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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Baton Rouge's Best New Bars and Restaurants of 2012

The Baton Rouge food and beverage scene has seen a lot of growth in 2012.  It is exciting to be a part of the movement, watching a culinary culture grown right in front of us.  Baton Rouge has much more than chains, you just have to get off the gridlocked interstate to find some of them.  When I first thought of putting together a list of my top new restaurants and bars in 2012, I figured it might be a challenge to actually get to 10.  Instead, I found myself perplexed by what to omit.  Joining forces with Cherry the Dive Bar Girl, somebody who certainly cares as much as I do about unveiling the interesting places in Baton Rouge and forgetting about the chains, I increased my total to 12 for 2012.  Unfortunately, some new spots got left off the list, but here are Baton Rouge's best new bars and restaurants of 2012 (must be original to BR and must have opened in 2012)!

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12.  Mama Della's Pizza  

I wrote about this NYC style pizza joint back in April.  The pie is delicious, and I fully respect Chef Barry Kalt's commitment to making pizza the way he wants to make it!  Cherry the Dive Bar Girl put it simply: "Fresh, top-quality ingredients, NYC represent!"

11. BB&PF

BB&PF (Bean Burger and Plantain Fries) opened up in 2012 in the building that used to house the Red Flower Chinese restaurant.  Bringing African cuisine to the North Gates of LSU is certainly a welcome addition to the cultural culinary landscape of our city.  Plus, the plantain fries are legit!

10.  Heaux Jeaux's

Heaux Jeaux's brought a neighborhood bar to Airline Highway near the Kleinpeter Dairy.  I'm often quoted as saying that Baton Rouge needs more neighborhood bars, so even though I don't live anywhere close to Heaux Jeaux's, I'm excited to see it thriving.  Live music, beer on tap (though the selection could improve), and much more add to this strip-mall bar.  It is a step in the right direction for South BR for sure.

9.  Smokin' Aces BBQ

Another area that significantly lacks in the Red Stick is good BBQ.  And this time, I won't settle for strip-mall meats.  Barbecue is meant to be independent, authentic, and original.  Smokin' Aces makes my list because they truly are a BBQ joint.  On Government Street in mid-city, this little shack puts out some of the city's best barbecue.  It is simple, straight forward, and good.  And it is far from pretentious.  It is far from being a chain.  And it is, once again, a step in the right direction.  There's still room for good barbecue in this city, but Smokin' Aces has filled part of that void.

8.  Saigon Noodles

This new Vietnamese eatery on N. Sherwood Forest gets some mixed reviews, but I found the Pho to be quite tasty when I went.  I enjoy that they are able to bring people in to experience Vietnamese cuisine.  Cherry the Dive Bar Girl, a follower of the Baton Rouge restaurant and bar scene, noted that "these restaurants aren't just for die hard adventurers anymore."  Saigon Noodles adds some international flair to our city that is best known for fried seafood.  I'm okay with that.

7.  Mud and Water

Taking over the old "L" Bar location near The Pastime and downtown, Mud and Water opened up as a live music venue and all-around great place to drink kind of bar.  Non-smoking on the inside with a nice outdoor space as well, this venue has been a great addition to BR night life.

6.  Tiger Deaux-Nuts

Speaking of adding culture, Jeff Herman's start-up donut business is EXACTLY what we need more of.  Creativity, passion, energy, originality, and spirit of adventurous risk-taking is what can elevate an ordinary food scene into a thriving one.  Tiger Deaux-Nuts currently operates two to three days a week out of a little back room off of Jones Creek, however the flavors are anything but small.  Maple bacon, key lime pie, jalapeno, and s'mores are just some of the flavors found below, and that's not even close to the pinnacle of what Jeff is doing.  You'll just have to check him out to see what else he has up his sleeve.


5.  Blend

Blend came into downtown ready to recreate a wine friendly atmosphere.  They did just that.  Transforming the space previously occupied by a different wine bar, Blend has made a name for itself with an eclectic wine list, a sultry atmosphere, and artistic cuisine.  The menu is one of the better kept secrets in Baton Rouge, especially the creative twists that Chef Eric Sibley takes to make it his own.







4.  Olive or Twist

One of the more recent additions, Olive or Twist opened up in December on Perkins Road.  The much blighted Perkins/Essen area finally got a bar to be proud of.  Specializing in hand crafted cocktails, this small bar has a intimate feel and a refreshing atmosphere.  It is a great place to escape after work or enjoy the company of friends all night.  They also have some quality food on the menu so you can keep drinking, as well as a pretty decent beer list for a Red Stick cocktail bar.






3.  Magpie Cafe

Fresh, local, and seasonal are buzz words in the food world, but it had been hard (though not impossible) to find true commitment to them in Baton Rouge for a while.  Magpie Cafe near the Perkins Road Overpass has filled the void for a casual cafe atmosphere and attention to sourcing everything from coffee to breads.  Magpie is a wonderful place to meet people, work, or just have breakfast a cup of coffee.






2.  Dolce Vita (Wood Fired Pizza BR)

Bogdan Mocanu should be celebrated.  He is a talented, colorful individual.  He is from Romania, and is a good enough chef to be anywhere in the world.  However, he is in Baton Rouge.  Making pizzas from scratch.  In a wood-burning oven.  On a trailer.  If you haven't found Dolce Vita, you are missing the best pizza in Baton Rouge.  I'm a fan of pizza.  I have Mama Della's on this list.  I often brag about BR originals like Pastime and Fleur de Lis.  But Bogdan... on man is he doing something special with pizza pie.


1.  Restaurant IPO

As far as making an impact on the Baton Rouge food and beverage scene, I don't think any new establishment has come close to doing what Chef Chris Wadsworth has done at Restaurant IPO.  Third Street desperately needed a place like this.  The interior is inviting, begging you to eat, drink, and stay.  The Louisiana inspired small plates are easily shared among a table of friends.  The taps are filled with nothing but craft brews, encouraging everyone to drink locally.  This is truly a "practice what they preach" kind of restaurant.  They pay attention to the little things.  They put thought into everything.  Chef Wadsworth creates his own whiskey and vodka infusions.  He wins cooking contests with Community Coffee.  He boasts a two page feature in Louisiana Cookin' Magazine.  And more is coming.  I know that for a fact.