As we wrap up another year of good eating in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, now is a good time to look back on the best things I ate. Sorry if you start drooling. (Not really.)
While there are a ton of great restaurants in both cities, I didn’t get to eat all of the goodness. What follows is just a small sample. Here are the best dishes I ate in 2015.
In Baton Rouge
Apple Bacon BBQ Cupcake from Cupcake Allie
I know what you’re thinking — “A sweet cupcake and bacon and barbecue? Matt, get out of here.” Seriously, this is a bite-sized blessing of sweet and savory. In a time when cupcakes, cake balls and the like are seemingly everywhere and anyone can make them, Allison Offner is kicking the game up a few notches with these treats.
Mediterranean Hummus Plate from Gourmet Girls ’ Dutch Lunch
You could probably pick anything from Kathy Mangham’s lunchtime specials at Gourmet Girls and think it was a revelation. Her Mediterranean Hummus Plate is made of three types of hummus, a few pitas and fresh veggies. I haven’t bought storebrand stuff since having this.
Boudin Breakfast Sandwich from Tiger Deaux-nuts
Jeff Herman is bringing some interesting ingredients and flavor combinations to doughnuts at his newish Mid City location on Government Street. But my go-to is the breakfast sandwich. Boudin, eggs and cheese in between a gooey, soft, sweet doughnut bun. This is what breakfast is all about.
Chicken Fried Brisket from City Pork
Every time I leave City Pork, I say to myself, “Holy mother, that was a good meal.” Last time I was there, I had this monster of a brunch dish. You could sit there and wonder, “How is that brisket so tender and that outside so crispy?” But it’s best not to overthink it as these guys are putting the heavy in heavenly with dishes like this.
Cold Drip Coffee from Magpie Café
I’m probably not hip enough to visit Magpie regularly, but I go there whenever I can for this treat. It’s a fresh jolt of energy to my usual afternoon doldrums. James and Lina Jacobs aren’t messing around. The food’s not bad, either.
The Booray from Taste
The Booray is pepper jack cheese, boudin, ham and other ingredients that will make you cross-eyed with joy. Chef/owner Richard Markert is elevating the sandwich, and his brunch plates full of perfectly poached-egg dishes are brilliant, too.
Cured duck ham/braised oxtail from Galatoire’s Bistro
Every once and awhile I get to go to a beer or wine dinner at Galatoire’s Bistro, and it never fails. Chef Kelley McCann continues to kick serious amounts of tail. These are just two revelatory dishes that are mouth-watering in their execution.
Fish tacos with avocado slaw from Maxwell’s Market
I had heard tale of Maxwell’s fish taco special. On a whim, I went to the deli and store and saw they were available. Each tortilla is overflowing with fried fish and mountains of avocado slaw. It’s a generous portion, and another reason why Maxwell’s remains one of the best in town.
Thai with chix from Freshjunkie
Health food? No, I’m not losing my mind. Pat Fellows has the salad game down. This salad, filled with stuff like edamame, red peppers and grilled chicken (if you prefer), sure doesn’t taste like health food. It’s just good.
Beef short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes from Matherne’s Wine Dinner
Fifteen years and still going strong, Bill and Kathy Hounshell’s wine dinners at the Highland Road location are a thing of beauty. This, the final course, of a fall entry in the weekly series, was a big portion of tender meat. You leave these dinners full and happy and will probably go to the next one and the one after that.
Cap steak pasta/baked ziti from Nino’s
It’s no longer a secret that what chef Elton Hyndman is doing at Nino’s is magnificent. These dishes (which use housemade pastas and sausages) are just two examples of why Nino’s continues to be one of the best restaurants in town.
Surf & Turf from Pop’s Poboys
All my Lafayette friends had been sharing pictures of the sandwich goodness that was happening downtown. I had to experience it for myself. With debris-style roast beef, fried oysters and horseradish-peppercorn sauce, this po-boy is a messy delight. Get it with hush puppies that come with cane butter.
Eggcellent Burger from Bread & Circus
There’s no doubt that the people of Lafayette dig Bread & Circus, but you need to check it out when it has a late- night kitchen special. This pick from the restaurant’s Bob’s Burgers night was like a deep-fried burger with an egg in the middle. When you bit into it, you got bun, yolky goodness, meat and cheese. It’s easily the heaviest thing I ate this year, and I loved every bit of it. I don’t know how I ever made it back home after that.
Smoked chicken salad from Taco Sisters
Over in Freetown, there’s a little shack that serves the best tacos in town. This place doesn’t mess around when it comes to brisket or beef tacos and burritos, but my favorite is the grilled chicken salad, served with avocado, olives, cheese and a jalapeno ranch dressing that has quite the kick.
Smoked country ribs plate lunch from Johnson’s Boucani è re
Saying you like Johnson’s is like saying you like the music of the Beatles. My favorite, though, is the spare ribs lunch special, which comes with two sides, a link of boudin or jambalaya. This is how Cajun barbecue should be done.
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter @MatthewSigur.