Elon Musk may have made it his life goal to nosedive Twitter into the ground at terminal velocity, but before he could accomplish that goal I’ve successfully made numerous acquaintances and even friends through the silly little bird app. A few of those friends have decided to stop by and visit the tailgate, either as fans of opposing teams, neutrals who were fans for a day, or media. Sometimes two of the preceding.
As such, the question usually comes up: “What should I do/where should I eat while I’m down here?”. It’s a question I’ve grown somewhat adept at answering, so I’m writing this as a universal guide that can apply to any visitor moving forward for their trip to the Bayou State. Your mileage may vary, but the following advice should be near universal.
Don’t “do New Orleans” the night before the night before a game.
I put this in as big and bold of letters as our content system allows because this is rule number one. This is the rookie mistake most committed and it only sets you up for failure.
I get why it makes sense for tourists. Your flight probably comes into MSY, and on a gameday weekend lodging is probably cheaper closer to NOLA. You’re already there and you have a night off. But resist the urge and instead either do it Thursday or Sunday night if you can afford the extra day off. Instead of hitting up Bourbon, you’re going to want to just go to a nice dinner and turn in relatively early. Here’s why:
- You are going to overdo your night out in New Orleans. I know you think you’re going to practice self-control and be responsible, but that's not compatible with New Orleans as a tourist.
- Saturday’s tailgate is going to be as bad, if not worse, than your night out in New Orleans. Alcohol poisoning is real and you don’t want it.
- New Orleans is not “only an hour away” from Baton Rouge on game day. The later you wake up and get on the road, the later you’ll get to campus. Baton Rouge traffic in general is no joke, and on game day, it’s a warzone itself, and this is a good way to miss out on most of the day by sitting in scenic I-10.
I earnestly recommend staying in Baton Rouge Friday and Saturday night, and then finding a place in New Orleans Sunday before departing Monday. Personally, campus on Friday after 5:00 is a magical time where the space is in limbo between “place of higher learning” and “festival ground.” I think this is the perfect time to go on a walk through campus and take in it’s beauty. And there are things to do in Baton Rouge besides day drinking in public and stumbling into a stadium at 6:30. Here are some basic recommendations for the Red Stick:
- USS Kidd: Baton Rouge is home to the only Fletcher class battleship to retain its original WWII appearance and is used as a part of a larger WWII museum on the Mississippi in downtown Baton Rouge. It sounds a little hokey but it’s honestly a really cool experience, especially when the river is high and it’s free-floating. Note that it is going to be leaving its dock in 2024 for restorations, so time is running out to walk along a WWII battleship.
- Bluebonnet Swamp: Baton Rouge is juuuuust too far north to be considered “on the bayou”, but there are some isolated swamps in the area, like Bluebonnet. Over a mile of trail links varied habitats such as the cypress-tupelo swamp, beech-magnolia, and hardwood forests in case you want to get a little bit of authentic Louisiana in your trip.
- The Old State Capitol: The Old State Capitol is one of the most unique and historic state capitols in America. The Gothic castle was built in 1850 and today is a museum showcasing Louisiana’s...unique political history.
- The New State Capitol: The New State Capitol is one of the most unique and historic state capitols in America. Huey Long’s passion project is the tallest state capitol building in the United States and has an observation deck that offers a pretty cool view of the city. Bonus points if you can find the bullet that killed the Kingfish!
- Magnolia Mound: A 1792 French Creole house authentically restored with outbuildings and gardens covering 15 acres that illustrate the lifestyle of the French Creoles.
- Walk the Levee: If you’re coming down after the summer weather breaks, you should absolutely make it a point to walk the Mississippi River levee at sunset starting downtown. The high Mississippi at sunset is majestic.
- Visit Mike the Tiger: Well don’t be rude, go say hi to Mike at his habitat. Friday is usually the best time to go see him, he gets overwhelmed as Saturday goes along.
Here’s the big one. Everyone who comes to Louisiana comes here with the expectation that they will return five pounds heavier, and Baton Rouge can certainly make good on their promise. Usually, when people come down here, they’re looking for some authentic Louisiana/Creole/Cajun food, and there is no shortage of options in the Red Stick. Here are some of my favorite Louisiana offerings:
- Chimes: The standard because of its proximity to LSU literally just outside of the north gate. Don’t try it on gameday though, it’ll be far too packed. Also one has a location on Coursey with an Oyster bar.
- Mike Anderson’s: Still close to LSU, but not quite walkable.
- Parrain’s: This is a contested debate, but I think it’s better than Chimes or Anderson’s, but it is further away from campus. It's a great Friday night move though.
- Southern Pearl: On the more bougie end, but definitely worth it.
- Elsie’s Plate and Pie: Very highly regarded restaurant, can be hard to get into at certain times.
- Sammy’s: A little belabored for management issues, but I’ve also never had a bad meal there. If you come in for baseball season, they have the best crawfish quality/price ratio around.
- Po-Boy Express: If you want authentic Louisiana, here is a low-fi poboy place that always delivers.
- Dragos: Oysters and more (bougie)
- Phil’s: Oysters and more (local favorite)
- Acme: Oysters and more (unpretentious)
However, there are plenty of good eats around Baton Rouge that aren’t centered around seafood or Cajun/Creole food:
- Mexican/Mexicreole: My personal favorite spot is Mi Padre’s, but Superior Grill is a Baton Rouge pillar and has good food and legendary margaritas. For a neat take on Mexican and Creole fusion, check out Mestizo’s.
- Tacos Speciality: We have a Torchy’s on campus at LSU and you can never go wrong there, but both Government Taco and Barracuda have extremely good tacos. Get the smoked pineapple salsa from Government Taco.
- Some ‘za, bra: Baton Rouge has a few good places to get a slice, to the point where it’s hard to pick a favorite. City Slice across the street from LSU is a personal favorite, but my favorite pie is the Detroit style from Reginelli’s. Red Zeppelin is another local favorite, and Rocca is an extremely good Neapolitan-style date night spot. It’s a chain, but for $8 a pie building your own blast-fired pizza at Lit is an unbelievable bargain for the quality you get for the price.
- BBQ: Baton Rouge actually has a pretty lacking BBQ scene, but Hannah Q does yeoman’s work and can scratch the itch. I struggle to call BRQ an actual BBQ restaurant because it’s more of a white tablecloth establishment, but they do absolutely have the best brunch in Baton Rouge and is one of my favorites regardless. Just something to consider for Sunday.
- Greek: One of my favorite quirks about Baton Rouge is that it has an incredible Greek and Lebanese food scene. We’re absolutely spoiled. My favorite is Albasha, but you can’t go wrong picking between Zorba’s, Arzi’s, Cafe Petra, and Serop’s.
- Other: I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my favorite date night spot with my fiance in this list, Soji, an Asian fusion restaurant. Get the brussels and the General Tsoji chicken, thank me later. Solera is also an excellent tapas restaurant. I’m not a sushi person, but everyone rants about Tsunami, and experience is one that will leave a mark on you. If you have some extra coin on you, Ruffino’s is always good.
I’m sure I missed some, so be sure to check out the comments below for more recommendations. Enjoy your trip to the Red Stick and don’t forget to swing by the tailgate!