Mid-City Baton Rouge is seeing a culinary revival, with both established restaurants and newcomers offering excellent dining options.
Gone are the days when pawn shops and fast food chains dominated Government Street, Mid-City Baton Rouge’s main drag. They’re still there, providing some local color, but a culinary revolution is well under way, and now Government Street and Jefferson Highway are filled with hidden and not-so-hidden gems.
“Every block on the street has some sort of new project,” Tiger Deaux-nuts founder Jeff Herman says, adding that collaborations between neighboring restaurants are becoming common.
Curbside Burger celebrated its first anniversary last fall by working with local restaurants to create unique sandwiches. The Tiger D crispy chicken sandwich used glazed doughnut buns from Tiger Deaux-nuts, and Gov’t Taco founder Jay Ducote created the Gov’t Burger with flavors like coffee- and ancho chili-rubbed beef, Chihuahua cheese, poblano pico, and tortilla strips.
Food hall White Star Market has energized the entire area, and entrepreneurs have been looking to Government Street and Mid-City with fresh ideas for feeding Baton Rouge’s hungry masses.
That’s not to say Mid-City hasn’t had its quality food venues over the years. Local Italian food lovers have known for decades the best lasagna is at Anthony’s Italian Deli, a small deli/restaurant with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and lots of regulars. Monjunis Italian Café & Grocery is another longtime favorite tucked in the corner of a strip mall on Jefferson Highway, serving pasta with award-winning sauce with meatballs.
In the same plaza, Brew Ha-Ha has served up coffee, espresso drinks, and snacks for nearly 15 years but is best known for its many flavors of cake balls—spheres of cake batter of varying sizes and flavors, dipped in icing.
Around the corner on Government Street, Tiger Deaux-nuts serves fresh, creative doughnuts of the highest handmade quality, but is also becoming well-known for its sandwiches and burritos. Highly recommended: the Strawberry Cream Cheese Deaux-nut and the boudin breakfast sandwich.
For a slightly fancier experience, try Bistro Byronz, which is great for lunch, dinner, and happy hour. Grab a lunch plate special like the Chicken & Parmesan Dumplings and have a half-size lunchtime “Petite Sipz” cocktail, your choice of Petite Mojito, Petite Mimosa, Petite Bloody Mari, or Petite Vodka Freeze Sno-Ball.
Exactly 1 mile down Government Street from Bistro Byronz is Doe’s Eat Place, a cozy steakhouse well-known for its Mississippi Delta-style hot tamales for decades. The family recipe goes back to 1941, and they’re a must-try along with one of their two-pound Porterhouse steaks. Don’t overlook the cocktail program—there are some great seasonal and classic drinks on the menu.
Up your home culinary game with an assist from Red Stick Spice Company, across Jefferson Highway from Monjunis and Brew Ha-Ha. They’ve got every spice imaginable, along with special spice blends and rubs, infused olive oils, and an extensive tea selection.
For nightlife, the Radio Bar provides creative cocktails, a well-selected beer list, bar games, DJs, and a dog-friendly patio area. It’s open late and offers free food on Sundays.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Over the past year or two, the Mid-City energy has leveled up with fresh options. Check out Cajun fare and delectable sweet and savory pies from Elsie’s Plate & Pie, prepared meats and sides to-go from Twine, a burger food truck gone brick-and-mortar with Curbside Burgers, and Neapolitan-style pizzas and a cool bar at Rocca Pizzeria.
You could eat yourself silly with new food options within a mile radius of Government Street. A few suggestions: potato and rosemary pizza from Rocca; the Tiger Tailgate burger from Curbside, with whipped cream cheese, bacon jam, and fried jalapeños; skillet apple pie made to order (à la mode, of course) at Elsie’s; and Twine’s Foie Gras Burger.
Around the corner on Jefferson Highway, lunch joint MJ’s Café is a vegetarian restaurant under new, vegan-forward management located in what looks like an abandoned antiques shop near Red Stick Spice Company. The homemade soups of the day steal the show and change frequently—try the Tom Kha, the Curried Carrot Lentil, or the Potato. The vegan enchilada special is a winner as well.
WHITE STAR MARKET
This high-end food hall occupies the ground floor of a larger mixed-use development encompassing an entire city block of Government Street. The first food vendor to sign up was local chef and food personality Jay Ducote’s Gov’t Taco. Jay lauds the concept for both vendors and customers. “It allows for culinary entrepreneurship,” he says. “It’s a food outlet without the financial risks and burdens of a full-service restaurant.”
Besides the creative flavors on a tortilla from Gov’t Taco, Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar has opened Jolie @ The Market at White Star, and Rêve Coffee Roasters from Lafayette, Michael Mangham’s Southern Plate, Fete au Fete, Chow Yum Phat, The Big Squeezy, Dat’z Italian, and Mouton have opened up shop as well.
White Star Market is the vanguard of development on Government Street, with the city’s municipal “road diet” making the area more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The Electric Depot redevelopment project will add more living space to the area, and older properties like the Government Village Shopping Center and the Hotel Lincoln have been purchased and will be fully updated.
Several major airlines offer jet service to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. Baton Rouge is about one hour west of New Orleans, and about four hours east of Houston, Texas.
Nora McGunnigle lives, eats, and drinks in New Orleans. Her work, some of which is online at nolabeerblog.com, discusses food, beer, travel, and culture in New Orleans and the Gulf South.