What makes a place worthy of visiting for a special occasion is the way it makes you feel (if you have been there before) and/or your anticipation of the memories you will create there.
Carole Baugnon adorned her intimate, 24-seat restaurant, Creola Cafe in Grand Coteau with European antiques, oil paintings, soft lighting and toile fabric. It feels like an elegant home dining room. Her kitchen is wide open, so she can talk to customers while she cooks.
The 70-something chef has developed a loyal following for her lunches – primarily soups, salads and sandwiches – and for her occasional Saturday evening dinner parties. Baugnon keeps a running list of people interested in attending the events, and when she’s ready to host one, sometimes as often as every other Saturday, she makes calls. Get on this list. The first 22 people who RSVP enjoy a memorable evening, complete with carefully thought-out wine pairings.
Otherwise, she plans her limited menu from day to day, turning out deftly prepared versions of graceful Creole and French-inspired classics like Steak Diane flamed with real brandy and served with creamy twice-baked potatoes. Local catfish is served bronzed from a cast-iron skillet and heaped with sautéed jumbo lump crabmeat. Her ethereal Italian cream cake, the secret to which she will never reveal, is at once dense and light as air.
“By the time people leave they have become my friends,” Baugnon says. “We feel we are celebrating some of life’s most important moments with our customers. Or sometimes it’s just another lunch. But we still want that to be special, memorable.”
Several factors make Roberto’s River Road Restaurant in Sunshine memorable. For starters, the location – it is nearly impossible to find to the extent that it can start to feel like a prank as you drive and drive, seemingly going nowhere – and its appearance when you find it at last. It pretty much screams “dump” from the outside. Located 10 miles or so south of Baton Rouge on the Mississippi River levee in a clapboard building that once bore a coat of white paint, Roberto’s changes the game just as soon as you open the door.
The interior is warm, rustic, inviting and generally packed with regulars who come again and again for fresh takes on Cajun-inspired dishes. The usual steaks and friend seafood are here for sure but skip them unless you become a regular – and you just might. Try instead the namesake Shrimp Roberto with three large specimens stuffed with seafood dressing, wrapped in bacon, fried, and served atop a pool of silky beurre blanc and finished with lemony Hollandaise. The Roasted Duck St. Gabriel features half of a water fowl glazed with a currant and blueberry demi-glace reduction and served with creamy potatoes. The fresh catch of the day is served en papillote – wrapped in parchment paper and baked with fresh herbs, lemon and white wine and topped with hunks of jumbo lump crab meat. Finish the meal with the Malted Chocolate Caramel Pie, and you’ll never forget it.
With the holidays—and houseguests upon us—many who usually skip the first meal of the day will be seeking out places to enjoy breakfast and brunch. For this we love Brick & Spoon for its fresh, affordable, Southern heritage menu (shrimp and grits, beignets, and plump, cornmeal-dusted oysters) and the option of alfresco dining. What throws this place over the top is the choose-your-own-adventure Bloody Mary. Upon arrival you are given a sheet of paper on which to design your own liquid breakfast from 10 spirits and nearly two dozen vegetable garnishes (including pickled and fresh varieties), plus seasonings like habanero Tabasco and soy sauce. Proteins—boiled or grilled shrimp, crisp bacon strips, and seafood deviled eggs round out the offerings. Your creation arrives in a giant chalice.
Brick & Spoon
1895 W. Pinhook Road, Lafayette, (337) 408-3992, brickandspoonsrestaurant.com
284 Martin L. King Road, Grand Coteau, (337) 662-3914
Roberto’s River Road Restaurant
1985 LA-75, Sunshine, (225) 642-5999, robertosrestaurant.net