From buttery, pull-apart Little Village bread to Jay’s chopped beef barbecue sandwiches to tangy sensation salads, there are certain foods that scream Baton Rouge. The Capital City’s iconic dishes, some around for decades, stir our passions, tug at our memories and remind of us of why we love our food-centric life here. Some are simple eats you crave routinely, while others are the stuff of family celebrations. Ask any native of the community who now lives elsewhere—these are dishes you just have to taste when you visit home.
JUBAN’S Hallelujah Crab (above)
This dish, created by founder Glenn Juban in 1983, typifies the Capital City’s adoration for seafood—as well as our local penchant for gilding the lily. Succulent soft-shell crab is filled with a crawfish, shrimp and crabmeat stuffing, then deep fried and perched—with claws extended—on a bed of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Why stop there? It’s also topped with spicy Creolaise sauce.
The Italian street food arancini was nearly unheard of in Baton Rouge when Sicilian-born Grace “Mama” Marino introduced it on the menu of Gino’s Restaurant in 1966. Deep-fried rice balls are stuffed with ground beef, peas and parmesan cheese and served with the restaurant’s signature red sauce. Gino’s also makes seasonal crawfish and seafood versions.
MANSURS Charbroiled Oysters
Lots of Louisiana restaurants serve charbroiled oysters, made famous by Drago’s in the Fat City part of Metairie, but locally Mansurs is well known for its version. Raw Gulf oysters on the half shell are topped with melted butter, hot sauce, dry white wine, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic and parmesan, and are grilled just enough to cook them through. Slurp one up, then sop the redolent sauce left behind with a slice of French bread.
LOUISIANA LAGNIAPPE’S Fish en Papillote
Louisiana Lagniappe’s redfish cooked in parchment paper is impossibly tender, in part because the fresh fish fillet is joined in its parchment packet by a stuffing of aromatic vegetables, white roux, breadcrumbs, Gulf shrimp and lump crabmeat. Just before the dish is served, the chef slits the paper package open and pours garlic beurre blanc sauce over the baked fish for an extra layer of flavor and richness.
FLEUR DE LIS’ Round the World Pizza
Pizza was once served as an afterthought at this pale pink stucco Mid City lounge, but its popularity over the decades secured its spot in Baton Rouge’s culinary hall of fame. The Round the World pie is particularly beloved for its sweep-the-kitchen amalgam of flavors. Diners also like its attitude. This inflexible pie comes with anchovies, Italian sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, onions and no substitutions. Period.
ANTHONY’S ITALIAN DELI’S Muffoletta
Fans of Anthony’s flocked to its hole-in-the-wall location at Florida Boulevard near Sharp for more than three decades until the beloved deli moved to Mid City in 2014. Its signature pressed muffoletta, one of the best known in the Gulf South, is made with the Saia family’s own Italian round bread recipe, between which lie warm layers of mortadella, ham, Genoa salami, capicola, provolone and a homemade olive salad.
THE CHIMES’ Seafood Gumbo
Warm and cozy, the Chimes’ seafood gumbo reflects Baton Rouge’s commitment to this seminal Cajun/Creole dish. Crab claws, shrimp and oysters, along with aromatic veggies and okra, round out this belly-warming brew. The restaurant’s smoky duck and andouille gumbo is also a crowd favorite. Order a bowl of either, and wash it down with something on tap.
JAY’S BAR-B-Q’S Chopped Beef Sandwich
Barbecue has exploded in Baton Rouge over the last several years, with a flurry of innovative chefs and pitmasters serving detailed barbecue and trimmings. But Baton Rouge’s first barbecue crush was on Jay’s, a simple shack on Government Street that later led to permanent locations on Government and on Sherwood Forest Boulevard. Jay’s chopped beef sandwich has long been part of local lore, as has Jay’s tangy, vinegar-rich sauce.
THE LITTLE VILLAGE’S Village Bread
Wildly popular, the Little Village’s signature bread is the starter of choice for nearly everyone who dines here. Made-to-order, braided Italian sesame loaves emerge hot and are painted with olive oil, sprinkled with cracked black pepper, and generously coated in grated Romano cheese. More olive oil follows to further elevate the finger-licking decadence. Each glistening loaf is served with sides of olive tapenade and roasted garlic upon request.