By: Angelina Valuri and Prof. Jeff Brooks.
There is no denying the fact we both have a soft spot in our hearts for an easy, breezy, and delicious Sunday brunch. The beautiful fall weather this month here in Baton Rouge encouraged us to go exploring for a new restaurant. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t have to travel far! It’s a good thing we were paying attention because if we blinked too long, we would have driven right by Table Kitchen & Bar located in the Southdowns Shopping Center. (4205 Perkins Rd. 225-239-7799)
Table Kitchen & Bar is a locally-owned restaurant that takes a farm-to-table culinary approach in an upscale, yet casual environment. The restaurant provides a unique and creative collaboration of food products that showcase regional offerings and seasonal local resources. Not only are local produce and meat delivered to the restaurant every week, but each item is personally selected by the executive chef, Curtis Froelich. It also has a full bar with eclectic wine and handcrafted cocktails. Patio seating is available, weather permitting.
As a reminder, every month Professor Brooks and I, along with a rotating “mystery diner” guest will order three separate lunch/brunch dishes from restaurants that are not only affordable, but are also a little bit off the beaten path. All restaurants will receive an overall rating between 1-5 gavels, with 1 gavel rating being “poor” and a 5 gavels rating being “excellent.”
Review from Angelina Valuri
As soon as I stepped into Table Kitchen & Bar, I immediately knew I was in the right place for a chic and modern brunch. We were welcomed warmly by a friendly hostess and right off the bat, this place was speaking my brunch “love language.” The aesthetic of the restaurant has a contemporary flair, and at noon, it wasn’t overly crowded. Plenty of seating was available, and we all agreed on a table that allowed us to enjoy the natural light flowing inside from the autumn sun. I intrinsically knew the cuisine was going to be innovative and classic. As I scoped out
my surroundings some more, I decided the vibe was laid-back, but let’s just say I was happy that I was having a quasi-good hair day.
A quick glance of the drink menu led me to order a New Orleans brunch classic, a Brandy Milk Punch ($8). Like most sugary drinks, the taste of alcohol (in this case, brandy) was cleverly masked by the overall sweetness of the drink. The combination of brandy, milk, sugar, and nutmeg was chilled over ice, and I was pleased with not only the taste, but also the size of my cocktail. Additionally, I learned from our talkative waitress that all of the lemon, lime, and sour mixes used in Table’s cocktails are mixed and squeezed in-house, on a daily basis. What a nice touch!
Several items on the “Scraps” (Table speak for appetizers) portion of Table’s menu jumped out at us, and we finally narrowed it down to three selections. Because I MUST order deviled eggs every time I see them on a menu, I was the first to “lay down the gavel” when it came time to order. I promptly ordered the Deviled Eggs ($7) to start, with Professor Brooks and our “Mystery Diner” choosing the Monkey Bread ($7) and the Table Better Cheddar ($8). Our waitress reassured us we had all made great choices.
Our first course came out promptly. I couldn’t help but notice our waitress’s initial pleasant attitude had morphed into straight up enthusiasm as she set our selections down in front of us! It always makes me smile when I see people who enjoy their job, and I couldn’t wait to try everything. The table favorite BY FAR was the Table Better Cheddar. Although the dish was nothing more than marinated extra sharp Tillamook Cheddar spread with a selection of crispy table crackers, it was addictive. If you are a fan of pimento cheese, this is a dish you must try. The cheese was rich and the crackers served as a satisfying vessel to get the cheese spread from Point A (the plate) to Point B (your mouth).
The flight of deviled eggs were somewhat disappointing to me. Although the smoked paprika and table bacon were tasty accoutrements to the eggs, I did not care for the sweet pickle relish, which in my opinion, took away from the savory taste. I also thought the dish lacked salt.
Our table’s unanimous least favorite item was the Monkey Bread. It was dry, overly sweet and, quite frankly, tasted like Bisquick. Although the presentation of the dish in a little iron skillet was cute, attempting to eat it caused me to completely empty my water glass. I will not “monkey” around and order this dish the next time around. (See what I did there?)
Any minor disappointment I had with our first course was overshadowed by my entrée choice, the Creole Tomato and Squash Frittata ($14). Similar to the Monkey Bread, it too was served in a cast iron skillet, and it consisted of a wonderful combination of eggs, creole tomatoes, squash, farmhouse cheddar, fresh arugula, and purple rice purloo. Yes, you read that correctly, I said purple rice purloo. Trust me, I didn’t know what it was either before I tasted it, but let’s just say it made the entire dish. All of the ingredients tasted extremely fresh (Hello…farm-to-table!) and were seasoned to perfection. The frittata came with a homemade English muffin with homemade butter/fruit preserves on the side. Let’s just say I destroyed the entire thing, and before anyone at the table could ask for a bite, I was sitting there staring at an empty plate. #Sorrynotsorry.
Overall, the ambiance at Table was hip, the experience was fun, delicious, unexpected, and the service was second to none. The prices were not cheap, but they weren’t ridiculous either. I can’t wait to pull up a chair at Table the next time I have friends in town for the weekend or I just want to kick back and 3LOL, which will probably be every weekend from now through May 2016.
Verdict: 4 Gavels!
Review from Professor Jeff Brooks
Table Kitchen & Bar has a welcoming, friendly air to it, which is only enhanced by its rustic, farmer’s kitchen aesthetic. We chose to sit indoors, although the restaurant boasts an inviting covered outdoor patio seating area. We arrived a little after noon, and were immediately greeted and seated. The restaurant was by no means full, and we had our choice of tables. Once seated, our friendly, and extraordinarily knowledgeable server walked us through Table’s food ethos (local and seasonal) and made a few menu recommendations. She also was very prompt with the delivery of our beverages; my vodka gimlet ($8) was perfectly mixed and a cool, refreshing way to get over the summer heat. Table’s menu is diverse and impressive; a really tempting mix of Louisiana standards and brunch classics. We quickly settled upon three appetizers (in service to our readers); a deliciously creamy and tangy spreadable cheddar cheese with perfectly salty table crackers ($8 and a unanimous favorite), a flight of deviled eggs ($7), made with pickle and topped with crumbled bacon and smoked paprika, and “monkey bread”. The “monkey bread” ($7) was a bit of a misnomer, as we three all expected a gooey, caramel mess of bread and roasted nuts, while Table’s (still tasty, if a bit dry) version was more like a set of small biscuits cooked in a skillet and topped with caramel.
For my entrée, I settled upon Buckwheat Pancakes ($14) – brunch to me is all about the carbs. Closer to crepes, the two perfectly fluffy pancakes I was served were massive. Accompanied by apricot preserves, wild blueberries, cane syrup, and clotted cream, I got to customize every single bite I took, and every bite was excellent. My only complaint (and it is a truly minor complaint) is that the pancakes came with one rather lonely piece of (delicious) sausage. We as a table realized, a bit belatedly, that brunch is nothing without coffee, and again Table did not disappoint. Rather than kitchen-brewed coffee, Table provides guests with their own French press, so that you can choose how long to steep your coffee and how strong you want it to be. Our server was that rare balance of helpful, pleasant, and attentive when needed, and we never lacked for a single thing. I have never so thoroughly enjoyed a brunching experience in Baton Rouge.
Verdict: 5 Gavels!
Table seems to revolve around the bacon. From our deviled eggs for the appetizer to my classic Eggs Benedict ($20), the bacon at Table seriously pulled all of the flavors together and gave each dish the perfect dash of salt. Though the monkey bread (which was bacon-less) was less sweet than I am used to, the dough had enough flavor on its own to make up for its lack of sweetness, which allowed me to eat more of it without being overpowered by richness. I know I keep going back to the bacon, but it perfectly balanced the yolks of the poached eggs in my Benedict without overpowering the accompanying (and quite decadently rich) herbed-hollandaise sauce. The bacon also helped me forget, as I sopped up every last bit of that sauce, that hollandaise sauce is not, in fact, a healthy alternative to water.
My cocktail (French 75, $8) was good, too. Even though it didn’t have bacon in it.
Verdict: 4.5 Gavels!