Trip Report – Baton Rouge and New Orleans – Gems and Disappointments
Just got back from a three day trip to Baton Rouge and New Orleans and we wanted to give our opinions about our experiences.
We chose to fly into NOLA and drive to Baton Rouge for the express purpose of being able to drive BACK to NOLA on the River Road.
We entered Baton Rouge with only hotel reservations and very few expectations. With the help of the Iphone and Yelp, we found a gem. The “Fleur de Lis Cocktail Lounge” sounded like JUST what we needed: A fairly substantial late-lunch with the ability to get a beer. What a great, divey, gem of a place. Apparently they are known for their unique thin-crust pizzas…they did not disappoint. Each of the four of us got a beer (Abita Amber was the way to go!) and our own personal small pizza. It was NOT a “style” of pizza I’d every really experienced. Very thin crust with a PILE of ingredients (I got the Around the World). It worked and we were grateful for the flavors.
After checking in, and an extended walk around the river area, we were parched and ready for beverages again. “The book” on downtown Baton Rouge was that it’s kind of dead. We concur, but with revisions. “Happy’s” was chosen, but only for one. It had a “Tilted Kilt meets corner bar” feel and I could NOT get a single for my wife….they only pour doubles! Up and out. After some walking, we were approached by a well-turned-out gentleman seemingly taking his fat cigar out for a stroll. He pointed out two places and we followed his advice. “The Red Star” was described as Bohemian and we liked it and stayed for one. Then we sought out “Willie’s”. The gentleman described it as a “funeral parlor feel”. We actually walked THROUGH “Little Village” Italian restaurant and descended the staircase to Willie’s from within the dining room. This WAS a great little bar and we stayed for two. If we go back to Baton Rouge, and are in the mood for a cocktail, Willie’s will be our first stop.
The next morning, Friday, was into the car and driving the River Road. An eye-opening set of sights to say the least. We landed on “Laura” as the plantation tour. Per the ‘Hounds’ recommendation, lunch was at B&C Seafood in Vacherie. We just beat the lunch rush. We did, however, know we had chosen well as most of the patrons appeared to be locals. Everyone loved their dishes…especially my wife and the crawfish stew special.
Checked in to The Roosevelt after driving down the peninsula as far as Port Sulfur. Only chowish highlight was a stop at a seafood marketplace…we all decided that we live TOO DAMN FAR from the good food!
Dinner for us was Cochon. Much has been said on CH about Cochon. All we can say is that it is rapidly becoming a “must do” for us on our visits. It suits our sensibilities and palates to a tee! Crawfish pie; roasted oysters; braised pork shoulder; rabbit and dumplings…not a sour note in the concert!
Dinner for our travelling companions was a different story. They were vacationing in celebration of a birthday. My advice, as a Hound, was sought and, I offered MiLa or Bayona as options. They chose Bayona. Their food was good but the level of service they received was a disappointment. It did not rise to anywhere NEAR the quality of the food. Their server was also handling a high-maintenance nine-top, but I would think that a pro could handle that and a two-top. In any event, their experience at Bayona was a bust. I feel a bit responsible, and embarrassed, for my recommendation and the “less-than-stellar” birthday dinner experience.
Saturday morning provided a lesson in preparedness. We were not prepared for a breakfast destination and chose The Sazerac restaurant’s buffet brunch. Abysmal service, overpriced for the selection/quality. To be avoided in our humble opinion.
Saturday dinner was the event the four of us were anticipating: Brigtsen’s. My wife and I have vowed that this has become a “not to be missed” on our trips. Everything about this great place sings to us. The four of us took the streetcar to The Columns for happy hour, but were forced by the rain, to cab the rest of the way. As always, Brigtsen’s was the epitome of a welcoming atmosphere and attentive team service. I was too intent on my meal to pay much attention to the rest of the table, so please forgive my myopic description. The first thing our server indicated was that the evening’s stock of soft-shells was dwindling fast. I asked for one as an appetizer and also ordered the Seafood Platter. Everything was spot-on. Another homerun for Chef Frank, Ms. Marna and their crew.
Sunday was the epicure’s big day! My wife and I started at Elizabeth’s. We got as far, on foot, as Café du Monde, and chose a cab due to the beginning of a rainstorm. As with our only other time at Elizabeth’s, the food was outstanding and generous…perhaps we over-ordered. The Grits Cakes were the highlight of my meal and I believe, for my wife’s part, it was a tie between the Praline Bacon and an off-menu order of Fried Green Tomatoes that she ordered. Oh, it rained about four inches while we ate and the walk back to The Roosevelt was a soggy adventure.
Coop’s was our, all four of us, meeting place for lunch. We’ve had Fiorella’s and prefer Coop’s fried chicken. Thus we camp with those contending that Coop’s is some of the finest chicken in the Quarter. While the rabbit jambalaya is not the traditionally loose concoction, we are all in favor of the flavor!
We four split up for dinner and my wife and I had a new and wonderful experience: Dinner at Upperline. Last year, when walking Magazine from Audubon Park, and hitting Creole Creamery, my wife commented on Upperline..why have we not been there before? I did not have an answer and we solved the dilemma this time! Another establishment that puts forward a very welcoming face. This is true even with a couple of reservation challenges based on my miscommunication. As to the food, we duplicated the Taste of New Orleans. We both enjoyed the offerings tremendously. More than anything, we enjoyed a visit from JoAnn. This wonderful lady, the owner, made the rounds and we commented that we are from Wisconsin. This led to a discussion of how we found Upperline. We let on that Chowhounds were high on Upperline and Ms. JoAnn was very aware of Chowhound. Nice to know that we Hounds can make a difference.
Finally, to the beverages:
• Drinks at The Sazerac are not to be missed. It’s wonderful to have this establishment back.
• Cocktails at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House are nice.
• The Columns Hotel bar is absolutely beautiful.
• Very disappointed that we did not fit in Bar Uncommon
• Don Leoncio Cigars seemed like a great idea, smokes and drinks, until the next morning (Thank you Bad Idea Bears!)
• The Bombay Club for a quiet nightcap.
3811 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
1413 Upperline St, New Orleans, LA
144 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130
4924 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA 70115
1136 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
I can't say that I've ever had a personal size pizza at Fleur de Lis....I always get the rectangular, pan-sized pies to share.
Sorry you wasted a breakfast on the hotel's buffet...you could have strolled around the corner in the hotel lobby and had brunch at Domenica (it doesn't open until 11, though, so it's more of a lunchy-brunch than a breakfasty-brunch). The poached egg, polenta, sausage & peppers dish is so very tasty.
123 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA 70112
re: Hungry Celeste
My God, I can't believe the Fleur de Lis is still there. That place was practically my living room the year I lived in Baton Rouge......1968-69! Like Celeste, we always ordered the pan-sized pies.
Brigtsen's is one of my regular stops too, Monch. Love everything about it.
Have to agree with you about Bayona. I think it's overrated. I've given it three shots, and never been wowed.
The Sazerac Bar is a knock-out, isn't it? I haven't been since the renovations, and can't wait to stop in the next time I'm in town.
I love the Columns, a place that's mostly off the tourist radar. The Victorian Lounge lost a great bartender after Katrina, and on my last two visits, I was disappointed by the drinks (a cloying sazerac and a flaccid martini). The aside, the wonderful old New Orleans atmosphere can't be beat.
Thanks for a great report!
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112