|Restaurants and bars bloom downtown|
Baton Rouge's newest wave of bars and restaurants settles nicely along the revered North Third Street downtown. Like a refreshing breeze off the Mississippi River just a few blocks away, the latest crop of food and beverage establishments is most certainly a welcome sight for downtown. With new offerings, inventive menus, passionate chefs, friendly bars and live music, it is safe to say Third Street is experiencing a new era. Here is a look at some of the new spots worth checking out:
Underneath The Office at 421 N. Third Street is an open and inviting dining venue with a patchwork wooden interior called Restaurant IPO. Chef Chris Wadsworth saw that tapas, or Spanish-style small plates, are hot right now, but he wanted to do them a little differently. Restaurant IPO takes diners on a world tour while still using familiar Louisiana ingredients. The small plates menu includes dishes like Bayou Eggs, which are deviled and topped with a fried oyster, a Roasted Duck Crepe and a few twists on traditional favorites like the redfish-filled Pequeno Tacos. The bar has a nice wine list as well as eight beer taps, most of which support local and craft beer.
Downtown patrons also have a new wine bar to enjoy. Blend Wine Bar, which opened in early June, is located on Laurel at Third Street (304 Laurel Street) in the previous home of The Wine Loft. The space now has a brighter ambiance while retaining its upscale atmosphere. Blend offers an extensive wine list from boutique wineries. Most are available by the bottle, but the by-the-glass menu features around 20 wines that rotate and change on a bi-weekly basis. The bar menu from Chef Eric Sibley may be even more impressive than the wine list—bits (bar snacks), ?fromage (cheese), and charcuterie (cured meats) get the list started along with the trendy small plates and chocolate-centric desserts. The Crispy Pork Belly is one of the highlights of Blend's small plates menu along with the Beef Short Rib and Butter-poached Shrimp.
A venue called City Bar boastfully declares itself a “World Famous Saloon” in the Acadiana town of Maurice. It has been around since 1927 and certainly has accumulated some stories since they poured their first beverage. The City Bar location in Lafayette is one of the Hub City's favorite downtown hotspots, winning The Times of Acadiana's “Best Bar” award for seven years running. Baton Rouge will soon have a City Bar of our own as they find a new home on Third Street. The downtown Red Stick version is in the old Avoyelles Café spot at 333 N. Third Street and brings drinks, music and more to our expanding downtown offerings.
Others in the works:
As of press time, a new restaurant is in the works in the parking garage on Third and Convention, as well as one in the old China House and Dragon Café building at 431 N. Third Street. Whatever your tastes or your scene may be, it seems like now, more than ever, Third Street is fulfilling its role as downtown's entertainment district.
Jay D. Ducote is the author of the food and beverage blog Bite and Booze, host of the Bite and Booze Radio Show and co-host of Raise a Glass. You can find him online at biteandbooze.com.
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Bad Guys, Good Eats! Pop-Up Dinner at Restaurant IPO
Chef and 225 contributor Jay D. Ducote and Chef Chris Wadsworth hosted the Bad Guys, Good Eats! dinner at Restaurant IPO Wednesday night. The dinner was themed around famous movie villains, pairing cocktails and ales with plates of food resembling famous baddies like The Joker, Lord Voldemort, Hannibal Lector, and many others. The highlights of the night were the three middle courses—a black bean soup laced with blood sausage to signify Lord Voldemort, a brace of coneys on black eyed peas resembling Sauron, and lamb medallions atop a fava bean puree to pay homage to the famous favorite of Hannibal Lector.
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