A hundred people can tell you a hundred different ways to make a Bloody Mary. Or at least that’s the case in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The famous watering holes hereabout swear by their somehow secret recipe while others gladly call out the ingredient that makes their Bloody Mary superior. Most of us line up some vodka, store-bought mix, a lime, some celery, maybe some spicy seasoning and call it done deal. Still there are those who like a touch more and bring out the beef consommé, Worcestershire Sauce, pickled okra or string beans, olives, and a dash of lemon. Whatever the secret or special ingredient, most times the Bloody Mary served in south Louisiana is a mouthful of good.
Sunday in Baton Rouge was an afternoon of sublime weather with the freedom to squander hours on a breezy, sun-dappled patio, a setting almost incomplete without a Bloody Mary or two. No fancy cocktail recipe around here, but instead an uncomplicated mix of vodka, Tabasco Bloody Mary mix, a squeeze of lime, another of lemon, a dash of Cajun seasoning and a stalk of celery in a tall glass brimming with ice. Our back porch patio Bloody Mary wouldn’t make the grade at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in the French Quarter, maybe not at the Palace Café, but for the locals on R’s patio the mix is Triple AAA.
Someone started whispering about oysters on the half shell and our designated driver-chauffeur piled us in the car for a drive to The Chimes, a popular eatery with two locations in town, one of them not far from Goodwood. Before long we sat crowded around a table piled with raw oysters, seafood gumbo, crab stuffed shrimp and a platter of red beans and rice. Here in Louisiana the table always ends up overflowing with food, all of it a heavenly blend of flavors that have made the state famous.
The Chimes has found its niche in Baton Rouge, taking over a drugstore and clothing store just off the campus of Louisiana State University in 1983, soon expanding into the old Varsity movie theater. Live music is offered two or three nights a week, a big draw for the crowd of LSU students, but the food is no less an attraction for many locals. Since opening the original restaurant the owners have expanded with another Chimes in east Baton Rouge and one more in Covington, an hour and a half away.
For many in Louisiana football is a big part of life between late August and January, and The Chimes has become one of the places where LSU fans like to gather for games on TV. Popularity of the game is embodied in a handsome painting of old-style football on one wall of the restaurant.