The food scene in Baton Rouge is an eclectic mix of fresh seafood, traditional Cajun and Creole-style eateries, mouthwatering Southern classics, and some exciting new restaurants that are bringing farm-to-table to the mix. You’ll find fancy dining venues as well as hole-in-the-wall joints and even a cool dining scene near the overpasses on Perkins Road.
My family is from Baton Rouge and although I’ve never lived there, I spent lots of time visiting the city. It is exciting to see how the food scene has changed over time. The traditional favorites are still there to include Drusilla Seafood Restaurant where I had my wedding reception. It has stood the test of time and will celebrate 50 years in 2022. The Seafood Eggplant Casserole acclaimed by Bon Appetit magazine is still on the menu with its yummy mix of eggplant topped with claw crabmeat, shrimp, and a mix of seasoned breadcrumbs and cheeses.
Pro Tip: If you are limited on time in the area and just can’t decide, take a food tour which will bring you to 4–6 restaurants. Two worth checking out are Enjoy Baton Rouge Walking Tours and All About Baton Rouge Food Tour by Red Stick Adventures.
1. Parrain’s Seafood
I always make a point to visit Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant when I am in town. It is a hugely popular hangout that is known for its seafood. All the fish and seafood are sourced locally including Gulf of Mexico favorites. My friend always orders the whole fried hen. This is a deep-fried Cornish hen, and the style of cooking makes for crispy outer skin and moist meat. I started with a house salad with the house-made Tabasco vinaigrette. The flavor was like pepper jelly, sweet with a small kick of spiciness. One of the more popular dishes is the Vermillion which is fresh fish topped with shrimp, mushrooms, and green onions. Very tasty. I also like to have a side order of hush puppies as they are rarely served where I live.
2. Eliza Restaurant And Bar
I debated whether to include Eliza’s in this list, as frankly, it wasn’t the best experience. Eliza’s came highly rated with numerous press mentions as well as recommendations from friends. So, I will give it the benefit of the doubt. The food was fantastic but unfortunately, all our meals were lukewarm at best. With COVID-19, many restaurants are having issues with enough staff so I will put it down to that. The fried green tomato appetizer was perfectly prepared and topped with grilled shrimp and drizzled with a remoulade sauce. My shrimp and grits had great flavor and would have been perfect if served at the proper temperature. The restaurant is beautiful inside and as a fan of Audubon’s bird prints, I loved the one that dominated the restaurant décor.
3. La Contea Italian Restaurante
Located next to Eliza’s we popped into La Contea for dessert and it was fabulous. Our server Marioss was outstanding and added to the experience. Our party tried the Lemon Mascarpone, a Cannoli, and the double fudge cake with ice cream. The décor of the restaurant is very upscale with crisp, white tablecloths. Members of my family eat here often and rave about the food.
4. Blue Rose Café & Bakery
This is an out-of-the-way joint surrounded by warehouses off Airline Highway. I love a good hearty breakfast and try to find at least one when I travel. I discovered the Blue Rose Café & Bakery with a google search and went specifically to try the Indecisive Breakfast. This bounty includes eggs, biscuit, grits, fried grit cake or grits, oven roasted potato hash, choice of 2 meats, pancake, or cinnamon/orange roll all for $12.95. Alas, it wasn’t to be, due to COVID-19 and shortages it wasn’t available. All was not lost, I was able to try most of it from the a la carte menu. The food was so good and all the baked goods were made in-house. My sister, a non-breakfast eater, had a BLT with the most bacon I have ever seen on one. We were served by Catherine, a hardworking gal who managed the whole dining room by herself. Very impressive!
Unfortunately, I did not get to try SoLou which was another restaurant recommended to me. I wanted to visit after seeing a photo of the shrimp corn dogs which is fresh gulf shrimp, corn dog batter with a spicy mustard sauce for dipping. My cousin Rachel is a fan who finds SoLou’s food delicious and it has a nice outdoor space to dine. When queried about the shrimp corn dogs, she said, “YES!! I loved them!”. The rest of the menu looks equally as good and is heavy on south Louisiana cuisine with a modern flair.
6. BLDG 5
Nestled beneath the Perkins Road Overpass, BLDG 5 is a culinary and visual delight. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed my meal here. Due to the nature of my job (travel writer) I dine at great restaurants quite frequently and I must say this is one special restaurant. The owners, Brumby and Misti Broussard poured their hearts into creating every detail of this eatery. True to the historic nature of the building they left most of it untouched and created a rustic design adorned with the artwork of TJ Black, Benjamin Bullins, and Scott Distefano, who embody the spirit of Baton Rouge’s creative community. They added on additional space and popular outdoor seating. BLDG 5 opened four months before the pandemic hit but the restaurant became a huge hit due to its business model which includes a thriving market space and fresh or frozen dishes available for sale. They were able to pivot to take out meals and market purchases during that challenging first year.
If you love a charcuterie board, you are going to love the BLDG 5 concept of boards. As Misti explained it to me, “You know when you go to a restaurant and you have a difficult time deciding what to eat or want to try what everyone else ordered,”. Yes, Misti, I do. BLDG 5 offers dinner boards for 1, 2, or 4 people and each provides a variety of gastronomic delights from a theme and served on a board. I tried the Little Italy Board with shaved porchetta, traditional meatballs in marinara, Italian herb grilled eggplant, Caprese salad, marinated tomatoes, assorted cheeses, salamis, parmesan toasted crostini, and creamy polenta with balsamic mushrooms. My sister tried the Steak and Potato Board which delighted with marinated grilled flat iron steak, oven-roasted potatoes, herb-roasted carrots, charred brussels sprouts and grilled tomatoes, peppadew peppers, Argentinian chimichurri sauce, and harissa romesco sauce. So good with plenty to share. With the generous portions, we brought home as much as we ate. A must stop on your visit to Baton Rouge.
“When you walk through our doors at BLDG 5, you’re a guest in our home. We hope you enjoy!”
7. Flemings Prime Steakhouse And Wine Bar
Flemings is a national chain of steakhouses, but the experience is anything but cookie cutter. We dined here for my mother’s 81st birthday and an important occasion since we missed 80 due to COVID. The experience was everything you expect in a special occasion meal. We dined for 4 hours at a very leisurely pace. Our waiter Gregory was a saint and his 15 years working at the restaurant enhanced our meal. He was spot on with his wine recommendations and meal suggestions. Gregory was very patient with our group which was much appreciated.
The appetizer selection was a pleasant surprise for a chain restaurant. We shared the burrata with prosciutto, which was garnished with charred Campari tomatoes, wild arugula and accompanied with toasted garlic crostini. The seared pork belly was served “Southern” style with creamy goat cheese grits and drizzled with a fig demi-glace. So good. All the steaks were cooked to order and prepared perfectly. Two of my sisters would say the craft cocktails were the highlight of the evening. Overall, a great meal and excellent service.
8. Poor Boy Lloyd’s
Poor Boy Lloyd’s has been a staple of downtown since the 1960s and it is easy to see why people from all over the world come to eat here. Serving down home Cajun, Creole, other Southern favorites, and of course Poor Boys, even one with gator sausage. A Southern staple is the “Plate Lunch” served with an entrée and sides. Lloyd’s offers a variety each day. This is just a simple, country restaurant right in the middle of downtown with great food that has kept it around for almost 50 years.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post some family suggestions. I have over 40 cousins just on my Mom’s side. My cousin Jill recommends Café Phoenicia, “My brother, Bill, and his lovely wife, Cindy brought my mom and I take-out from Café Phoenicia. The Phoenicia’s shrimp was fresh and exquisite. Their homemade Greek salad dressing was divine and spiced with the finesse of an accomplished chef. All and all, the food was spectacular (and not just because Bill treated!). After a busy day, it was lovely to relax and devour the feast.”
Cousin Catherine recommends The Little Village, “I love their bread! And the steak topped with crab meat is always delicious!” Well, I love good bread, so I had to learn more. Known as the Village Bread it is a braided Italian sesame loaf baked to order then brushed with virgin olive oil, a dash of cracked black pepper topped with fresh grated Romano cheese then drizzled with more olive oil. Order with a side of the signature olive tapenade.
When I look back on my visits to Baton Rouge as a child, food always played a big role. The foodie culture was a thing well before it became a thing. Many men cook, whether it was my grandfather’s famed barbecue chicken or my uncle’s jambalaya. You could be assured of a good meal whenever you were in town.