For those of us who believe that corporate chain restaurants are the deadly enemy of American cuisine, the drive up Martin Luther King Boulevard in Houma can be a depressing one.

Just about every variety of national franchise eatery is represented along that strip, serving all manner of mass-produced (or at least mass-procured) food for the ultimate benefit of distant, faceless stockholders instead of cooks or chefs or anyone who actually works in a kitchen, let alone one in Louisiana.

Which is not to say that all restaurant chains are bad. After running the fast-food and fast-casual gauntlet on MLK one comes upon a reminder of how good, local food can be had from a restaurant with more than one location.

Two reminders, actually. One of them, Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar, I have reviewed in this space previously. The other is its neighbor, the Jambalaya Shoppe. Both are chains, but both are still privately owned and each one was started with a single location in Louisiana.

According to its website, the Jambalaya Shoppe was founded in Gonzales in the early 1990s by Stefan and Cheryl Fontenot, who "had no food service experience and had never cooked jambalaya in anything bigger than a pot on the stove."

The company now has 15 locations all over Louisiana, which is small by corporate standards, but plenty big enough to reflect the success of an operation started by amateurs.

And that success is undoubtedly due to the food, which is as delicious and authentically Cajun as anyone could expect from any restaurant, chain or not.

On a recent visit to the Houma location, I had the Shoppe Combo No. 1, an enormous plate of food in the finest Cajun tradition of gut-busting hospitality with a menu price of $9.99.

It includes jambalaya or pastalaya (I chose the latter), red or white beans (I got the former), a bowl of gumbo and a salad.

The pasta in the pastalaya is spaghetti, which I prefer to the various forms of short pasta I've had with every other application of the dish I've ever had. It included large chunks of juicy chicken and high-quality sausage, the helping of which would justify the cost alone.

I know that I have paid more other places for less gumbo than was included with this combo meal and not felt overcharged, but it was not just the quantity that makes this meal an extraordinary value, but the quality. The gumbo was the perfect consistency, not brothy like a soup but not thick like a stew and also with generous amounts of chicken and sausage.

The red beans were also of the right consistency and were not served over rice, but more food was the last thing this meal required. The green salad was a somewhat pedestrian handful of iceberg lettuce and not much else accompanied by dressing in packets. But if anything, that made it more authentic. I have discovered that even the very best Cajun cooks tend to treat green salads as an afterthought, and this meal was just fine without it. Potato salad is an option with the combo, and that's the way to go.

I heartily recommend the Jambalaya Shoppe. I recommend checking it out before the Fontenots cash in and sell out to a corporate conglomerate and some bean counter decides that he can increase profits by offering 25% less food for this 10 bucks and that abominations like boudin burgers or gumbo tacos are good ideas.

The Jambalaya Shoppe is at 1795 Martin Luther King Blvd in Houma. There is also a Thibodaux location, at 1050 S. Acadia Rd.

Staff Writer Scott Yoshonis can be reached at 850-1148 or syoshonis@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @Foster_Cajun.