Who doesn't like the excitement of first times? I feel like a kid before Christmas every time I embark on a new adventure.
I'm always ready and eager to explore a new country, taste local cuisine, learn about other cultures and meet local people. For me, that's the beauty of traveling and reason I can never stop exploring the world.
I didn't know when my first trip stateside would happen, I didn't plan one. There are so many interesting places and countries in this world I want to visit and explore. Not for any particular reason, but USA wasn't too high on my list. But things often happen when we least expect them. The same goes for my first trip to the United States in the middle of June. I was contemplating my next holiday when an invitation from Visit The USA to explore Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana landed in my inbox. I admit it, I had to google Baton Rouge first.
Needless to say, I didn't hesitate too long to jump on the opportunity and started planning my first trip to the States, gathering a list of places to eat in order to complete my mission - taste my way around the "Red Stick".
Although being a capital city, Baton Rouge has a small city vibe with a youthful spirit, thanks to the Louisiana State University residing there. With only two and a half days to spend and a fairly long list of places to visit, I tried to be organised. Sadly, local public transport is not as affective as it could be, so after a couple of long waits for even longer bus rides I opted for Uber. It was the easiest way to move between areas where the restaurants I wanted to visit where within reasonable walking distance. I noticed that most people don't walk in Baton Rouge and considering the hot humid climate of the region, it's quite understandable.
Being used to walking everywhere in London, I had to learn my lesson. A few hours in the hot weather determined my first stop, Draft House Bar in the downtown area, a fun place with over 100 beers to taste. It was indeed a good start to a fabulous foodie adventure.
Baton Rouge has many restaurants offering some of the freshest seafood. I completely fell in love with the local Creole and Cajun influenced cuisine. I may be slightly obsessed with prawn étouffée now.
Here's a little guide to some of my favourite spots in Baton Rouge.
It's a little seafood wonderland, deli and grocery store. Tony's seafood has been around since 1959. What was originally a small fruit stand selling only fresh produce quickly grew into a thriving seafood business. They sell the best fresh and boiled seafood in town including popular Louisiana Fish Fry products. The place get very busy everyday especially around lunch time but we had to queue for our Boudin balls and seafood box even in the afternoon. It was well worth it!
Another restaurant with a history. Five dollar shake scene from Pulp Fiction resonated in my head the second my fruit smoothie buried under a thick mountain of cream landed on the table. Opened since 1941, this cute cafe with red and white striped chairs and retro interior is open 24 hours a day. It's loved by locals and students alike due it's proximity to LSU campus. I devoured their shrimp & crawfish omelette and finished off my breakfast with a bowl of fruit salad with yogurt and nuts.
Mike the Tiger
Baton Rouge is home to Louisiana State University (LSU) with quite an impressive campus. Of course, I couldn't resist to go and see LSU's live mascot, Mike the Tiger. Sadly, the current tiger Mike VI was recently diagnosed with cancer. He was already treated with radiotherapy but his prognosis is still terminal.
I went to this cafe twice in two days. Simply the best coffee in town (in my opinion). A local community based cafe that would easily compete in the east London hipster scene has everything you need. Filled with young people glued to their laptops, sipping cortado or fresh juice, their daily offerings include healthy seasonal soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries made using local ingredients.
I finally got to taste kombucha, a fermented tea drink, popular with US health bloggers which is still waiting for its place in the sun on the UK market.
Frankie's Dawg House
Located right next to Magpie Cafe, this place, about the size of a backyard shed has for my European standards an innovative menu, featuring hot dogs served with peach mango salsa or small lobster. We went for the fully loaded Chuck Norris Dawg with bacon, grilled onion & jalapeños.
City Pork Deli & Charcuterie
A meat lovers dream and perhaps my favourite place in town, also just a few steps from Magpie Cafe, City Pork Deli & Charcuterie wins bonus points for the friendliest staff. Not being a Bloody Mary fan, their bacon and okra Bloody Mary made me reconsider this drink. Score! Wish I wasn't so full to be able to taste more of their delicious menu, however we polished off the whole charcuterie selection board.
The best lunch I had in a long time was definitely at Sammy's Grill. Three pounds of local hot boiled crawfish with corn and potatoest entertained me for about an hour. We also tried blackened alligator and washed it all down with a few pints of local beer. I'm still dreaming of this lunch!
Louisiana's Old State Capitol
It's s beautiful historic government building and definitely a must see when you visit Baton Rouge. Unfortunately we didn't manage to go inside.
Louisiana State Capitol
It's the current seat of government for the US state of Louisiana. A 34-story building (America's tallest state capitol) offers an arial view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River from the observation deck located on the 27th floor. A beautiful old elevator will take you up to the tower.
Red Stick Farmers Market
If you happen to be in Baton Rouge on Saturday, don't miss the weekly morning farmers market. Although it may appear a little small, it has a plethora of fresh local produce and an inside area with a great selection of breakfast and lunch offerings. As I was walking among the vendors, I'd wished I was staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen not a hotel. I was dreaming of a plate of sliced tomatoes sprinkled with flaky sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. Luckily we were saved by delicious crepes from GoYaYa's Crêpes stand at the Main Street Market building. I don't usually eat pulled pork for breakfast but I couldn't leave without tasting The Cuban crepe!
Luckily we arrived early because this Cajun seafood restaurant is very popular with locals and there's usually wait on the weekends. Still full after our market breakfast we shared a small plate of charbroiled oysters. The menu has all the authentic Cajun/Creole staples. Boudin, blackened alligator, boiled crawfish, turtle soup, crab and corn bisque, seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffée... I highly recommend BBQ'd black drum filet with dirty rice.
Very casual and friendly bar / restaurant located right by the LSU campus. It's a lively place (a little loud) with lots of locals who come here for cheap eats, beer and sports TV. I was once again feeling quite full so I ordered a small plate of crawfish étouffée but I could have definitely eaten a large one. It was scrumptious!
I wrapped up my short but amazing trip to Baton Rouge with a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi River on my last evening.
Note: My trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana was sponsored by Visit The USA. All views are my own.