Shaya. Photo by Stephen Young.

Restaurants worth the drive

Shaya, New Orleans

With all the restaurants Baton Rouge has to offer, an exceptional dining experience is never far from home, but these four culinary gems are worth the extra mileage. For a unique outing, try the shareable dishes at Shaya (above). James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya has brought the heart of his grandmother’s Israeli recipes to this kitchen. According to the chef, the innovative restaurant focuses on “marrying local New Orleans ingredients with the indigenous flavors of Israel.” In addition to its many rave reviews, Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern recently highlighted Shaya’s dishes on Instagram. Be sure to start your meal with Shaya’s homemade wood-fired pita. 

The French Press, Lafayette

Jumpstart your day with a drive to Lafayette for an award-winning Cajun-inspired breakfast or lunch at The French Press. Located in downtown Lafayette, this hotspot is as popular with critics as it is with foodie fans, having earned multiple James Beard Award nominations and a place among Urban Spoon’s top breakfast restaurants in the country. The restaurant’s specialty gumbo-topped Cajun Benedict is proof that brunch should be observed more than once a week. If a night out is what you’re hungry for, The French Press also serves dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ox Lot 9, Covington

Located on the first floor of Covington’s historic Southern Hotel, Ox Lot 9 incorporates the rich heritage of the South into every aspect of the dining experience. The restaurant frequently updates its menu to feature seasonal ingredients inspired by the Gulf Coast. Prior to opening Ox Lot 9 with his wife Amy, Chef Jeffrey Hansell was featured in Best Chefs America and worked as executive sous chef for John Besh at his celebrated New Orleans restaurant Lüke. For a memorable meal, begin with the roasted bone marrow before sampling pork belly “YaKa Mein” and pan-fried stuffed rabbit.

The Francis Southern Table, St. Francisville

If the crisp November air is causing Thanksgiving cravings, give in to your stomach’s demands and try the down-home flavors of The Francis Southern Table. Locals may already be familiar with the mouthwatering barbecue at The Francis Smokehouse next door, and the newly opened Francis Southern Table offers the same great quality of its sister establishment but in a more spacious and relaxed setting complete with breezy balconies and decks. The menu focuses on Louisiana staples with a twist, such as the bourbon-glazed pecan chicken salad.