Garden & Gun, April/May 2013

“I’ve lost my orientation. Where are we?” my travel companion asks as we stumble in search of an afternoon libation and snack. Though I’ve passed through this city countless times, and even twice briefly called it home, I can’t point with certitude in any general direction. I have always found Baton Rouge to be geographically and culturally unorientable, with a river lined by casinos and industry, a farrago of congested highways, infamously corrupt government, and a massive university plunked in its midst.

Ask most Louisianans what to do in Baton Rouge and your question will most likely be met with a shrug. (Football game at LSU’s Tiger Stadium? Lobby for the oil and gas industry?) Ask them for a restaurant recommendation and you’ll most likely receive a laugh. A barkeep friend recently responded to this query with: “You know what Ignatius Reilly said in A Confederacy of Dunces, don’t you?” He did not have to remind me—New Orleanians, including me, love to spout author John Kennedy Toole’s punch lines: Baton Rouge is “the whirlpool of despair” and, if that was not cruel enough, “the inner station of the ultimate horror.”

Sandwiched between Lafayette and New Orleans, the twin capitals of Cajun and Creole cuisine, Louisiana’s capital has never held the same allure for visitors, especially when it comes to exemplary eating. But today, an hour’s drive from these more celebrated destinations will bring you to a new and rapidly evolving food-and-drink scene—one even the temperamental Toole might appreciate.

Since Hurricane Katrina’s community-scattering winds, Baton Rouge has witnessed large numbers of formerly itinerant, culinary-minded young professionals root themselves in this city rather than New Orleans. And these chefs, farmers, and other entrepreneurs are redistricting the city’s gastronomic map.

To read more, click here.