New Orleans is a lovely town to visit, but Baton Rouge has its charms as well. Further up the river, the state capital is not as lurid or exciting, but for a chunk of American suburbia it has its own character and plenty of things to do. In fact, during this visit we didn’t even go to New Orleans at all, and still had a great time. Here are some highlights- not exactly hifalutin’, but lots of fun!
The Big-Ass Bass Pro Shop
Next time I come down here I am fishing. Between this humongous fishing mecca and the Swamp Tour I went on, I need to catch me some Louisiana bass and try for alligator gar. They have some in the tanks in the shop, along with ducks and alligator snapping turtles. They also have a seafood restaurant- we’ll have to try that next time. I wonder if the small lake outside is stocked with that night’s specials?
Here and Houston are your only chances for some excellent Tex Mex at Ninfa’s. Up north we only have chains and franchises for it, or genuine Mexican like at Acapulco Caliente uptown, which makes some kickass burritos, mind you. Ninfa’s does the classics right- tasty without being too greasy or heavy, and the usual mass of combinations that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. I had a taco, enchilada and some pork fajitas all in one. Their margaritas come in beer mugs so it’s a sane portion. I like getting drunk as much as the next guy, but I don’t need a 1500 calorie drink with my fried beans, thanks. Ninfa’s may not knock your socks off but they are reliable and consistent.
Rat Fink’z Snoballz
Sno-balls are sort of between what we northerners call sno-cones, or Hawaiians call shave ice. We stopped at this little hut in Denham Springs on the way back from tubing down the Amite, to cool off. They are incredibly sweet, satisfying the diabetic Southern sweet tooth with ease. But the sheer infinity of flavors available are worth writing home about.
Firecracker’s parents took us here for dinner, and it was fantastic. It’s a mildly upscale seafood restaurant full of surprises. I had the black drum beurre blanc topped with softshell crawfish, and a caesar salad topped with tasty fried oysters. It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in a long time. I didn’t even know you could eat soft shell crawfish, but they are delicious- crispy and not mushy at all, with the firm tail meat inside and the juicy head all crisped up for you. Definitely worth a visit for classic Southern cuisine Louisiana style.
Last time we visited the Chimes by LSU, and I still prefer that location. Chimes East has a good beer selection as well, but the set-up makes it feel like a typical bar, similar to a TGIFriday’s or something. I had a dozen oysters here and the gals had cheese fries. All good, but it was just too… bright! The other Chimes feels cozier, and the line of taps before you is awe-inspiring. If you visit, go to the LSU one.
I want to give CC their own post sometime. They really make the best coffee I’ve ever had at a franchise, the smoothest, most flavorful brew. I had an iced coffee almost daily. Louisiana iced coffee is make like tea- you soak the grounds for 12 hours, using a dark roast, in water and then strain it. This makes a concentrate, so adding ice doesn’t make piss-water. And it has the potent coffee flavor of a good coffee ice cream. I didn’t even need sugar. Just some skim, and this refreshing beverage kept me cool in the 100+ degree heat we suffered the whole time. Their Mochasippi drinks are delicious too, and their standard brew- I prefer Between Roast- is some of the smoothest coffee you’ll find. They are online if you want to order, and they are on twitter if you have questions.
Firecracker wanted to go tubing, so we went to Tiki Tubing in Denham Springs. For $56 we got two comfy tubes with backrests, floats for our ice chest, and some ziploc bags for our keys. They drop you off in a school bus upriver, and it takes you about 4 hours to float back to where you started, along the Amite. This river floods a lot, but this was during near-drought, so we were fine. Heck, I even caught a catfish barehanded! Okay, it might have been half dead, but the Yankee got some Southern cred. I tried to revive it by pulling it backward in the water to force water in its gills, but I think he’s turtle food now. I’m pretty sure I stepped on a turtle, too. Or a human skull.
The tubing was the most memorable part of the trip, not only because we got second degree sunburn- Bullfrog SPF36 waterproof for 8 hours? more like BULLSHIT!– but because it was so relaxing and chill. There must have been a few hundred of us, and there was only one arrest for fighting- not bad for hundreds of drunken young people. The weather was gorgeous and the water was nice and warm, and only over neck deep in a few spots. Muddy as hell, but when I dropped my Revo sunglasses, I got lucky and stepped on them without breaking them somehow. Otherwise Sunglass Hut would be richer. I’m a sucker for polarized lenses and my Maui Jims got smashed. RIP.
The only downer of tubing is that you can’t bring glass bottles, so most of the good beers are out. We couldn’t find Pork Slap, and Guinness is tough to drink out of the can with that widget moneyshotting you in the face. We settled on Heinken- fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!– since Abita is only bottled so far. We also had sandwiches and some snacks. I wonder if you can go fishing while tubing? Or noodling. I recently heard of a tubing run down the Delaware, where there’s a hot dog boat- so next year I hope to try it.
We hit Jay’s on the way to Louis Armstrong airport; they’re homemade, and famous for King Cakes around Mardi Gras time. They made one of the best apple fritters I’ve ever had, and the chocolate glazed man- which had disturbing implications- was delicious. Coffee’s ok, too bad there’s no CC’s next door! Definitely worth a try if you have a sweet tooth, and better than Krispy Kreme.
So that was our Baton Rouge adventure- at least what I can remember. I posted about the Swamp Tour and our visit to Abita Brewery earlier (click on the Louisiana tag below, to find them). So if you go their for business or pleasure, there’s plenty to do without driving down to Bourbon Street. Vive la red stick!