Bread so good, it's served on a cake stand. File photo by Collin Richie.

The 6 best dishes our restaurant critic tried in Baton Rouge this year

When people find out I write the restaurant reviews for 225, one of the first questions I get is, “Do the restaurants know you’re coming?” The answer is no, they don’t.

There’s often the sense that as a restaurant critic, I get the VIP treatment at a dining spot. But my goal with our reviews is to experience the food as anyone else would. And with that comes the opportunity to be genuinely and completely wowed by a dish.

I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve found a new favorite in 2023. As we finish the year, here’s a look back at some dishes that made me want to keep going back to these local restaurants.

Khao Soi soup at Chai Thai-Loa. File photo by Collin Richie.

Khao Soi soup at Chai Thai-Lao

8733 Jefferson Highway

Consider this a hidden gem at a hidden gem. The tiny new Thai restaurant on Jefferson Highway serves up this unique soup as a big bowl of soft and crispy egg noodles with chopped pickled mustard greens and a choice of protein (I suggest the shrimp). It’s all drowned in a yellow coconut curry broth speckled with garlic, lemongrass and chili oil. It falls somewhere between the heartiness of ramen and the subtle layers of pho, and that’s made this my go-to cozy winter soup.

Martin Wine and Spirits Reuben sandwich. File photo by Collin Richie.

Reuben sandwich at Martin Wine & Spirits

6463 Moss Side Lane

You can’t go wrong at a counter-service deli like Martin’s, but the Reuben is its star sandwich. The grilled corned beef is juicy, salty and amply piled without being over the top. Paired with melted Swiss, tangy sauerkraut and Russian dressing on toasted caraway-flecked rye bread, it’s truly worth the afternoon slump that’s sure to follow.

Supper Club’s Parker House Rolls. File photo by Collin Richie.

Parker House Rolls at Supper Club

10480 Perkins Road

There are so many reasons to visit Supper Club, where every dish is a presentation—including the bread. The Parker House Rolls arrive on a cake stand, and they are enough to feed a family. Pull-apart, pillowy mounds of sweet-and-salty bread are slathered in a buttery glaze. When the to-go box arrived, these rolls were the first thing I wanted to bring home.

Hamachi Crudo at Umami Japanese Bistro. File photo by Collin Richie.

Hamachi Crudo at Umami Japanese Bistro

3930 Burbank Drive

This starter is a perfect way to sum up what Umami does best: the freshest seafood and interesting accouterments artfully prepared and ready to wow. Slices of melt-in-your-mouth yellowtail sashimi are drizzled in yuzu citrus sauce and basil oil, then sprinkled with black sea salt and microgreens. It’s simple, light and memorable.

Eggplant Meatball Rollatini at Bistro Italia. File photo by Collin RIchie.

Eggplant Meatball Rollatini at Bistro Italia

11903 Coursey Blvd.

This no-frills Italian restaurant on Coursey Boulevard does the classics well, but this entree hit the spot for me. Thin slices of eggplant are breaded, coated in ricotta and wrapped around meatballs, then baked and served with spaghetti. After the breading and baking, the slim layer of eggplant is barely a memory, but the whole thing still satisfies the way Italian-style comfort food should.

The roasted red salsa at Barracuda Taco Stand along with queso, guacamole and chips. File photo by Sean Gasser.

Every salsa at Barracuda Taco Stand

2504 Government St.

This joint has become a popular Mid City hangout, and rightly so. The tacos are great, the margs are thirst-quenching and the atmosphere is ideal for a fun evening with friends. But I was most impressed by the salsa selection. There’s a roasted red salsa, a creamy green tomatillo salsa, a smoky salsa macha with chiles and sesame, and a spicy-sweet arbol habanero salsa. I haven’t landed on a favorite out of the group yet, but I do think these are the most interesting and flavorful salsas in town.

What was your favorite dish you tried at a local restaurant this year? Let the 225 team know by emailing [email protected].