Baton Rouge has only recently found its trendier culinary side, but it has always had its fair share of iconic dishes—items that residents showcase to out-of-town guests and that expatriates seek out when they visit home. For a restaurant, such a dish can help solidify the brand, hook new diners and keep established ones coming back.
The dish: Cream of brie and crabmeat soup
The place: Mansurs on the Boulevard and French Market Bistro
The price: $7.49 per cup
Total served: More than 100,000 gallons since 1989
The backstory: In 1989, Mansurs on the Boulevard co-owner Tim Kringlie confected a decadent new soup that combined brie—then a hot culinary trend—and fresh Louisiana blue crabmeat. The dish was big hit. It earned praise in national food magazines and won multiple awards. Kringlie and business partner Justin McDonald added the cream of brie and crabmeat soup to the menu of their French Market Bistro in 1996. McDonald says its remains one of the restaurants’ most popular items.
The dish: Buttermilk biscuits
The place: Frank’s Restaurant
Price: $1.89 for two biscuits
Total served: 10,836,000 since 1972
The backstory: In 1972, Frank Dedman Sr. converted his drive-in burger spot, the Blue Bird, to a breakfast-centric eatery he renamed Frank’s. Dedman saw a bright future in the country breakfast business and wanted the perfect biscuit to lure patrons. It took him months to refine, but once he got it right, Frank’s biscuits sold like mad. Demand has gotten so high (700 biscuits daily at the two Frank’s locations), that Frank Dedman Jr. and Frank Dedman III created a dry mix. It’s made in bulk by an offsite manufacturer and helps make their process more efficient.
The dish: Fish Katie
The place: Ruffino’s Restaurant
The price: $34.95
Total served: 111,476 since 1999
The backstory: Chef Peter Sclafani brought Fish Katie to the menu when Ruffino’s first opened in Baton Rouge 16 years ago. The dish—redfish topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and Creole meunière sauce—had been a standard at Sclafani’s, the New Orleans restaurant the chef’s father and grandfather once ran. It was exactly the kind of fare that fit Baton Rouge palates, and it is still a favorite on Ruffino’s menu, Sclafani says.
The dish: Hallelujah Crab
The place: Juban’s Restaurant
The price: $29
Total served: About 1.3 million since 1983
The backstory: The Hallelujah Crab is one of Baton Rouge’s most iconic dishes and a longstanding bestseller at Juban’s. Seventy-five percent of the restaurant’s business Monday through Thursday comprises of out-of-towners and most order Hallelujah Crab, or Fish Adrian, thanks to word-of-mouth chatter and social media buzz, says General Manager Scott Callais. Original founder Glenn Juban created the Hallelujah Crab when the restaurant opened in 1983. A deep-fried softshell crab plied with seafood stuffing, it apparently elicited a “hallelujah” from a taste-tester. With a need for at least 41,000 a year, Juban’s sources softshell crabs from multiple Gulf seafood suppliers.
The dish: Boudin Balls
The place: Tony’s Seafood
The price: Cajun $1.60/four; seafood: $2.60/four
Total served: More than 50 million since 1990
The backstory: Tony’s added boudin balls to its expansive deli menu in 1990, and slowly but surely, the seafood market and deli became known for its boudin ball prowess. There are three different kinds on the menu: pork (known as Cajun), shrimp and crab, and crawfish. The deep fried spheres of battered boudin are now a mainstay of both Tony’s deli counter and its catering menu, says Tony’s co-owner Bill Pizzolatto.