Plate It

At Vautrot’s Mini Mart, specialty meats and Miss Janie’s TikTok-inspired Cajun lunches draw in customers

Plate It

May 2022   minute read

If you find yourself in Church Point, Louisiana, it’s because you made an effort to get there. This tiny town in the heart of Cajun Country is not close to any major highways or cities. However, road trippers head there because Vautrot’s Mini Mart has become a food destination. 

Some people drive 50 miles for lunch. “We get a lot of out of towners,” said owner, Josh Venable.

Miss Janie is well known in Church Point, and she has a following. 

What’s the big draw? First is Miss Janie’s plate lunches. Then, there’s the “product”: boudin, sausage and tasso. These come from the specialty meat market and the tradition of Venable’s godfather, Jude Vautrot. The store opened over half a century ago. When Venable purchased it in 2018, he did a complete remodel of everything except the way his godfather processed those Cajun favorites. Everything is made fresh daily. Sausage and tasso (seasoned pork used as a flavoring) are smoked the traditional way with pecan wood.

Boudin is ubiquitous in South Louisiana. Most c-stores sell this mixture of rice, meat and seasoning inside a sausage casing. “I kept my godfather’s recipe—everybody loved his boudin,” Venable said.

Sticking with tradition creates flavor that pops. “We put fresh greens in our boudin, bell peppers, parsley and onion tops. A lot of people don’t put greens in it because that will spoil first, reducing the shelf life. Others mass produce it. They’re looking for a long shelf life,” Venable explained, adding, “The fresh greens are better.”

Venable only makes 160 pounds of boudin a day and usually sells out. He sometimes makes an extra batch for Miss Janie’s boudin balls. Rather than placing the mixture of rice and meat in a casing, it can be rolled into a ball, battered and deep fried. These spicy balls are popular not only for the flavor but also because they’re convenient to eat.


What makes a popular gas station foodservice operation stand out from the competition? Venable quickly answers this one. “Miss Janie’s plate lunches. You can’t beat them!”

“Miss Janie” is Janie Monroe. Her cooking draws in customers two and three parishes (counties) away. Venable spoke of her with warmth and pride. “Miss Janie is well known in Church Point, and she has a following. When I opened up, she wanted to come work for me. If I didn’t have her, I’d be in a bind.” 

John Venable, left, owner of Vautrot’s Mini Mart, with Janie Monroe, who cooks up Cajun favorites and TikTok-inspired food that keeps customers and her social media fans coming back to see what’s new.

Monroe comes up with the recipe ideas. “She follows so much TikTok,” Venable said. “She did waffles and chicken. It was awesome. We haven’t decided how we’re going to break it out yet,” he said, adding, “You got to keep it fresh. The menu can get out of hand, and you can’t have too much stuff. I can’t take any credit for it. She’s the face of the kitchen.”

The meat market plays an important role in meal prep. “We ramped up the specialty meat department. We do our own tasso, boudin, jerky and sausage. It supports the kitchen,” Venable explained.

Initially, Venable had no plans to put such focus on the meat department, but customer demand sometimes prompts a pivot. “I wasn’t going to come out this strong and heavy, but people wanted it. I thought we’d do short-order work.”

Menus for the next week are planned on Friday and posted to Facebook on Monday. “We look at what we haven’t done in a while and figure out what will work. It’s never the same thing,” he said, adding, “We’ll throw rabbit in there or oxtails.”

Oxtails have become hugely popular. “We serve it with rice and gravy. Customers see it on the menu, and they will call and reserve it. For some reason, it knocks the door down, and when we’re out, we’re out.”


Social media is a lot like gumbo. There’s a lot of stuff in the internet pot. Facebook, TikTok and Instagram can help even the playing field for a small c-store. Facebook, in particular, gets Vautrot’s Mini Mart a lot of attention.

“We put the menu out for the whole week. It helps with the phone calls. It’s more Facebook and TikTok—people want to see videos,” Venable said. (Follow @vautrotscp on TikTok and @Vautrots Mini Mart on Facebook). The c-store’s frequent video posts are often set to Zydeco music.

“I got one [video] that got up to 300K views,” Venable said. “It was smothered turkey wings. I don’t know why it went crazy like that. The best one I thought was cracklins, but that one didn’t get as much traction. I’m trying to grow the business and reach out to new customers.”

Social media leads to phone calls about directions and menu items. Customers come in the c-store to order food they’ve seen on TikTok.

“I did a video with fried crawfish potatoes, and I had people calling and asking for fried crawfish potatoes. When you put that out there, people get hungry for the food. We might pick up an extra $1,000 a week from social media. We’re getting people to think about our food.”

“It [social media] is cheap. It’s free. It only costs me a few minutes a day to post a video. I might not have gotten that business. It helps—every little bit helps. I could spend thousands on TV commercials, but then at the end of the day I’d have to turn a lot more business.”

Riding around Church Point feels a little like stepping back into a different time. It is after all, the Buggy Capital of the World—that’s horse and buggy. Vautrot’s Mini Mart fits right in. From Miss Janie’s plate lunches to his godfather’s boudin, Josh Venable maintains a tradition of great food with attention to detail and flavor that keeps customers coming back.