Food and Fun in Baton Rouge

by Susan Barnes

May 1, 2019
May 2019

DURING A RECENT visit to Baton Rouge, it seemed a post-holiday calm had fallen over the city, with building anticipation of the start of the festive Mardi Gras season right around the corner. Though quieter than its rollicking sister city to the south, there is still a laissez le bon temps rouler vibe in the Red Stick.

Speaking of Red Stick, Red Stick Social, an entertainment venue in an old — even historic — setting, recently opened in Mid City. Housed within the reimagined 100-plus-year-old Electric Depot, the space features bowling on 10 state-of-the-art Brunswick lanes, a live music venue and locally inspired small plates and drinks served indoors or in its pet-friendly beer garden and rooftop patio. Red Stick Social is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night.

Development partners committed more than $50 million to the first phase of The Water Campus, adjacent to downtown Baton Rouge and overlooking the Mississippi River. The development expects to house world-class collaborative research facilities devoted to the study of coastal restoration and sustainability “in an effort to understand and better manage the complex relationship between water, land, and people around the world.” With its close proximity to downtown as well as easy access via the riverfront walking, running and bicycling path, The Water Campus will also provide public spaces and welcome everyone to enjoy events and concerts overlooking the powerful river.

Last year, the Baton Rouge Marriott Hotel completed more than $25 million in renovations throughout the 21-story hotel, from expanding, redecorating and updating the guestrooms and their baths to completely reimagining the lobby and 6,500-square-foot ballroom. The hotel boasts 20,000 square feet of meeting space in all. Stinky’s Fish Camp, with its South Louisiana-inspired menu with dishes such as crispy catfish meunière, a Lafayette-style gumbo, crawfish pie and signature fish tacos, resides within the hotel as well.

Additional hotel news in downtown Baton Rouge includes the new Courtyard Baton Rouge Downtown, opened last fall on the site of the first hotel in downtown Baton Rouge, the Hotel Istrouma. Also paying tribute to its historic past, The Watermark Hotel, an Art Deco-inspired Autograph Collection luxury boutique hotel, opened a few years ago and pays homage to its former life as the headquarters of Louisiana Trust & Savings Bank; the building was the city’s first skyscraper.

While a lot is happening in Baton Rouge in regards to new developments and recent renovations, it’s all part of the bigger picture for the city.

Red Stick Social bowling alley

Red Stick Social bowling alley © QUINN MILLER

“Baton Rouge has gone through a renaissance throughout the entire city, but more specifically the downtown and Mid City areas,” said Paul Arrigo, president and CEO, Visit Baton Rouge. “More and more Baton Rouge residents are moving downtown and choosing to live at the epicenter of the 24-hour city that is emerging.”

Arrigo adds the city’s downtown features restored historic buildings now hotels, restaurants and bars. These serve as attractions on their own, such as The Watermark. The city abounds with green spaces for locals and visitors to enjoy, and North Boulevard Town Square hosts many festivals throughout the year.

In regards to Mid City, Arrigo noted the area “experienced a resurgence with one of the most popular streets, Government Street, being developed as the type of destination street that you may walk in a city like Austin, Texas.”

Mid City’s development, he adds, is well-positioned to succeed in this quest, with new restaurants, bars and largerscale projects, including Red Stick Social, popping up. “The neighborhoods add a quirky vibe to the area, and more locals are beginning to move toward Mid City, just like they are moving downtown,” he said.

When asked what he recommends to family and friends visiting Baton Rouge, he said, “Try all of the food you can! We have nothing short of great restaurants and a variety of food that will satisfy anyone’s craving.”

I couldn’t agree more, and suggest setting the calorie counter aside for breakfast at Batch 13 Biscuits and Bowls (the grits alone are worth the trip); a slice of pimento toast at French Truck Coffee (its take on avocado toast, also on the menu); and a wood-fired pie topped with cauliflower, spinach, pomegranate, capers, pumpkin seeds and fontina cheese at Rocca Pizzeria in Mid City.

SCENIC DRIVE

Take a half-hour drive northeast of downtown Baton Rouge along the Louisiana Great River Road Byway, running in its entirety 700 miles along the Mississippi River, for a visit to St. Francisville and New Roads, which straddle the river. Explore these two towns, regarded for their wealth of historic buildings, including Creole cottages and Victorian mansions set against a backdrop of moss-draped oak trees and blooming gardens.

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