Cut-Off, Louisiana, deep in the wetlands south of New Orleans and 6 hours east of Houston, your friends are your pad-nahs.

But the name goes deeper than Eglé’s roots. “Everyone called my Dad by the name ‘Padna,’ and when he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., he would entertain with big Mardi Gras-style events that brought people together for food and a good time—he taught me how to cook.”

Eglé came to Houston with a passion for cooking and a desire to open a restaurant. Padna’s provides a place where every Cajun staple is on the menu in a setting that combines bayou boathouse with a New Orleans block party.  

Crawfish, Boudin Balls and Praline Waffle Cheesecake

Until Praline Fried Chicken became his best seller, the restaurant was popular for Crawfish Lafourche (or Shrimp Lafourche when crawfish is out of season). Boudin Balls (pork sausage rolled, breaded and fried then served with Padna’s own “Where Y’at Sauce”) are another favorite, and Eglé credits Gordon Food Service with setting up a vendor connection that led to his signature breading and frying technique.

No meal is complete without his Praline Waffle Cheesecake, a recipe that’s truly a labor of love. “When my fiancé (Ronique, who is now his wife) and I were at the Gordon Food Service Show, she went dessert hunting,” Eglé recalls. “She found the cheesecake and ran over and grabbed me.”

They were won over by the waffle cheesecake in the Created to Inspire collection. But cheesecake alone was not enough. “I was dying to have a praline presence on the sweets side of the menu.” Using a praline recipe inspired by his father, Eglé drenched the cheesecake in praline sauce, breaking waffle bowls to pierce the top, and crumbling pecans on top.  

“The dessert Gordon Food Service started, we came up with a way to finish it really pretty and it fit perfectly in our theme,” Eglé says.

Taking it to the next level

Beyond the favorites, other Cajun classics—etouffee, gumbo, NOLA-style BBQ shrimp, beignets and po-boys—are right at home on the menu. These specialties draw in guests looking for a touch of flavor and nostalgia. 

Blessed with good feedback on his food, Eglé thinks expanding entertainment may be a logical way to extend a New Orleans’ feel to his Houston customers. “When you go to a place like New Orleans, you not only expect good food, but you get a good time,” Eglé says. “The people from Texas really appreciate New Orleans because it’s so close. When they visit us, we want them to say, ‘That’s what it’s really like when we go there.’”

Restaurant Snapshot

Operation: Padna’s Eatery
Location: 403 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas
Classification: Cajun/Southern Louisiana Cuisine and Entertainment
Number of Seats: 75, plus on the patio
Dayparts Served: Lunch/Dinner/Late-night light bites; Sunday morning Café du Monde service
Owner: Ryan Eglé
Total Staff: 10
Guiding Philosophy: We’re here to love and serve.

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