Boutté’s experience in Germany also introduced him to beer gardens, places where people of all ages came together to eat, drink and dance to traditional German music. Thousands of miles from home, Boutté immediately saw the connection to his own Cajun culture, where families gathered in their homes to enjoy good food and a unique musical tradition, both passed down from generation to generation. Enjoying the food, music and culture of the German people, Boutté began to think about creating a similar feeling back home, where the culture was just as fascinating and the food even better.
After a few years in the restaurant business, Boutté was ready to make his vision come to life. In 1980, he opened Mulate’s in a small, nondescript building in Breaux Bridge, not far from his hometown. His staff consisted of one cook, two waitresses and himself-more than enough to serve the two customers who came through the door the first day. The first month netted three thousand dollars in gross sales, but Boutté knew word would spread. He stuck to his goal of serving authentic Cajun food with consistent quality.
Mulate’s survived and grew, and after several months Boutté began looking for ways to feature Cajun music in the restaurant. He booked local musician Zachary Richard, and on the first evening Richard played, Boutté knew this was it-the food, the music and the atmosphere he wanted for Mulate’s. Only one thing was missing-the customers. That first night, no one came, but Boutté signed Richard up for another night the following week. Eventually, people did come and Mulate’s became known for its Cajun music.
Featuring Cajun musicians at Mulate’s not only helped launch a revival of Cajun music. It helped to bring the Cajun culture into the international spotlight. Boutté turned to musicians like Richard and Michael Doucet, who played traditional Cajun music, and to old-timers such as Hector Duhon and Octa Clark. He opened up a space in front of the bandstand and welcomed people to dance. Soon the nights that Mulate’s offered live music were the restaurant’s hottest nights. He gradually added more musicians until the restaurant had live music seven nights a week. Even in its first few years, Mulate’s attracted people from around the world as well as locals. Visitors and travel writers spread the word about how much fun they had at the little restaurant. With the World’s Fair planned for New Orleans in 1984, Boutté saw an opportunity to spread the word even further. He began planning a year in advance, contacting tour bus operators and bringing them to Mulate’s for a taste of what he could provide their customers. In no time more than a hundred busses signed up. When the World’s Fair came around, not only the tour busses, but dozens of other visitors who had read about Mulate’s in newspapers and magazines made the trip to Cajun Country to experience it for themselves.