It is very easy to see why faculty and students from LSU would be drawn to Restaurant IPO, not to mention the movers and shakers in and around Louisiana’s State Capitol. But, I have it on good authority that a couple of Baby Boomers from Alabama recently found it to have amazingly creative and flavorful food, too.
Located at 421 Third Street in Baton Rouge, the interior is both rustic and modern with lots of wood, brick, concrete, artwork and mirrors. Even the ceiling and furniture are skillfully crafted out of wood in various colors.
Restaurant IPO is closed on Sundays and Mondays. It opens for lunch from 11-2 Tuesdays through Fridays with popular $10 lunch specials. Each day a different Southern and/or Louisiana specialty is offered. If you go on Tuesday, you’re likely to find red beans and rice, while Friday you might see fried catfish and crawfish etouffee. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Saturdays beginning at 5:00 p.m. and going “till.” That menu runs the gamut from burgers and sandwiches to unique large plates like Seared Tuna with orange ponzu, Abita BBQ Shrimp with smoked gouda grits or even Roasted Duck Breast with kimchi and ginger sweet potato mash.
The bar is small and located in the back. A new drink menu is set to be unveiled soon, but when we visited there were such intriguing choices as pomegranate cucumber basil martinis, strawberry mojitos, and pear ginger martinis.
Executive Chef and partner Scott Varnedoe and his Sous Chef Mike Sims utilize locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible to stir the imaginations and tastebuds of diners with dishes that are both innovative and mouthwatering. My husband and I chose to have a dinner of tantalizing starters and heavenly desserts. Two tapas were on the menu, and two others were part of that week’s experiments by the chefs. All four got our high reviews.
To get our tastebuds primed, a small bucket of bacon cajun caramel popcorn appeared at the table. Who knew sugary and meaty flavors could combine so well?
Next came bacon-wrapped stuffed dates with chorizo sausage, mole and cilantro aioli, a mayonnaise seasoned with garlic. The taste was smoky and sweet.
Duck poppers with jalapenos, cream cheese, tasso, apple bacon, and bacon peach pepper jelly appeared second. This had a great kick to it.
Sous Chef Sims brought out hogshead cheese made in-house with sage creole mustard, lemon pickled red mustard seeds and micro beets. He described the long, deliberate two-day process involved in making this cheese which has nothing to do with dairy products. If you’re squeamish, don’t ask, but I can testify that the end result is delicious. Hogshead cheese is mostly found in France, but right in downtown Baton Rouge we got to try this special concoction. Sims suggested, “It would be great paired with a good Chardonnay.”
The final appetizer was tea-braised pork belly that had been cooked for sixteen hours and was truly soft and tender. It was served on a bed of tangy kumquat jelly with a pork jerky salad topped with orange segments. A very unusual but delectable dish.
After that display of inventive tapas, it was time for dessert! We shared two sweets. The chocolate mousse was layered with whipped cream and finely-crushed chocolate cookie crumbs. Restaurant IPO’s version of bread pudding was caramelized with a light crunch on the outside and a soft spicy middle. It was topped with cinnamon whipped cream. When I asked what had created the outside crunch, Chef Mike described a sweet potato breading that was then deep-fried. There are many kinds of bread pudding in Louisiana. This one was exceptional!!
I asked Chef Varnedoe how the restaurant got its name. He said that there used to be a bar upstairs called The Office, so they decided to continue the business theme. “I always say it (IPO) stands for Intentional Public Offering,” he added. Restaurant IPO opened four years ago, and already plans for expansion are on the drawing table. Currently, they have a large catering venue upstairs with a nice balcony overlooking the Mississippi River. Varnedoe and Sims also cater for outside events.
Are you looking for an extraordinary lunch or dinner?
Do you enjoy a memorable cuisine that is uncommonly good?
I believe you will find much to tempt you at Restaurant IPO in Baton Rouge.