I’m a Katrina evacuee born and raised in New Orleans. I first moved to Baton Rouge at age 16, and best believe it was a culture shock; I head never heard of Walmart closing before midnight, much less Walgreens closing at all. But from 2013 to 2015, the Red Stick had become a hotbed for techies, foodies, artists and young professionals.
I spent quite some time hating the city with a passion. However, after moving back to Baton Rouge from Atlanta due to unfortunate circumstances, I felt compelled to give Istrouma a fair shot. For all that I saw, learned and discovered, I knew that I had to document it in some way–combined with my interest in journalism–thus ‘Javan Does Baton Rouge’ was born.
This video and blog series highlighted some of my favorite places in and around the capital area, receiving praise from some of the owners.
Ep. 1 – Michael Foster Presents Red Beans & Rice Mondays
The web series debuted with Red Beans & Rice Mondays presented by the Michael Foster Project, a weekly after-work performance and jam session at the now-shuttered Roux House. Learn more about the timeless Louisiana tradition here.
Ep. 2 – Chicken Shack
Chicken Shack is an institution launched by the Delpit family of Baton Rouge. Far from a personal favorite, this was the first episode to be featured on MyScene TV, and also led to a phone call with a member of the family.
Ep. 3 – Toodaloo Shrimp
Sometimes after class, I would buy a pound of boiled shrimp and back my truck into lot 707 at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino parking garage. That was my springtime getaway, enjoying the breeze while overlooking downtown. In this video, I compared the boiled shrimp from LTK and Tony’s, the premier seafood markets in the Capital City.
Ep. 4 – CC’d: Coffee House
By this point, I had adopted the moniker, “Shop local, by local, be local.” The downtown location of CC’s Coffee House is now The Big Squeezy juicery. But in this video, I turned to them for a local alternative to my favorite Vanilla Bean Creme Frappuccino from Starbucks.
Ep. 5 – Reflections of the Season
Christmas in the Oaks was a massive holiday display at City Park back home in New Orleans, later renamed Celebration in the Oaks for its inclusion of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. My family always took the driving tour through the lights and displays, but it was all ruined after Hurricane Katrina, never to be restored due to the costs of the underground equipment.
In 2013, I learned about Reflections of the Season, the yearly driving tour and festival at the West Baton Rouge Convention & Visitors Bureau in Port Allen, LA. It was a yearly tradition for me until I moved to Houston five years later. The event has since been replaced with the Westside Christmas Fest.
VIEW THE ORIGINAL ‘JAVAN DOES BATON ROUGE’ BLOGS BELOW.
Highland Road Park Observatory/International Astronomy Day
“I’ve been deeply interested in astronomy and a devout follower of the defunct Space Shuttle program ever since I was a little kid in the mid-1990s. With that in mind, an ad for the International Astronomy Day, or IAD, last year at my job brought my attention here. IAD is an evening-long event beginning around 3:00pm locally with food, music, cake, and locally- and space-related games, rides and activities for kids who are also in attendance. Scheduled viewings from the stationary telescopes allow visitors to observe the craters of the moon in a way that no high-resolution picture can depict.” Read more.
Quarters – Endless Entertainment
“They have bowling, I think pool tables, an arcade and they have the, uh, the laser tag, too.” Where is it? “On Coursey and Sherwood [Forest].” Wait, what?? That empty grocery store building that’s been blank for as long as I’ve been here? Has it really been that long since I’ve driven past that area, because I could have sworn that building was still empty. This was back in March and I was clearly far out of the loop. My coworker hadn’t been there yet, but she heard about it through the grapevine. Knowing this, best believe I looked it up as soon as I got home from work that night, and by the pictures alone, Quarters reminded me of those venues you see in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles or even New York!” Read more.
“I did want my ribs, as the ten year-old taste never left my mouth. But at the same time, I hadn’t had brisket since 2002; I ordered the ribs and brisket combo as well, with a Dr. Pepper. For the sides, Alesha was promoting the collard greens pretty hard, but my grandmother didn’t want that. With my mind already made up, I ordered them myself, along with steamed broccoli. After our orders were taken, I pointed out to my eldest goddaughter that the servers learned to write their names upside down, made evident by Alesha’s cursive on the paper.” Read more.
The Gilded Lily
“The Gilded Lily has two large display windows on front, filled with porcelain dolls, jewelry, china, and paintings and beyond. This was only a tease of what the entire store had to offer. From that point, I didn’t know what to get! I remember the store having a staff of at least six women, with some helping customers and others crafting the jewelry. Yes, most of what The Gilded Lily sells is custom, handmade and tailored to you, a.k.a. ‘gilding the lily.’” Read more.