Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The buffet. The feeding trough of America. Does anything conjure up images of patriotism and freedom like the ability to eat yourself sick for one set price? The buffet has been cast in a negative light, as places like Golden Corral, Ryan’s, and about twenty Chinese buffets dominate the scene. No wonder why, when someone mentions buffet, the images of pushy people sneezing into the food, as their kids run around, pops into your mind. Not exactly appetizing. However there is hope. Baton Rouge harbors several buffets where you can not only eat till you pop, but the quality of food is top notch.
Ronnie’s Ribs – www.ronniesribs.com
Made famous by her ribs, Ronnie’s offers a sensational buffet. Offerings of jerk pork and chicken are paired with sensational sides, like her homemade mac and cheese and yams. The buffet also features other dishes like brown chicken stew, chicken curry, fresh veggies, house made soups, and many other offerings. You get a true taste of Jamaica for a great price.
Nagoya – www.nagoyabuffet.com
For the sushi lover, this place is a must. While it is in no way the best Baton Rouge has to offer, the fish is fresh and tasty and the sushi choices are incredible. Start with a choice of six different salads (such as seaweed, squid, and octopus), then make your way to a long stretch of hot offerings (such as baked fish, pineapple rice, baked salmon rolls, and numerous Chinese and Japanese dishes). Then comes the sushi where you have a choice of about twenty rolls, sashimi, and nigiri style sushi. I recommend going around 7:00 when the place is hopping and the rolls are being turned out at a quick rate, ensuring freshly made sushi. The hibachi grill is last for fans of food that has been cooked. There is also a full dessert bar with an ice cream bar featuring about 13 flavors. The buffet is pricey ($17.95 for dinner) but the lunch buffet is very reasonable.
Johnny D’s – www.boddabing.com
Johnny D offers an incredible Italian feast at a reasonable price. The buffet offers several of his top notch pizzas, different pasta offerings, and sometime mini muffalettas and stuffed bell peppers. The buffet can change because Johnny will only use the freshest ingredients. If you love Italian food this buffet is a must, and you will never go to Sicily’s or CC’s Pizza again.
Thai Pepper – (no site available)
This little Thai joint on Florida Blvd. offers a phenomenal lunch buffet. Fresh made soups, curries, and other authentic Thai dishes are well represented on a buffet that offers plenty of choices. Their incredible pad thai is also present as well as their special Thai omelet. A lover of authentic Thai food will be in heaven.
Bay Leaf - www.bayleafbr.com
Indian cuisine has a healthy home in Baton Rouge at Bay Leaf. Their lunch buffet is quite a treat. Tandoori chicken, fresh curries, spicy lamb dishes, and other authentic Indian fare are offered at a low price. Their food is made fresh daily and the buffet will vary from day-to-day. If you are a regular of Indian food, or looking to start on this underrated cuisine, the Bay Leaf buffet will delight you.
Oriental Pearl – (no site available)
Baton Rouge has many Chinese buffets and all range from average to just awful. The Oriental Pearl on Government St. may be the saving grace of the Chinese buffet. The buffet has maybe half the offerings as the bigger guys, but it more than makes up for it in flavor and freshness. Dishes such as the salt and pepper prawns, coconut shrimp, crab rangoon, egg fu yon, and garlic shrimp are delicious. This is the top Chinese buffet in Baton Rouge.
Texas de Brazil – www.texasdebrazil.com
This might be the king of the buffets (in food and price alone). This Brazilian churrascaria (steak house) offers top quality meats such as filet mignon, sirloin, leg of lamb, and many top cuts. Their “salad bar” offers fresh cheeses, sides, and sauces. It also has a great lobster bisque and smoked salmon. But don’t fill up on the salad bar, save room for the meat. Servers continuously pass by with fresh, flame grilled meat and you will eat your fill. This buffet is expensive (around $42 a person) but you will eat plenty of quality meats. Also, sign up for their newsletter, as coupons are posted continuously.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
13214 Coursey Boulevard
Cuisine Rouge Rating:
This past Tuesday night, my wife and four year old son visited. We arrived at 6PM and I got a pint of Foster’s, my wife and son had soft drinks, I ate the very tasty Dingo’s bacon burger complete with the fried egg on top, my wife had a turkey burger (the chipotle cranberry sour cream sauce is the bomb) and my son had the kids mac and cheese (which he loves). All this came to a grand total of $15. I have spent that much in the past on a family outing at the golden arches, and I don’t think I need to tell you who has the better food.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
4250 South Sherwood Forest
If you live in Baton Rouge and are craving Greek and Lebanese, then you are in luck. A different restaurant seems to inhabit every block; all offering their spin on chicken schwarma, gyros, and hummos. While most are tasty, some can be mediocre traps. One restaurant stands out in my mind as a place with consistent, good Greek and Lebanese food. This restaurant is Albasha.
My friend’s wife was leaving in a few days for Italy, so we decided a farewell dinner was in order. Myself, and five close friends, made our way to Albasha on a Sunday night. Sunday dining in Baton Rouge can be a bit tricky, as many places are closed for dinner. We were promptly seated at a large, round table which was perfect for having a conversation. I don’t know why more places won’t utilize the large, round table novelty. It makes for a more pleasant experience.
I have dined here many times, but this was my first as a critic. I looked around and noticed the beautiful paintings which adorned the walls. Rich, vibrant drawing of famous Greece landmarks surrounded the diners and set the scene for an ethnic meal. The restaurant was very clean. All tables not in use were spotless and the floors were free of any spilled food and debris. There was also a full bar where some patrons were enjoying a drink before the busy week began. The restaurant is very comfortable on the inside and gives off a relaxing vibe; allowing the patron to enjoy their meal.
Drink orders were easy as we all opted for their signature Lebanese tea ($1.95). Lebanese tea is unlike any other drink. Aromatic tea is brewed and mixed with rose water and pomegranate molasses. The rose water and molasses both aid in giving the drink a heady aroma and a tart/sweet taste. The tea is served with a pinch of raw pine nuts, which offer a crunchy, creamy texture while sipping this refreshing drink.
For appetizers, we started with the hummos ($4.50) and the meat-stuffed grape leaves ($5.95). The hummos was nice and creamy with hints of fresh garlic and olive oil. One minor complaint was it seemed as if too much tahini paste had been used in this batch. This caused the hummos to have almost a “peanut butter” taste. Six meat-stuffed grape leaves were served arranged around fresh lemon wedges and a refreshing sauce made of yogurt, dill, and cucumber. The sour leaves were stuffed with a seasoned mixture of ground beef, ground lamb, and rice. The cool sauce was nice in taming the bitterness from the leaves. We also ordered a side of baba ghanouj ($5.50). Baba ghanouj is made of roasted eggplant, olive oil, garlic, and tahini. It has a rich, bold smoky flavor which melds well with the soft, warm pita bread.
For our entrees, it was no surprise when the majority of the table ordered the chicken schwarma ($11.50). Ranked #17 in the Top 25 Foods of Baton Rouge, the schwarma lived up to its ranking. Mounds of juicy, tender chicken were served with a spiced rice pilaf, hummos, and a side salad. The chicken was seasoned perfectly with aromatic Lebanese spices and cut thin, which gave a nice contrast of the crisped outer part to the tender inner part. The rice pilaf was full of roasted pine nuts and had a nice, peppery flavor. The salad was made of crisp romaine lettuce topped with a house-made creamy garlic dressing. One diner dared to be different and ordered the gyros plate ($11.50). The gyros are a combined mixture of lean ground lamb and ground beef; perfectly seasoned and sliced thin, it is served with rice pilaf, hummos, and salad. Accompanying the meals are baskets of warm, soft pita bread; perfect for dipping into the hummos, or combining all ingredients into a sandwich. Other recommendations are the shish kabob plate ($12.95) and the mousaka ($10.95).The portions are large and almost everyone at the table needed a to-go box. The only negative part of the dining experience was the empty appetizer plates remained on the table for almost the entire meal. The restaurant wasn’t very busy so there was no reason for this. Also, the restaurant was very dim when we entered and as the meal progressed, the lights seemed to get lower and lower. More light would be appreciated in the future. However, both were minor drawbacks to a solid meal.
Only one diner was able to take on dessert. She opted for the house made baklava ($2.95). A flaky pastry is stuffed with chopped walnuts and then drizzled with honey. Though the piece looks small, the dish is so sweet that a small amount goes a long way.
A very big positive for Albasha is that the wait staff will go the extra mile for their diner. My girlfriend asked the waiter at the end if she could have some more pita bread to take home with her meal. He said he was sorry, but the kitchen had closed. No big deal. A few minutes later, he came back with six pieces of pita wrapped in foil. It would have been so easy for him to have said no and not bothered, but he went the extra mile for the customer.
Baton Rouge is a city with a big Greek and Lebanese dining scene. However, Albasha is tops in the city for its wonderful consistency and friendly wait staff.
- Fresh, consistent food which is friendly for carnivores and vegetarians
- Very clean restaurant
- Friendly, attentive staff
- Slow to clear appetizer plates when entrees arrived
- Restaurant was very dark
Sunday, June 14, 2009
It’s hot outside! You need a cool treat to fight the heat. Of course there’s ice cream, or frozen yogurt if you are watching calories. And there’s frozen custard in our area now, which is much richer but in the opposite direction of frozen yogurt on the calorie chart. There is another option though that combines the richness of custard with the lower calorie content of the yogurt, called gelato. The simple definition of gelato is that it is the Italian version of ice cream. Gelato however, has less air in it than ice cream (which makes it denser and creamier) and it is made with milk rather than cream, making it lower in calories. Also, gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream, giving it a semi-frozen consistency that makes it extra smooth.
Of course the problem with gelato is that to get really good, authentic Italian gelato, you have to go to Italy. True Italian gelato is an art form, and something that is not easily replicated without the long held traditional methods perfect by artisans. Lucky for us here in Baton Rouge, Latte E Miele has recently opened on Highland Road near I-10, next to the Country Club of Louisiana.
Owner Corrado DiMartino is a native Roman and his nephew Simone Romano is not only a gelato artisan, but was one of the best in Italy before moving to Baton Rouge. He won the very prestigious Gambero Rosso award, which basically declared his gelato as the best in Italy.
Corrado’s son Luca also moved to Baton Rouge from Boston to help out with the business, and he describes it as being more akin to a bakery than your typical ice cream shop. “We make everything fresh, every day”, he told me. Flavors like strawberry, melon, and the unbelievably delicious pineapple are made from the freshest produce around, picked up every morning from Fresh Pickins, a local produce market.
Every flavor that I sampled (and you can sample as many as you like) was crazy good. The flavors are so intense and rich that it will make you never want to eat ordinary ice cream again. For $4 you can get a small cup of two flavors of gelato, like orange chocolate, tiramisu, swirled white chocolate, or banana. If you’re really hungry for a sweet treat, the $10 sundae is enough to feed 3 people, and comes in a variety of exotic variations. The signature version features simple cream gelato topped with the freshest seasonal fruit, and drizzled with Louisiana orange blossom honey.
If you’re a coffee lover, take a break from the green and white chain store coffee to have some real, authentic Italian espresso or cappuccino. Or, get a signature drink that combines a scoop of the gelato topped with a shot of espresso, for the best of both worlds.
Give this place a try. Not only do they produce one of the most delicious treats you will ever have, they also make it a point to use local ingredients; fresh Louisiana produce from Fresh Pickins market, and milk from Kleinpeter Dairies.
Latte E Miele is open seven days a week, from 10AM to 10:30PM, has wireless Internet connectivity, and will quickly become one very busy place.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Much thought was put into the making of what turned out to be a difficult list. When I first started compiling the list I thought it would be easy; but as it turns out, Baton Rouge has much to offer in terms of dining. For the sake of the list, I left out the top restaurants in Baton Rouge (Mansur’s, Little Village, Ruffino’s, Galatoire’s, Juban’s, Louisiana Lagniappe, and etc.). I feel these restaurants deserve their own future Top 25. I hope this list sparks conversation and debate (both positive and negative), but more importantly I hope it gets someone out there to try a place they never knew existed and try a dish they never knew they loved. Many of the dishes on the list are simple, some a little more refined; but all have one thing in common: they are very tasty. So I hope you enjoy my ‘Top 25 of Baton Rouge’. Eat like there is no tomorrow!
25) Cheesesteak – South of Philly
Sure the outside may not be too appealing, but inside it is like stepping onto the streets of Philadelphia. Warm, soft amoroso bread is stuffed with tender ribeye, fried onions, and melted cheese. I love mine with provolone, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. The fries are pretty tasty as well and if you finish all of them (they give you enough to feed an army), then you should get a free t-shirt.
24) Boudin Omelet – The Chimes
Any time is a good time for boudin and brunch is no exception. A large omelet stuffed with melted cheese, peppers, and the rich, livery rice staple of Louisiana starts anyone’s morning right.
The Chimes East
23) Rocket Shrimp – Jasmine’s on the Bayou
Take plump shrimp, fry them to a crispy perfection and then toss them with a spicy-sweet mayo sauce and you have a winner. Try it on a poboy for an awesome sandwich. Add a cup of their incredible corn and crab bisque for an awesome meal.
22) Blue Cheese Chips – Bistro Byronz
This small, French bistro offers a big bang in the form of one of its appetizers. Byronz thin slices fresh potatoes and kettle-fries them to crispy goodness. They then top the chips with a luscious blue cheese sauce. Another handful of blue cheese crumbles and pinch of green onion top this yummy app. After eating this you will be wondering if you have any room for your entrée (if you do get the cassoulet!)
21) Pulled Pork Sandwich – Yvette Marie’s
Tucked inside Circa 1857 and surrounded by numerous antique and art stores lies a little place that serves great food. A jalapeno-cheese roll is topped with a mountain of juicy, tender pork and coated with a sweet and spicy chili glaze. Pair it with one of their great soups (like the lentil) and you have a very filling meal.
20) Grilled Shrimp Poboy – Sammy’s
In Louisiana, 99% of all seafood poboys are fried. A member of the 1% that isn’t resides at Sammy’s on Highland. Good, fresh bread is piled high with tender, grilled shrimp. The shrimp are then smothered on pepper-jack cheese, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Get it dressed and you won’t miss the batter.
19) Muffaletta Pizza – Johnny DeAngelo’s New York Pizza
Johnny takes a Louisiana favorite and puts it on a pizza, giving us a new way to enjoy a favorite! The pizza is topped with olive oil, Italian cheeses, homemade olive salad, and Italian cold cuts. His other pizzas are fantastic as well. He also serves a killer lunch buffet. For pizza in Baton Rouge, Johnny D’s is in a class all its own.
18) Fish Tacos – La Reyna
When you enter La Reyna, you will feel as if you just headed south of the border down to Central America. This is due in large part to the clientel and waiters speaking little, if any, English. The result though is a very fresh and authentic restaurant, and the fish tacos here are tops. Flaky, white fish is seasoned, grilled and piled into two tortillas (ask for corn to make it authentic). The tacos are topped with fresh chimol (Honduran pico de gallo), shredded carrots, and shredded lettuce. Top with fresh squeezed lime juice and you are in for a treat. The rice and beans that accompany it are very good as well. This dish as well as others screams authentic and fresh. (Check out the chicken mole, trust me!)
17) Chicken Schwarma – Albasha’s
Many places in Baton Rouge do chicken schwarma and all manage to put their own twist on it. Albasha’s, however, has always been consistent and perfect. The chicken is slow roasted on a spit with Lebanese spices and charred to juicy perfection. Pair it with their fresh salad, hummus, and pita bread and you are set!
16) Chargrilled Oysters – Parrain’s
But wait! I thought only ACME had chargrilled oysters? False! Parrain’s makes them like ACME, loaded with olive oil, butter, garlic, and Romano cheese; but Parrain’s is consistent with serving large, plump oysters. They get the nod.
15) Jerk Ribs – Ronnie’s Ribs
The bold flavors of Jamaica are on display here and sweet, tender ribs are center stage. Hints of allspice, habanero, and ginger engulf the pallet and term something as simple as ribs into a vacation on a Caribbean island. The jerk spices leave a nice crust on the outside which is a nice contrast to the moist, tender inside.
14) Lamb Vindaloo – Bay Leaf
Rich chunks of lamb swim in a rich, brown gravy flavored with various Indian chilies. This dish is the hottest on the menu and the heat slowly creeps up on you before taking control. However, the heat enhances the flavor and experience of eating hot food done right. Pair it with one of their fresh yogurt drinks to keep the heat in check.
13) Crawfish Ravioli – Opie’s Cajun Café
How to make ravioli better? Fry it! Want to make it even better? Top it with a delicious cream sauce swimming with crawfish tails. Good luck getting up after eating. Also get the boudin balls. Best in Baton Rouge by a mile!
12) Shrimp Aurora – Monjuni’s
A mound of spaghetti is tossed with tender shrimp, their signature sweet tomato sauce, and Alfredo sauce. A massive amount of fresh cheese is melted on top. The result is a rich, delicious pasta dish that will leave you full for two days! (Days you will be full may vary)
11) Meatball Poboy – Pocorello’s
Once you get past old man Pokies’ happy-go-lucky attitude (warning: extreme sarcasm), you will enjoy one of the best sandwiches in Baton Rouge. Large, juicy meatballs that burst with the flavors of Italy are nestled onto good, French bread and topped with their signature red sauce and melted cheese.
10) Chipotle Chicken Curry – Dingo’s
This dish is just interesting. You have the sweet and subtle spicy coconut curry up front and then a wave of smoky chipotle hits you! The result is a dish that is at delicious as it is unique. A variety of vegetables accompany chunks of chicken swimming in the golden curry. It is served with brown rice which makes it more filling and provides great texture.
9) Lechon Kawali – Pinoy’s
If you like cracklings and bacon, then you have found your holy grail. Large chunks of pork belly are slow roasted and then fried to a crisp golden brown. The result: One side is a smooth, creamy fat and the other is rich pork meat. Pair with the pickled papaya and sautéed bean sprouts for a taste of the Philippines.
8.) Muffaletta – Anthony’s
Louisiana’s top sandwich is well represented in Baton Rouge. This muff has all the traditional toppings: marinated olive salad, capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler, and provolone piled on the traditional Sicilian bread. What puts this muff in the top spot is the high quality olive oil and super fresh olive salad. Do not check your blood pressure after eating this sandwich!
7) Pad Thai – Thai Pepper
Salty, sweet, sour, spicy. All these words can describe pad thai. Thai Pepper makes it the best by loading it with fresh meats and veggies. Choose your heat wisely because Thai hot is not Louisiana hot (it’s hotter!).
6) Lamb Shank – Atcha Bakery
Get to Atcha early on Friday for lunch or be prepared to wait. Large lamb shanks are simmered for hours in rich Middle Eastern spices. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the flavors are rich and bold. Served over rice, this dish will make you want to call in for the rest of the day.
5) Twice Cooked Duck – Zea’s
Two large leg quarters are roasted until tender. Then they are flash fried to make the skin crackle. A sweet-spicy Asian glaze is drizzled over the rich meat. Crunchy green onion and cilantro bring out exciting flavors in this well done dish. Pair it with roasted corn grits and braised cabbage and you will have a “usual” at Zea’s.
4) French Dip and Gumbo – Dempsey’s
Beef is slow cooked until the meat practically melts. When this happens, you know a great sandwich is in the works. Several slices of quality cheese are melted on top the beef which is piled on fresh bread. A side of crisp fries and rich, brown dipping gravy accompany this mouth-watering treat. But wait! A cup of gumbo is included. A rich roux makes this gumbo shine. My favorite is the chicken and sausage. This is one of the best items in Baton Rouge and may be the best value!
3) Shrimp Burger – Mason’s Grill
There’s good reason why the Food Network voted this the #1 burger in Louisiana. It’s delicious. A thick, well seasoned patty is placed on Mason’s famous soft rolls. The meat is stuffed with fresh jalapenos. Then the burger is topped with sautéed shrimp, more fresh jalapenos, and melted Jack cheese. The jalapenos take the burger to a new level with their fresh, crisp bite. If you love burgers, you must eat this one!
2) Pho – Pho Quyhn
How do you describe a dish whose taste is indescribable? I’ll try. A rich, beef broth bursts forward with bold spices such as cinnamon, star anise, ginger, cloves, and cardamom; sending your taste buds swirling. The rice noodles are perfect filler in the soup. Culantro (long coriander), Thai basil, fresh jalapenos, bean sprouts, and lime juice can all be added. I like mine with everything: thin flank steak, lean brisket, fatty brisket, tendon, book tripe, and gristly meatballs. A little hoison sauce and a hint of Siracha and my taste buds experience something new with each bite.
1) Chicken Tika Masala – Bay Leaf
Not many dishes have impressed me like the chicken tika masala at Bay Leaf. The chicken is rubbed with yogurt and other Indian spices and cooked inside a tandoor oven. The chicken is then cut into chunks and placed into a rich masala sauce. The tika masala sauce is made with curry, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Served with their aromatic rice and fresh na’an bread makes for a perfect meal. If you haven’t, please try this dish!
In the spirit of doing this, you will see posts on the site from not only me, but other contributing writers who share my love and passion for great food. The first such post is up next, courtesy of friend and fellow foodie Mark. He’s a transplanted New Orleans guy who has combed and crawled his way through the numerous eateries in Baton Rouge, from dive to fine dining in order to compile his list of the top 25 dishes in Baton Rouge. Do yourself a favor and try some of these items, you won’t regret it.
Again, your comments (positive or negative, just keep it respectful) are always welcome! Enjoy the site, and prepare to get hungry as you peruse these writings! Bon Appétit!