Best of 225 2012: Dining

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (23%)

Show-stopping terra cotta warriors greet every customer entering P.F. Chang’s China Bistro as they experience the remarkable Chinese-influenced décor, delicious cuisine and atmosphere that makes this year’s category winner stand above the rest. pfchangs.com

Runners up: Ichiban Japanese Grill & Sushi Bar (19.2%), Tsunami (16.1%), Thai Kitchen (9.6%), Sushi Yama (7.6%)

Ambrosia Bakery (51.7%)

This longstanding favorite takes the cake nearly every year of the Best of awards. Sure, you can stop by for coffee or one of their sandwiches, but it’s the huge selection of cakes, pastries, chocolates and other dessert items that satisfy Baton Rougeans’ cravings for sweets. Of course, where would any bakery worth its dough be if it didn’t carry fresh-baked bread as well? Ambrosia serves up unique favorites like Irish soda bread, braided pumpernickel and rye and savory onion rolls. ambrosiabakery.com

Runners-up: Baum’s Fine Pastries (14.4%), Whole Foods Market (12.7%)

Juban’s (14.5%)

Served warm and moist, and topped with an ooey-gooey Grand Marnier and Meyer’s Rum sauce, is it any wonder that Juban’s take on this Southern taste treat is consistently named the cream of the crop? One sinful spoonful will make a believer out of those who doubt this delectable dessert’s irresistible pull. jubans.com

Runners-up: Roberto’s River Road Restaurant (13.7%), Mansurs on the Boulevard (12.4%), The Little Village (11.2%), Louisiana Lagniappe Restaurant (9.9%)

Louie’s Café (22%)

A staple north of the LSU campus for decades, Louie’s does a lot of things well for the most important meal of the day. Known for tasty omelets, pancakes and biscuits, this diner also has a great reputation for mouth-watering hash browns. To keep up with demand, Louie’s chops, seasons and cooks up a full ton of potatoes—about 2,000 of them—each week. louiescafe.com

Runners-up: Another Broken Egg Café (21.6%), Frank’s Smokehouse Restaurant (16.9%), Mason’s Grill (12.9%), The Chimes (6.9%)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (14.4%)

National chain Five Guys tops our local list again, winning over diners with a backyard burger taste and fully customizable toppings. Daily lines out the door at lunchtime attest to this restaurant’s continuing popularity with locals. Meanwhile, old-fashioned burger joint Dearman’s has hung tenaciously to second for the fourth year running, and newcomer Fat Cow Burgers and Salads is a dark horse at third place. fiveguys.com

Runners-up: Dearman’s (12.4%), Fat Cow Burgers and Salads (10.1%), George’s Restaurant (10.1%), Brew-Bacher’s Grill (9.5%)

Louis DeAngelo’s Casual Italian Dining (47.2%)

There is something about the handmade, freshly baked calzones at Louis DeAngelo’s that makes you feel good. With more than 24 innovative calzone creations on the menu, everyone has a favorite. DeAngelo’s has been serving up these delicious pockets of joy filled with quality toppings and the best cheeses since 1991. louisdeangelos.com

Runners-up: Rotolo’s Pizzeria (22.8%), Mellow Mushroom (7.7%)

Louisiana Lagniappe (20.2%)

This is the third consecutive win for Louisiana Lagniappe in this category. And if residents of South Louisiana are voting you the best place in town for Cajun and Creole cooking, that’s got to mean something, right? They’ve got all the classics, like seafood gumbo and crab cakes, all served with a decadent twist and piled high with hearty toppings, like pan-sautéed fish with toasted pecans and a Meuniere sauce. louisianalagniapperestaurant.com

Runners-up: Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant (14.8%), Roberto’s River Road Restaurant (11.6%), Juban’s (10.7%), Sammy’s Grill (7.5%)

Piccadilly (28.8%)

Averaging more than 66,000 square meals in a typical day, Piccadilly offers a variety of delicious, homestyle Southern cuisine and kid-friendly entrees that is sure to please even the pickiest eater. Affordable prices—including a discounted kids’ night–coupled with a comfortable family environment make this restaurant the child- and mom-approved choice of many families since opening in Baton Rouge in 1944. piccadilly.com

Runners-up: Jason’s Deli (14.9%), Sammy’s Grill (14.8%)

Maxwell’s Market (29.5%)

Recently expanded to three locations in South Baton Rouge, Maxwell’s Market earns its win each year with a stocked menu of party trays, prepared entrées and sides and a huge roster of sandwiches. They also offer holiday menus for pick-up so you don’t have to do the work. Maxwell’s even has a celebrity following—Robert Pattinson couldn’t get enough of their Cobb salad when he was filming Twilight in Baton Rouge. Word got around, and managing partner Trent Frierson ended up spilling the recipe to People magazine last year. maxwells-market.com

Runners-up: Jason’s Deli (18.3%), Whole Foods Market (12.2%), Anthony’s Italian Deli (8.9%), Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (8.9%)

Juban’s (15.8%)

There can be little doubt—in Baton Rouge, Juban’s is the byword for the special occasion dinner. Whether it’s celebrating an anniversary or engagement or just wanting to enjoy an evening of true epicurean delight with friends and family while sharing a bottle of wine or two, Juban’s is where our readers overwhelmingly choose to go. Is it the hallelujah crab? The oyster carousel (pictured)? The châteaubriand? The bevy of servers waiting at your elbows, ready to refill your glass and fulfill your every wish? Whatever it is, Juban’s has a winning formula on its hands, and the Red Stick clearly appreciates it. jubans.com

Runners-up: Mansurs on the Boulevard (12.1%), Ruffino’s (11.9%), The Little Village (9.4%), Ruth’s Chris Steak House (9.2%)

Taco de Paco (39.8%)

Food trucks are roaming all over Baton Rouge streets these days, but none is hunted down quite like Taco de Paco. And rightly so. When you’re in the mood for some quick, filling grub after a night out or on a lightning-fast lunch break, Taco de Paco always seems to be around the corner. But even when stuffing your face, the flavorful, unique ingredients give you pause. The Taco de Paco crew is willing to get creative with favorites like the Dat Foo, loaded with pulled pork, hoisin sauce and Thai slaw, and occasional experiments like a sushi taco with seaweed salad and crispy wontons or deconstructed gumbo in a tortilla. tacodepaco.com

Runners-up: Curbside (16%), The Cuban Connection (11.4%)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (16%)

Five Guys proves they’ve got both sides of their equation right, taking top honors in both the Burgers and Fries categories. The process involves soaking farm-fresh Idaho potatoes in cold water overnight before slicing them into thick fingers and frying them to the perfect mix of crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Choose “Cajun Style” for a little extra punch with your lunch. fiveguys.com

Runners-up: McDonald’s (12.6%), Raising Cane’s (11.9%), Capital City Grill (8.7%), Fat Cow Burgers and Salads (8.6%)

Yogurtland (20.9%)

If one national trend can be said to have truly taken hold in Baton Rouge over the past couple of years, the self-serve frozen yogurt bar is certainly it. Among the dozens of fro yo spots that populate our fair city, Yogurtland leads the pack with our readers, serving up flavors from the classic chocolate and vanilla to the exotic blackberry lemon mint tart and matcha green tea. yogurt-land.com

Runners-up: Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt (20.1%), TCBY Store (19.4%)

Whole Foods Market (28.7%)

Austin-based Whole Foods Market offers a shopping experience like no other by boasting more than 2,400 natural and organic products and serving as a resource for special diet needs, including gluten-free and dairy-free. Even better, the one-stop shop houses an incredible deli and hot and cold prepared-food sections with more convenience and variety than shoppers can count. The hard part? Making a decision. wholefoodsmarket.com

Runners-up: Zoes Kitchen (22%), Jason’s Deli (11.8%), Maxwell’s Market (8.6%), Subway (8.5%)

Gino’s Italian Restaurant (20.4%)

The name Grace “Mama” Marino is synonymous with authentic Italian food in this town, and knowing this Italian grandmother is in the kitchen at Gino’s, rolling meatballs and supervising sauces, gives every diner utter confidence in every meal. Every item on the menu, from homemade Italian sausage to the ever-popular meat-stuffed arancine, and pastas ranging from cannelloni to tortellini, is a tradition that’s withstood the test of time. ginosrestaurant.com

Runners-up: The Little Village (18.9%), Ruffino’s (14.8%), DiGiulio Brothers Italian Café (14.1%), Monjuni’s Italian Café & Grocery (9.8%)

Louie’s Café (32.1%)

There is a certain glory found in eating a cheeseburger or omelet at 2 a.m. There’s a comfort to knowing it’s there, waiting, if you’re up watching TV and those hunger pangs strike. Whether it’s breakfast or a second dinner after a long night out, it’s obvious this quaint, all-night diner near LSU has nearly as many fans as the Tigers do. louiescafe.org

Runners-up: Raising Cane’s (11.8%), The Chimes (11%), Waffle House (10.7%), Schlitz & Giggles (9.1%)

Albasha Greek and Lebanese Restaurant (46.3%)

Albasha means “No. 1,” and this local restaurant chain lives up to its name year after year, hitting the top of the “Best Mediterranean” category yet again. Our readers crave the tangy hummus and spicy roasted gyro and schawarma sandwiches—accompanied by a tall, sweet glass of Lebanese iced tea. Finish it off with a flaky slice of baklava that’s just dripping with sweet honey, and you’ll see why it continually tops our readers’ list. albashabr.com

Runners-up: Serop’s Café / Serop’s Express (27.8%), Roman’s Café (10.1%)

Superior Grill (23.1%)

Restaurant regulars know that the friendly staff at Superior Grill will remember their names, while newbies fall in love with the tacos, festive décor and lively atmosphere shortly after arrival. Famous for their fresh fajitas, enchiladas and great margaritas, Superior tops the list for best Mexican restaurant. But it doesn’t stop with great food—live entertainment keeps the patio groovin’ each weekend with music from local bands. batonrouge.superiorgrill.com

Runners-up: Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant (17.6%), Coyote Blues Fresh Mexican Grill (13.9%), La Carreta Mexican Restaurant (13.4%), Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Restaurant (12.9%)

Another Broken Egg Café (25.6%)

When Another Broken Egg returned to the Baton Rouge dining scene last fall, lovers of this popular regional jewel were beyond happy when the new location “hatched” off Corporate Boulevard offering breakfast, brunch and lunch. With classics like pancakes and waffles and unique offerings like blackberry grits, biscuit beignets and bananas Foster French toast, there is never a reason to have another mediocre meal before noon. anotherbrokenegg.com

Runners-up: Fat Cow (21.9%), Burgersmith (19.8%)

Sammy’s Grill (13.6%)

Sammy’s placed in the top three last year for Best Shrimp Poboy. This year, the longtime Baton Rouge favorite took the top spot for Best Poboy—meaning across the board, they know their stuff. The menu has a full list of poboy options, with items like smoked turkey, chicken fried steak or grilled smoked sausage tumbling out of flaky, airy poboy bread. If it’s the classics you’re after, they’ve got those too—the fried shrimp and homemade roast beef are hugely popular. Just have your napkin ready. sammysgrill.com

Runners-up: Rocco’s Poboys (13.3%), George’s Restaurant (12.5%), Acme Oyster House (11%), Dempsey’s (10.5%)

Gino’s Italian Restaurant (15.4%)

A candlelit corner table, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and two plates of Mama Marino’s finest—book Gino’s for a romantic evening and you may feel as if you’ve stepped into a movie set. The picturesque interior, the dreamy lighting and the attentive-but-not-intrusive service will guarantee you and your date a bella notte. ginosrestaurant.com

Runners-up: The Little Village (11.2%), The Melting Pot (8.7%), Juban’s (8.6%), Mansurs on the Boulevard (8.4%)

J. Alexander’s (15.8%)

Twice a winner in this category, Nashville-born national chain J. Alexander’s is proud of their regional feel and great popularity, based strictly on word-of-mouth advertising. Located on the perimeter of the Mall of Louisiana, this restaurant is widely known for their fresh, made-from-scratch items like delectable crab cakes, slow-roasted prime rib and particularly, the hard-to-resist and visually appealing salads with homemade dressings that are sure not to disappoint even the toughest salad critic. With a recent menu facelift, there are even more great new items to try. jalexanders.com

Runners-up: Zea Rotisserie & Grill (10.7%), Louis DeAngelo’s Casual Italian Dining (9.5%), Bistro Byronz (8%), French Market Bistro (7%)

Louisiana Lagniappe (19.6%)

Destin, Fla., was where Louisiana Lagniappe got its start in the 1980s, banking on the summer hotspot’s proximity to fresh catches and Louisiana-bred beach bums. Relocating to Baton Rouge didn’t change the menu, composed almost exclusively of the best seafood from the Gulf. The Fresh Fish en Papilliote, a filet topped with lump crabmeat and shrimp stuffing and baked in parchment, is one of the most popular items. Other favorites include the Pontchartrain, fish topped with a fried soft shell crab and hollandaise, and occasional specials like stuffed flounder and grouper tacos when available. louisianalagniapperestaurant.com

Runners-up: Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant (14%), Mike Anderson’s Seafood (13.3%), Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli (12.9%), Sammy’s Grill (9.1%)

Bonefish Grill (13.6%)

Boasting tuna that is “so fresh it will make fish blush,” Bonefish Grill is king of this category. Perfectly happy as an appetizer or entrée, the Ahi Tuna Sashimi at this contemporary seafood restaurant is sesame-seared with wasabi and served with pickled ginger. We recommend ordering the large portion, because after your first bite, you won’t want to share. bonefishgrill.com

Runners-up: Tsunami (13.5%), Sullivan’s Steakhouse (9%), J. Alexander’s (8.6%), Mansurs on the Boulevard (8.3%)

Ruth’s Chris Steak House (37.9%)

As the original franchise store of a dynamic steak empire, the Baton Rouge location of Ruth’s Chris Steak House knows a little bit about being No. 1. Locals continue to return for the best, melt-in-your-mouth steaks, which are served sizzling on 500° plates. But they come back also because they don’t feel like a customer, but a welcomed guest in the home of a close friend who just happens to be an incredible chef. ruthschris.com

Runners-up: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (13.8%), Sullivan’s Steakhouse (12.7%), Doe’s Eat Place (10.5%), Stroube’s Steaks & Seafood (6.9%)

Tsunami (26.5%)

You can’t beat the view at Tsunami—not just the gorgeous eyeful of the Mississippi you get from the sixth floor of the Shaw Center, but the gorgeous, glistening plates of sushi that are carried to your table by attentive waiters. With colorful combinations like the Don Tuan, which marries cucumber, tuna, crab, avocado, spicy graham cracker, sriracha and more in a single spicy roll, and locally flavored favorites like the Ragin’ Cajun roll, which swaddles panko-fried alligator in avocado and masago and tops it with tsunami sauce, it strikes a perfect balance of Creole and Japanese flavors. Little wonder it’s proved so popular with the Red Stick—often battling it out closely with this year’s second-place winner, Ichiban. servingsushi.com

Runners-up: Ichiban Japanese Grill and Sushi Bar (26.1%), Sushi Yama (13.9%), Rock-n-Sake Bar and Sushi (8.7%), Hello Sushi (8.6%)