With all the restaurant activity on Jefferson Highway, you might be hard-pressed to make a decision on where to go eat.
Especially in the stretch between Essen Lane and Government Street, Jefferson Highway has some of the city's best and most popular restaurants. There's Beausoleil, City Pork Brasserie & Bar, The Velvet Cactus, Maxwell's Market, Palermo, Portabello's Grill — and that's in a small area.
Now, you can add another restaurant to that list.
Eliza Restaurant & Bar humbly sits in the corner of a strip mall behind a CC's Coffee House. It's a small, intimate and casual restaurant that specializes in Louisiana favorites like crab cakes, po-boys, red beans and rice, and grilled Gulf fish.
Without hesitation, I can tell you that Eliza has become my favorite new restaurant.
It's not that Eliza is reinventing the wheel. Who here hasn't had red beans and rice or a fried seafood platter? No, what Eliza does is take what we love about Southern food, add a few flavorful and different touches, and then deliver consistently with great service.
Take, for example, the tasso-stuffed shrimp appetizer ($10). A fried shrimp appetizer special. You might be thinking, "Matt, what in the Sam Hell? I've had fried shrimp." Not like this you haven't. This breaded delight has a chunk of tasso in the middle of it and is topped with a thin pepper jelly sauce. We devoured it in seconds.
The restaurant further excels at entrees like smothered chicken ($13). The tender chicken breast is served with a scoop of popcorn rice in a rich brown gravy that brings back memories of the old soul food restaurant Silver Moon Cafe. No disrespect to Mama Seabell, but this version might be better.
Other area favorites dot the menu. The crab cakes ($22) come served with a creole mustard ravigote atop corn maque choux with a side of shoestring fries. These are the size of large burger patties, loaded with crab, spices and onion. They crumble with each bite. When put on a brioche bun as a sandwich special ($16), it's another thing of beauty.
If you get dessert, you must try the strawberry shortcake ($7). A sliced biscuit is topped with whipped cream, strawberries and orange zest. One guest remarked how she could return happily to just get a glass of wine and this dish.
On multiple visits, guests and I have tried other dishes like the cochon and slaw po-boy ($11), seafood platter ($21), and black drum ($21). After finishing each, the response was the same — that happy stretch after you eat a big, good meal. You smile and say, "Boy, that was good."
One guest from New Orleans enjoyed the upscale seafood bistro fare in the casual atmosphere. Another guest said the restaurant is a "rare find," noting that the restaurant's attention to detail and service creates a quality experience.
With so many good restaurants in just this stretch of Jefferson Highway, I know it can be difficult for you to decide what you want to eat and where you want to go. Let me offer some advice next time you're out: Go to Eliza. You won't be disappointed.
Eliza Restaurant & Bar
7970 Jefferson Highway, Suite J, Baton Rouge
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
INFO: Call (225) 349-8895 or visit elizabatonrouge.com.
PROS: Crab cakes, service, casual yet beautiful setting and decor
CONS: I can't eat here enough.