Though she grew up in New Orleans, Cara Benson cultivated her pastry skills at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. Homesickness soon kicked in, however, and after a year of working in Lower East Side kitchens, Cara moved back home to take the title of pastry chef at Muriel's Jackson Square. Three years later, Cara can be found in the kitchen of her own eatery, Tartine, where she draws on French culinary influences and her extensive pastry training to bake bread in-house. Ingredients such as onion marmalade, pickled carrots, and steak pistou grace these grains in the form of sandwiches and open-faced tartines, while daily-made bagels and quiche grace plates at breakfast. Meals unfold inside Tartine’s cozy dining room or on the back patio, which doubles as a teatime party locale capable of accommodating 30–45 people.
When Shakespeare imagined a den of witches, he saw them gathered around boiling pots, cackling and talking, casting raw morsels into their cauldrons from the ends of long, sharp sticks. Time revealed his vision to belong to something far less sinister: the bard simply foresaw the fondue restaurant. Today, hundreds of people gather at The Melting Pot’s more than 140 North American locations to cast romantic spells over one another as they share sweets, breads, vegetables, and meats doused in liquid chocolate, melted cheese, or flavored oil. They all wield double-pronged spears—or fondue forks—to suspend the tasty morsels of their choice in the ambrosial liquids before them, which are cleverly heated by stovetops built into each and every table in The Melting Pot's restaurants. The chefs prepare most platters in sizes best shared by two, making the venue ideal for date nights or reunions with twins who left 10 years ago to study the art of fondue.
At The Melting Pot of Baton Rouge, staffers use the restaurant to invest in their community as well. They host charity events, school fundraisers, and even run a program to reward straight-A students with a free fondue dinner.
When Mike Kantrow founded his original sandwich shop in 1979, he thought the name Byron's looked too boring. So, as he explains on his restaurant's website, he scratched the s and added a z to the end, giving birth to both a local legend with the Big Byronz sandwich and a local controversy over how to pronounce "Byronz." "If you want clarification on how to say it," Mike explains, "don't ask me."
While regulars may fight over phonetics, few argue over the flavors infused in Bistro Byronz's southern-styled bistro cuisine. Hearty entrees anchor both the lunch and dinner menus, inviting diners to dig into the roasted potatoes that flank a French-cut pork chop marinated in Abita root beer. Comfort dishes soothe the soul, such as tender pot roast that wades in creole gravy and the signature Byronz sandwich with three types of meat, cheeses, dressing, and black olives.
Chefs at Randazzo’s Family Restaurant drizzle marinara and alfredo sauces on classic Italian pastas and stack fillings such as oyster and soft-shell crab on seafood platters and po' boy buns. Amorous foam fingers slow dance in the glow of several big-screen TVs as waiters plate omelets and other breakfast fare on weekends, and Pac-Man eternally munches his lunch in an attached game room. Randazzo’s catering can also serve up hearty trays of golden appetizers or large pasta pans each capable of serving up to 20 people or five hungry barbershop quartets.
At Bourbon Bistro and Bar, chef Michael Craft, a Baton Rouge native, marries his Cajun roots with his Texan cooking experience to cast a unique spin on the classic bistro. The French influence is hidden within such Cajun dishes as étouffée hash, po' boy sandwiches, and fried catfish. Roasted poblano peppers and regional spices add their kick to the crayfish étouffée and steal the spotlight in the pulled-pork nachos and quesadillas. Each of the chef’s creations is made with fresh, local ingredients and pairs well with the casual eatery's wide selection of bourbon.
Chef Christopher Case fills his stretch of Carey Street with the spicy, sizzling aroma of classic creole cuisine crafted from the region's freshly farmed and fished products. Trained in kitchen disciplines at Johnson & Wales University and the Delgado School of Culinary Arts, chef Case has crafted sauces and comestibles for such notable and demanding diners as Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, and the Cookie Monster. His wealth of experience blends with a lasting love for his hometown's cuisine to showcase surprising, flavorful ingredients such as pompano, venison, and green tomatoes.
The restaurant itself welcomes guests into a cozy atmosphere, where pristine tablecloths provide a white backdrop for plates of colorful delta fare. Mirrors and bright wall sconces add depth and character to the intimate dining area.