Craving some crawfish boiled in a fiery pepper mash?How about an evening at a stomping, shaking zydeco roadhouse?Then head for Cajun country, that stretch of southwestern Louisiana where moss-draped bayous thread through faded, personable towns with names like Mamou and Carencro.

Breaux Bridge, the official crawfish capital of the state, has a relaxed charm and central location that make it a fine gateway to the region. This 1860's Caribbean-Creole cottage inn has four guest rooms, each with appealing Southern antiques and local folk art. Just out the back door, the Bayou Teche shines like a luxurious pelt. Best of all, owners Cynthia and Dickie Breaux -- he a descendant of the eponymous Breaux -- also run Café des Amis around the corner, which doubles as the inn's down-home dining room. Huge barbecued shrimp are a must for lunch or dinner. For breakfast try the oreilles de cochon -- fried triangles of dough topped with spicy boudin and dusted with powdered sugar -- or the crawfish omelette with a high-as-a-hat biscuit. Either way, you won't be alone: everyone in town seems to eat here, including a group of alligator hunters clad in jumpsuits and feed caps who congregate at the same corner table every morning.

MAISON DES AMIS, 140 E. Bridge St., Breaux Bridge, La.; 318/332-6966; doubles from $75.