UPDATE: Based upon feedback from family members, I have provided additional recommendations for restaurants in the Baton Rouge area. If anyone else out there knows of something that needs to be on this list that I have left off, feel free to let me know about it in the comments.
Today I would like to offer my services as someone who has grown up in Baton Rouge and still has strong knowledge of that city for the benefit of those of you Georgia fans who plan on making the trip for the LSU game next month. Here are my unsolicited recommendations on places to eat, places to stay, and things to do while in the BTR.
By Air: Delta offers nonstop service to Baton Rouge. Northwest also offers service to Baton Rouge, with the obligatory stopover in Memphis. American and Continental also offer service to Baton Rouge, if you don’t mind going through Dallas or Houston.
From the Baton Rouge airport, head south on Veterans Memorial Blvd until it ends at Harding Blvd. Turn right on Harding and go under I-110, then get onto I-110 south. (The ramp goes off to the right.) Stay on I-110 south; this will take you to downtown Baton Rouge. After this, you’re on your own as far as finding your hotel.
By car: There are two ways to go.
Option 1: Take I-85 south to Montgomery, I-65 south to Mobile, and I-10 west to Slidell, LA.
Option 2: Take I-20 west to Birmingham, I-20 west / I-59 south to Meridian, MS, and I-59 south to Slidell, LA.
From Slidell, take I-12 west to Baton Rouge. Then merge onto I-10 west and that will take you to downtown Baton Rouge. From here, you’re on your own as far as finding your hotel.
WHERE TO STAY: Sorry, I can’t be much help here. I have family in Baton Rouge and I stay with them whenever I go down there, so I have minimal knowledge of the hotel scene in Baton Rouge. There is a Hilton in downtown and I hear it’s really nice. Downtown Baton Rouge has some things to do and it is convenient to LSU.
If you can’t get into the Hilton downtown or if you just don’t want to be downtown, the College Drive area (Exit 158 on I-10) is another nice area, convenient to LSU and not far from downtown. There is a Holiday Inn, an Embassy Suites, and a couple of other places here. But be warned: College Drive is the Peachtree Road/Windy Hill/Barrett Pkwy/Holcomb Bridge/Jimmy Carter/Steve Reynolds of Baton Rouge. It gets VERY congested during rush hour and other times of the day, so be prepared to deal with this if you decide to stay here.
Beyond that, you’re on your own.
WHAT TO DO:
New Orleans is just an hour’s drive east on I-10. There you have the French Quarter and Bourbon Street (enough said). There are also casinos on the river. For those of you who desire more family-friendly entertainment, check out the Audubon Zoo or the Aquarium of the Americas. Also, you can tour the parts of the city that were most severely affected by Katrina and see it with your own eyes; even three years after the storm there’s still an awful lot to see.
Those of you who are driving may wish to see New Orleans first and plan on spending a night (or two) here before heading up to Baton Rouge for the game. This is easily done; when you get to Slidell (whichever route you take), take I-10 west to New Orleans instead of I-12 to Baton Rouge. Then, after you have seen New Orleans, take I-10 west to Baton Rouge. Those of you who are flying may wish to consider flying into New Orleans and driving up to Baton Rouge for the game.
If you wish to stay in Baton Rouge the whole weekend, there are things to do here too. There are a couple of casinos in the downtown area. Those of you who are into the family-friendly thing may wish to check out the USS Kidd or the LASC Museum, both of which are right next to the river in downtown Baton Rouge. Or you could take a tour of the Old State Capital, or the State Capital.
WHERE TO EAT:
Louisiana has the best seafood on the face of the earth bar none. So make sure that you eat plenty of seafood while you are here, because you will never get anything this good back in Atlanta.
In New Orleans: New Orleans has an overabundance of excellent restaurants to suit virtually any taste and fancy. Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, both located in the French Quarter, are the finest in the city if not the world.
If you’re looking for something a little less fancy, try the Acme Oyster House or Felix’s, both of which are located in the French Quarter and serve excellent fried oyster po-boys. (If you’ve never had one of those before, you need to get one.) Franky and Johnny’s is a place which you must try if you wish to experience the down-home feel of a neighborhood restaurant. It is located quite a ways uptown, on Arabella Street about a block north of Tchoupitoulas. Another good place to try is Mandina’s, which is located on Canal Street at Cortez, about halfway between Carrolton and Jefferson Davis and about a mile west of the French Quarter.
If you’re in the mood for Italian, Eleven Seventy Nine is an excellent place. It is located on Annunciation Street, almost directly under the interstate. Another place that is worth considering is Pascal’s Manale, which is located on Napoleon Avenue at Dryades, about a couple of blocks north of St. Charles Avenue. Their signature dish is “Barbecue Shrimp”, which is really sauteed shrimp cooked with all the butter and garlic in the world. You will need a bib to eat this, and your waiter will actually bring you a paper bib and tie it around your neck before you start eating.
In Baton Rouge: The best seafood places in the Baton Rouge area are Hymel’s and Middendorf’s. These places offer excellent fried seafood, as well as boiled crawfish and crabs in season. At the end of October you may still be able to get boiled crabs if there has not yet been any substantial cold in Louisiana. If boiled crabs are available, you need to get some. Both of these places are way out in the country, but are well worth the drive.
Hymel’s: Take I-10 east to LA 22 at Sorrento (exit 182). Get off and turn right. Go for about 2000 feet and then turn left on LA 70. You will ride on this road for what seems like an eternity, until you see the Sunshine Bridge looming off in the distance. Exit to the right at the last place where you can get off before going over the bridge, but whatever you do, DO NOT go over the bridge!!! Once you exit, the ramp will twist and curve around, cross over some railroad tracks, and finally put you down at the river road. Turn left onto the river road (LA 44) and go for about 4 miles until you see a huge grain elevator thingy crossing over the road toward the river. About a mile past this you will see Hymel’s on the left.
Middendorf’s: Take I-12 east to I-55. Take I-55 south toward New Orleans. Eventually you will get onto a long stretch of elevated freeway crossing over the swamp; ride on this for about 6 miles until you get to Manchac (exit 15). Get off at the Manchac exit and turn left. Go under the interstate and immediately the road you are on will dead-end at the old Highway 51. Turn right and head south for about 2000 feet. Middendorf’s will be on your left, immediately before you cross the bridge.
If you choose to go to either of these places, go early. Both places get very crowded on Friday or Saturday nights, and wait times of up to 2 hours are not unheard of.
If you wish to stay closer to town, there is still good seafood to be had. Acme Oyster House is opening a Baton Rouge location at Perkins Road and Acadian Thruway this fall; they may be open in time for the game. George’s is another good place for fried seafood and po-boys; they are on Perkins Road and have other locations around the city. Mike Anderson’s has been around Baton Rouge forever, and is located very close to LSU. Another good bet is On the Half Shell, which is located on Bluebonnet between Highland and Burbank.
If Italian is your thing, you’re in luck. There are several good Italian restaurants around the Baton Rouge area; among the best of these are Monjuni’s, located at Highland Road and Staring Lane (about 3 miles southeast of LSU on Highland Road), DiGiulio’s, located on Perkins Road at I-10, and Gino’s, located off College Drive near I-10.
If you’re interested in any other genre (Mexican, Chinese, American, etc.), you can get these in Atlanta just as well as you can in Baton Rouge. I will not provide recommendations for these; you’re on your own.