Dig Baton Rouge

Keeping It Local

By Claire Salinas

Restaurant Week is a chance for Baton Rouge residents to try dishes they’ve never tried before for a reduced price, all for the sake of charity.

“There’s a trend of quality meat, bought locally, and local vegetables being sourced out from local farms. Living off slow food has become more popular.”

It’s also a chance for the restaurants to show off the city’s culinary variety.

A preset price is offered for the three course meals being offered at all participating restaurants, with many offering preset menus.

Leroy’s Kitchen is known as a place where you can get Southern comfort food and a meal that tastes like it was cooked by your grandma.

Manager Eric Chellman says that Leroy’s specialty is serving “things that I remember my grandmother would have served, and the things of yesterday is kind of what we do. We make Southern comfort food and that’s what sets us apart.”

The customers at Leroy’s rave about the high quality burgers served there.

“A lot of times when you get a hamburger you get a trimming from the loin or part of the underbelly,” Chellman said, “but ours is basically a steakburger, so it’s the trimmings from a tenderloin.  They seem to have more flavor than most hamburgers.”

It’s not just about the quality of the food, however, but it’s location. Chellman feels like there is a growing trend in Baton Rouge of incorporating a farm to table concept that includes more local products into the menu.

“There’s a trend of quality meat, bought locally, and local vegetables being sourced out from local farms. Living off slow food has become more popular.”

Zorba’s Greek Bistro is a family owned restaurant run by owners of Greek descent who are finding creative ways to bring the Greek cuisine to Baton Rouge.

Polina Economide is one of the owners of Zorba’s and finds the Baton Rouge food culture intriguing.

“It’s one of the most interesting cultures in the U.S., it’s very diverse and it brings so much to the people here in Baton Rouge. There’s a lot of things to experience here. We are Greeks ourselves so we know the culture and the food and everything. We contribute greatly into the culinary culture here.”

Economide has found that recently Baton Rouge residents have been a lot more open to trying new dishes.

“I think people are very open to trying different things, much more than before. I know lamb is really big, even more than before, so people are really open to that. People are more ready to experience new flavors.”

Economide feels like Restaurant Week is a chance for Baton Rouge residents to experience all that Baton Rouge has to offer.

“It gives people the chance to experience and enjoy the whole week. It’s a great opportunity for restaurants to show appreciation to their customers by offering them something special, that’s why we do it.”

Portobello’s Grill is a family owned restaurant that has been part of the Baton Rouge community since 1996.

According to general manager of the George O’Neal Road location, Jeremy Braud, Portobello’s considers itself “an Italian restaurant with Louisiana flair.”

Portobello’s, which uses approximately 75 locally grown products, serves a New Orleans style shrimp and grits that uses lots of local products.

“The shrimp is from the Gulf and the grits come from Bonocaze Farms where they make Popa Tom’s grits,” said Braud.

Portobello’s owner, Kiva Guidroz, followed in the footsteps of his father, who also owned a restaurant.

Guidroz is very interested in giving local residents a chance to showcase their talents with local, Jake Brady, doing the artwork for both Baton Rouge Portobello’s locations.

“We pride ourselves on being that local restaurant that’s been in the Baton Rouge area since 1996. We have stayed true to our roots as an Italian restaurant with Louisiana flair. We pride ourselves in knowing our customers’ names.”

Braud teased an item on the Restaurant Week menu that people will have to visit Portobello’s to find out about but that incorporates items from the area.

“On our Restaurant Week menu we’re using a dish that uses a lot of local products.”

Tallulah Crafted Food & Wine Bar is described by manager Ally Kolb as having a casual upscale vibe.

Located on the first floor of the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, Tallulah is a hidden gem that uses takes traditional Louisiana dishes and puts a new twist on them.

“We actually just rolled out a new menu last week,” Kolb said. “We’re very excited about it because our whole kitchen staff contributed to the new menu.”

The new menu at Tallulah lines up perfectly with what seems to be a solid trend throughout all of Baton Rouge: local products.

“We’re doing a lot of things on our new menu where we use a lot of local products. We use Chappepeella Farms for some of our products. We definitely utilize locally made cane syrup as a sweetener in a lot of our dishes.

“We try to do something indigenous to the area,” she added. “It’s about taking something you know and making it a little bit different.”

Restaurant Week runs from July 14-19, and the menus for each participating restaurant can be found online at eatbr.com

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