The American home of Creole and Cajun cookery, Louisiana’s dining scene is rich with tradition, flavour and complex culinary influence. Although New Orleans remains the state’s prime dining destination, the city of Baton Rouge is quickly catching up with its more renowned neighbour. These ten must-try restaurants in Baton Rouge serve local and international cuisines in beautiful settings, and offer a slice of local culture.
Not that King Arthur – or other members of the knights’ table for that matter – ever made it to Louisiana, but the Camelot Club is the stuff of legend. Located on the 21st floor of the Chase Bank building’s south tower, the venue offers an unrivalled dining experience with panoramic views of downtown Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River. The restaurant offers distinct Louisiana fare that has been reinvented to suite the Camelot Club’s individuality. Indulgent gumbos, blue crab and creole spiced meats feature prominently on the menu. There is also the occasional nod to classic French cooking – from which Creole food has taken many influences.
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Pizzeria, Restaurant, American, Pub Grub, Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$
The Pastime Restaurant is one of downtown Baton Rouge’s oldest eating establishments. This classic restaurant is bursting with events and music listings that continue to draw a steady stream of customers. As well as the po’ boys that visitors to Louisiana would do well to try, Pastime specialises in an array of pizzas and stuffed calzones. Selections of fried seafood, including catfish, shrimp and oysters, are also available.
The Little Village serves up a selection of Italian and Creole dishes, often fusing the two schools of cookery together. Specials change daily and operate on a three-week rotation. Fish stuffed with seafood, fried chicken with beans and spaghetti bolognese all feature on the list.
George’s Restaurants counts three sites in its steadily growing empire, though the original is situated on Baton Rouge’s Perkins Road. The portion sizes on offer are simply astounding, burgers, main plates and infamous Louisiana Po’boys are served with barely contained fillings. Po’boys are a state-defining dish that Louisiana is all too proud to show off. They appear like a normal American sub-sandwich but are, in fact, served on French-style baguettes. Fillings include surf, turf and surf n’ turf so it’s easy for guests to find their perfect selection.
Parrain’s opened in September 2001 and has been serving the best in local seafood ever since. The fish and seafood on offer are sourced locally, with none of the restaurant’s produce coming from any further away than the Mexican Gulf Coast. Specials change daily and depend on what ingredients have been freshly caught. Daily specials include black and bleu tuna steaks, barbecued shrimp, and fish encrusted in local Andouille sausage.
It’s not often that a small coffee shop grows up to become a steakhouse, but this is the story of Mason’s Grill. The family-run restaurant, established by Mike and Shirlee Alfandre, made its first steps to becoming a restaurant when Mike first included a small breakfast menu for the coffee house customers. Now, Mason’s serves up chargrilled and barbecued meats alongside other Cajun classics. Crabmeat and fried crawfish étouffée take pride of place in the signature toppings section, making for more interesting take on a stereotypical surf n’ turf.
Ruffino’s is part-owned and run by local celebrity chef, Peter Sclafani, a man of Italian heritage who was born in New Orleans. Stretching across two venues (the other one is in Lafayette) Sclafani serves up a hybrid of Italian and Creole cuisine. Ruffino’s is named after part-owner Ruffin Rodrigue, a former lineman for the Louisiana State University. Local favourites aside, Ruffino’s serves up locally sourced ingredients, prepared with passion and presented with Mediterranean gusto. Italian specialities are the highlight of the menu, with a selection of meats served with lashings of marinara sauce.
Juban’s, named after owner Carol Juban, is a family-run restaurant with a community feel. In fact, so entrenched is the feeling of community that Juban’s holds quarterly meetings to decide which local project they will support and donate to. This is further cemented by the fact that Juban’s courtyard bar is a popular meeting place for locals keen to try the restaurant’s homemade honey bourbon. While the food is obviously with pride for Louisiana heritage, Juban’s has been keen to implement its own take on classic dishes. Soft shell crab is served with a local Creole sauce and asparagus, and the po’ boy makes a (gourmet) return at this popular venue.
The Chimes is big on two things: beer and food, although the former takes centre stage. The focal point of this venue is the huge (and well-stocked) semi-circular bar around which locals and patrons sit and drink away the night. The drinks menu is split into two parts, beer and ‘everything else’. Food options are typical of most Baton Rouge establishments, but if drinking with a large group then a platter of fried local seafood is a must. Choose between shrimp, oysters and catfish, or pick a little bit of each.
DiGiulio Brothers, sitting near the centre of Baton Rouge, is a traditional (and romantic) Italian-style restaurant. The Mississippi is just a few minutes’ walk away. The restaurant specialises in pasta dishes and sandwiches that make the best use of local ingredients. It also serves a selection of breakfast and brunch dishes that are perhaps more difficult to find in the Cajun and Creole-inspired restaurants that dominate the dining scene in Baton Rouge.