I ate a lot of food this year. "How much food did you eat, Matt?" So much that my doctor was like, "Look, maybe try going to a gym." He added something about "cholesterol." Whatever that is.
But you know what? It was worth it. Baton Rouge's food scene is on the up and up, and there have been some fine plates of food I couldn't pass up. Here's the best food I ate from the capital city in 2017.
P.S.: I got a gym membership, doc. I'm fine.
Kinilaw (Filipino-style ceviche), lavender lamb chops, scallops from Cocha: I know I just praised this restaurant, but it bears repeating — Cocha is the best restaurant in downtown Baton Rouge. These were my favorite dishes.
Louisiana crabcakes from Eliza: Finally, a Baton Rouge restaurant that gets the feel and food of New Orleans right. No pretension, no frills, just Louisiana excellence.
Brussels sprouts, smoked salmon crostinis, The Hangover Ramen bowl and green tea crepe cake from Umami: I regularly tell people Umami is the best sushi restaurant in town. These are four must-get dishes if you visit. Maybe if everyone orders these dishes all the time, chef Cong Nguyen will call this the "Matt special." No? OK, fine.
Vietnamese chicken wings from Bao: Best chicken wings in town? Best chicken wings in town. End of discussion.
Burrata grilled cheese, and Choco-La-Cän crepe from The Crown: A Royal Bistro: When I think about this grilled cheese, (with melted burrata and Romano cheese), I instantly want to eat one and go to a happy place where I think only of this sandwich. Chef Kevin Black's dessert crepes are top-notch, too.
Fried chicken sandwich, and smoked salmon kolache from District Donuts: Skip the doughnuts and Instagramming for these big bites. OK, have a doughnut for dessert and Instagram it, if you must, but only after you try these two plates.
Beef short rib, crab and Boursin wontons, fried Gulf oysters with curry aioli, and cafe au lait cake from Kalurah Street Grill: Chef Kelley McCann is no joke. These dishes prove it. The restaurant's pastry chef, Kaila Kay, also might be the best in town.
The Heidi from Bouillababes: Havarti swiss and white cheddar grilled cheese with Vidalia onion jam and garlic confit basil aioli on rye — so good, I immediately wanted to order a second.
Smokey three-cheese pimento, and s'mores pie from Elsie's Plate & Pie: A new neighborhood restaurant, Elsie's doesn't skimp on the rich flavors. The appetizer of pimento cheese features smoked Gouda, cheddar and pepper jack with pineapple pepper jelly. The s'mores pie is this handheld dessert with a graham cracker crust. They'll both have you moaning, "My God," when you bite into them.
Pecan crusted trout by chef Cynthia Langhoff from the spring wine dinner at Alexander's Highland Market: This dinner in April featured six courses that were all delicious. Every time I think about it, though, I think about this trout with Creole meunière sauce over baby arugula. I would order this over and over again.
Cheese curds from The Overpass Merchant: When I was a kid, there was this Italian restaurant in Monroe that served the best cheese sticks. This proves: a) I've been a gourmand since second grade; and b) The Overpass Merchant's cheese curds remind me of those crispy, cheesy fried bites from that childhood restaurant, which is honestly the best compliment ever.
Margherita pizza from Reginelli's: Best pizza in town? Best pizza in town. End of discussion.
Bonuts from Batch 13: I can't determine whether this treat is more doughnut or beignet or biscuit. However, I can say it's seriously addictive and delicious.
Tiger Tailgate from Curbside Burgers: This burger comes with whipped cream cheese, bacon jam and fried jalapeños. Pro tip: Replace the burger with a crispy fried chicken patty, and you have an amazing chicken sandwich. Versatile and delicious, Curbside is greatness.
Honey vanilla glazed and chocolate sprinkled from Tiger Deaux-nuts: When it comes to doughnuts, I'm a simple man (or man-child, if you're into judging me for ordering sprinkled doughnuts). No contest, Tiger Deaux-nuts makes the best versions of these doughnuts in town.
P.P.S.: In writing this list, I now know why my doctor was like, "Hey, go to a gym."