Welcome to SWLA. You work and go home, repeat. Maybe it's time to get out and explore what the area has to offer, but where do you go? Before we begin this journalistic journey, I will preface it with the fact that these aren't the only places in the area, they're not the best of the best, we didn't get a list. Personally, this is my go-to list to introduce people to the area to "get their feet wet" in local things to do.

For the most part, being in SWLA means you hardly meet a stranger. I have made friends with random strangers in the oddest of places, and have stayed friends as a result. How does one find people to meet in SWLA? Two ways, food or booze.

Let's take a look at the food side.

KD's Diner - 24 Hours, located on Prien Lake Road, full menu all day. This is my Saturday morning routine. The regulars there are more than prepared to meet a new face and tell you some stories. Whether they are all true or not is up for you to decide. I have heard some very tall tales come out of that diner in the past. This is also the place after a night out on the town for "drunk food". You'll know you've had a bit too much if your server hands you your beverage in a cup with a lid on it. Don't get upset, just roll with it.

Cotton's Downtown - Located on Broad Street in downtown Lake Charles, this diner serves the best greasy burgers in the area, along with even better "hangover" style food for that morning after. It is in an old diner from back in the day and still has that amazing feel and smell. Try the cinnamon roll waffle or the Jam Good Burger.

Darrel's - If you're a local reading this, you already know. People who move away from the area convince their friends here back home to ship them the sandwiches. Although they have menus, I don't know that I have ever actually read on. First-time diners should always be instructed to eat the Darrel's Special with gravy and jalapeno mayo.

Hackett's - Plate lunches like your mamma used to cook. That's the best way I can describe this place located on Highway 14. I have fond memories of watching Mr. Hackett sitting at his desk in the middle of the restaurant doing paperwork as we would talk, and I would eat. Inside tip, get the chocolate cake.

Obviously, this isn't an entire list, but if someone were to ask me to rattle off a few local places to eat, those would be on the top. Now, let's move on to socializing around a cold beverage. The casinos are a great place to have everything at your fingertips, but we all know price wise they're a little too pricey for a normal night out. If you need to find a watering hole, meet some locals, and do it on a budget. Here is the list for you. Once again, I am not saying these are the best, nor the worst, in the area. These are just the ones I would rattle off the top of my head if someone were to ask me where to go for a beverage and a good time.

Cooler's - Lake Charles' first non-smoking bar to ever open. Some friends and I stumbled across it when it first opened, and have never left. They have drink specials and daily activities to help you pass the time, or just people watch. A giant outdoor patio with TVs if you want to check out a game or just watch traffic drive by.

The Social Club - It's a small bar off the beaten path of Lake Charles. Fairly new, but the atmosphere is nice and calm. On the weekends, you'll find some local acoustic acts, and the occasional free food when there was a cook-off earlier in the day.

Mary's Lounge - The last of the honkytonks. This place is like an old pair of shoes. Seven days a week, beer is cheap and cold, the music is old and live, and the people are friendly and family. My first time out a Mary's was during Memorial Day weekend, I ate oysters, drank beer, and had an absolute blast. Since then, I try and go as much as possible to meet new faces and see familiar ones. Just one visit, and you're family for life.

There's a small list to cut your teeth on to get you started. As I stated before, it's just a list from the top of my head that I would tell anyone to check out if they are in the area. If you would like to add to this list, by all means, leave a comment below, and we can update it as we go. That might be fun!

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