Popularized in the late 1950s, stuffed shrimp is a signature dish of Shreveport.
In Shreveport the term “stuffed shrimp” often refers to a shrimp dish that was popularized in the late 1950s by Freeman & Harris Café, a restaurant established in the early 1920s in the heart of a Black- and minority-owned business district called “The Avenue.” Over several decades Freeman & Harris-style stuffed shrimp—which differs from versions of the dish found in European-influenced cuisines—became the restaurant’s signature creation. The Freeman & Harris style consists of large shrimp that have been butterflied, stuffed with crabmeat dressing, dredged in a spicy batter made from crumbled cornbread, and shaped into oblong torpedoes before being deep-fried. They bear more resemblance to corn dogs than fried shrimp and are traditionally accompanied by a remoulade-like dipping sauce. Competing restaurants in Shreveport began serving their own versions of stuffed shrimp in response to the city’s growing appetite for the dish. From one restaurant kitchen to the next, Freeman & Harris-style stuffed shrimp spread across Shreveport until what began as the house specialty of a single neighborhood café had emerged as a citywide food tradition.
Freeman & Harris Café was founded by Campti, Louisiana, natives and first cousins Van B. Freeman Jr. and Jack Harris in either 1921 or 1923 (both dates have been reported). Under the management of Harris’s nephew Pete Harris, the restaurant developed its signature dish. Though the recipe’s origins are disputed, individuals who have been credited with creating Freeman & Harris-style stuffed shrimp include cooks Arthur “Scrap” Chapman, Eddie Hughes, and Wilmer “Tody” Wallette. Other Shreveport restaurants known for their stuffed shrimp include Eddie’s Restaurant, open since 1978; Pete Harris Café, open from 1993 until 2006; Brother’s Seafood, open from 2004 until 2013; and Orlandeaux’s Cross Lake Café, open since 2019. Freeman & Harris Café closed permanently in 1994, but the restaurant’s signature stuffed shrimp can still be tasted at several Black-owned food businesses in Shreveport.
Nearly seventy years after they were first advertised as a house specialty of Freeman & Harris Café, stuffed shrimp are more than a popular food item in Shreveport—they represent a shared folk culture with their own traditions. In recent years Shreveport’s stuffed shrimp restaurants have attracted national media attention, including the 2015 naming of Eddie’s Restaurant as one of the South’s best soul food restaurants by Southern Living. Stuffed shrimp have also been more formally incorporated into the city’s identity by tourism marketers and city officials. The Shreveport Stuffed Shrimp Festival, a food and live music festival held each May at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, debuted in 2019.