We recently set out on a feast-filled road trip throughout Louisiana (twist our arms, right?!) in partnership with Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and Louisiana Travel. During our three day excursion we spent time in New Orleans, Lafyette, and Baton Rouge and I’m sure you saw via Snapchat (username WAITINGONMARTHA) and Instagram that we just had a terrible, terrible time. Ha! Our goal during these three days; eat our way through the cities making sure to stop in to all of the familiar faces of Food & Wine Festivals of the past and maybe stumble on a few new fresh faces and places of our own.
First stop Baton Rouge, home of the LSU Tigers and Louisiana’s largest seafood market, Tony’s Seafood. We had heard from some locals and not-so locals that this was the place to stop if you wanted no-fuss, no-muss, just great seafood. The minute we walked through the front door, we knew that there was a reason Tony’s has been around for so long. Tony and his team knew what they were doing. We arrived around lunch, so there were at least 15+ team members ready to help you pick out a plate, from what seemed like a never-ending menu. Honestly, I just stared at it all for awhile before being completely “basic” and going with fried catfish and shrimp. The rest of Team WOM was a little more adventurous, diving into crab fingers and gumbo, all with sides of hush puppies, cole slaw, french fries and plenty of tarter and hot sauce of course. It was the perfect low-key lunch to nosh on after our short drive. Just know that before you go, there are no tables, so either grab it as takeout, or be prepared to eat it in your car.
After filling ourself to the brim, we were thankful our hotel was waiting and ready with open arms. If you are going to Baton Rouge, I highly suggest staying at the beautiful Watermark Hotel. The epitome of modern glamour, the Watermark was a bank back in the day that has very recently been restored. But so much of the stunning old pieces remain, with every corner begged to be ‘grammed. The elevator, the vault, the mail box…it’s gorgeous!
Having checked into our hotel, we had a chance to reset before dinner at City Pork Brasserie & Bar, Executive Chef Ryan Andre’s award-winning full-scale restaurant has an elevated take on Louisiana cuisine, with a refreshingly approachable vibe. We were all blown away by Chef Ryan’s Pork Debris Spring Rolls (BLOWN AWAY, MUST GET) as a starter, which included an asian slaw and peanut sauce that was out-of-this-world. That was followed up by a restaurant week prix fix menu that included a spicy shrimp salad, waygu steak and frites, an Asian inspired porkbelly, and one of the best banana desserts I’ve ever had, that was, of course, Chef Ryan’s mother’s recipe. All of our meals put us into a comfortable food coma, but it was the drinks that also were something to write home about. Kat joked about the dangers of the City Pork Tea, which went down a little too easy; think Cathead honeysuckle vodka, simple syrup, lemon and sweet tea. It tasted just like the sweet tea you dream about. We closed the place down, laughing and chatting with Chef Ryan and team (even taking pictures in the kitchen with the whole crew). The culture at this place was inspiring; a bell would occasionally ring as diners bought the kitchen a 6-pack of beer many times throughout the night (it’s listed on the menu), and we, of course, followed suit.
The next day, we had Lafayette in our sights, and set off to see its charming streets and yummy hotspots for Day 3. Only a quick hour drive from Baton Rouge, Lafayette was a great addition to our Louisiana itinerary. If you ask anyone for recs on the place, you’ll hear The French Press more often than not. This French-Quarter style brunch spot was right up our alley; cool vibe and absolutely incredible food by Chef Justin Girouard. We were in heaven with its Sweet Baby Breesus and Cajun Benedict. Seriously….YUM.
Lafayette certainly charmed us with its easy walkable streets and cheery restaurant awnings. It’s actually known as ‘America’s Happiest City’ thanks to a recent Harvard study, and we could see why Lafayette residents were so happy; they were living in a place that’s rich in history and local culture, has great food, and good tunes. We all kept saying how we wish we had more time in this great town.
For our final culinary stop, we popped into Pamplona, a gorgeous tapas bar that immediately transported us to Spain with its vintage bullfighting posters, Mediterranean tile entryway, and its dark, dramatic decor. While Lafayette is known as being the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun & Creole Country, we heard great things about this little tapas bar and we were thrilled to get a taste of old-world Spain here in the South. Pamplona‘s team was incredibly gracious, welcoming us in for a late lunch, inviting us to try Chef Kris Allen’s favorite dishes. I know what you’re thinking by now, how are they still eating?! I’d say the table’s favorite was definitely the Arugula & Manchego Salad which was irresistibly fresh and flavorful. But of course, I won’t pretend that we didn’t devour the Garlic Shrimp, Andalucian Lamb Sliders, Ceviche, Catalan Spinach, Morcilla-Quail Eggs and more because that’s what you do when you go eat tapas!
The road trip was definitely a whirlwind, but one that we were so fortunate to enjoy. A big thank you to Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and Louisiana Travel for showing us the way around Louisiana to find such culinary delights and memorable moments with these talented chefs. Hearing their stories and visiting them in their restaurants and seeing them in action was such a treat…let’s just say that we have a lot of faces (read: new friends) to look for at this year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Check out the gallery below to find more captures from our great time in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Stay tuned for our recap of our day in New Orleans! Truly, MKR
P.S. Next time we go? We’re definitely making time for Avery Island to explore and visit where one of my favorite sauces, Tabasco is made. The island is one big, huge salt dome (one of five in LA, sitting juuuust above sea level), and is about 140 miles west of NOLA. I’d say it would make an easy day-time trip if you’re a hot-sauce lover like I am. What else would you add to the list?! xo