The best restaurant in Baton Rouge isn't in a trendy hotspot or on a main thoroughfare — it's hidden in a little house off of Harrell's Ferry Road.

Maison Lacour has been serving some of the most delicious French food in the area for decades, and it's just as reliable today.

The restaurant is divided into several small rooms, giving diners an intimate experience, and the charmingly outdated decor gives a feeling of stepping back in time. It is pricey, but you are going for more than just the food — it's an experience. This is not a place where you walk in, sit down and rush out in 30 minutes. The care that goes into the food takes time, so dinner is likely to last more than an hour.

The menu has classic French dishes. Some can be intimidating (like sweetbreads). Others are more familiar (redfish). But whatever you choose, you're sure to enjoy it.

The shrimp ravioli ($14) were delicate with a plump filling and white wine cream sauce that was light enough to complement the shellfish. In the saumon fumé ($15), the silky salmon is set off by crunchy toast and a hint of peppery horseradish sauce.

All of the soups, presented in plain crock ware, look unassuming, but I would gladly eat the bisque à l’orange ($10) every single day. The creamy concoction is light, with a hint of orange, and they don't skimp on the crawfish. Soupe Jacqueline ($10) is slightly heavier, with brie, crab and crisp asparagus, but still excellent. And my date was blown away by the Soupe St. Tropez ($10). You can tell how much work goes into the intensely flavored broth with sweet crab, juicy shrimp and hints of thyme.

Entrees come with a green salad, but where other restaurants might treat that as an afterthought, Maison Lacour serves fresh lettuce with a vibrant dressing that will leave your mouth tingling. I must not be the only one who feels strongly about the dressing, because the restaurant sells it in bottles. The salad is topped with pickled red onions and walnuts for an extra crunch.

For our main dishes, we tried — and enjoyed — a little bit of everything. We had the veal Oscar ($35). The tender veal is lightly breaded and fried, and accompanied with a generous helping of crab and some of the thickest hollandaise I've seen.

The lamb chops, or carré d’agneau ($38), get an aromatic note from the herbs de Provence, but the mustard and horseradish sauces they're served with (choice of one) provide a spicy kick.

The redfish is served en papillote (in parchment and baked, $30), keeping it exceptionally moist, and surrounded by a succulent cream sauce finished with crab.

We also tried cailles ($34), an entree with two tiny quail stuffed to the brim with pork and mushrooms. The slight sweetness is set off by a rich Madeira sauce.

The entree highlight, though, was John's Favorite ($37) — a filet grilled to your desired temperature accompanied by crab and hollandaise encased in a pastry round. As if that's not enough, the dish also comes with shrimp in a garlic butter sauce.

As full as we may have been, we couldn't pass up dessert. We dined on white chocolate bread pudding ($6), complemented by a butterscotch sauce with a bit of whiskey that keeps it from being cloyingly sweet. The Maison chocolate cake ($7) is, as described on the menu, "very dense and rich," and that's no lie. I could finish only a couple of bites, but it makes for excellent leftovers.

When executed well, classic French food is the best food. No other restaurant in Baton Rouge exemplifies this more than Maison Lacour.


Maison Lacour 

11025 N. Harrell's Ferry Road, Baton Rouge 

HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday 

INFO: (225) 275-3755 or maisonlacour.com

PROS: Classic, delicious French food; John's Favorite; the soups; that house dressing. 

CONS: Can be pricey, but it is well worth it.