About our food critic
Benjamin Leger previously served as managing editor for 225 and was the editor of its Taste section from 2012 to 2021, editing, writing and steering the direction of its food coverage in print and online. He is passionate about all things food and food journalism, and has written about the greater Baton Rouge area’s cuisine and culture for nearly two decades.
THE BASICS: This quick-service concept from co-owners Tory Cummings and Hershall Bergeron opened in fall 2021, serving a lunch menu of burgers, po-boys and daily specials. It also offers a market area with fresh and smoked meats and prepared foods. The owners were also applying for a liquor license for a small bar area near the entrance at press time.
WHAT’S A MUST: The shrimp po-boy is a straightforward take on the classic, with addictive shoestring fried onions on the side. There’s a set menu of lunch specials by the day, including the Chicken and the Sea on Thursdays, with juicy and well-seasoned fried chicken. We’ve heard good things about the Wednesday barbecue. And if you’re just interested in a Cajun-style snack, grab some boudin egg rolls or cracklins from the hot box.
From a booth at a bank of windows in Iron Fork, you can see the cars rushing by at the intersection of Perkins Road and Essen Lane. But inside this Cajun eatery during a Thursday lunch hour, the vibe is surprisingly tranquil. Maybe it’s the natural light dappled from shade trees outside, or the warm tones of the unassuming interior, but you almost forget you’re in one of the busiest areas of town.
You also might forget that this spot has struggled to house restaurants for years, cycling between one dining concept after another in the same location—including Calendar’s, Lasseigne’s American Grill and several ill-fated Italian, Mexican and seafood restaurants. But Iron Fork, which opened in October of last year, hopes to change that bad streak.
Its menu of daily lunch specials and Southern favorites aims for crowd-pleasing, no-frills pleasures. Just after the lunch rush had passed, I decided to give this Beau de Chene Shopping Center eatery a try.
I’m not usually one to go hard at lunch. A heavy meal then returning to the office till 5 p.m. does not appeal at all. But I gave in the minute I saw the “hot box” behind the order-up counter: plump, savory boudin egg rolls, sausage links and cracklins warming behind glass. The friendly woman at the counter even let me sample one of the restaurant’s special chicken cracklins while I waited. Imagine the crispiest ends of a fried chicken finger, and that’s what you’d get.
When it comes to po-boys, Iron Fork has all the classics, like roast beef and fried fish. I ordered up my personal favorite, the fried shrimp po-boy, with fried onion rings on the side—because why not?
When it came out, I immediately got excited over the shoestring-style fried onion rings. A win from the start. They were crumbly and salty-sweet and a huge enough portion for more than one person.
The po-boy bread was flaky on the outside with just enough chew and pull when biting in. The shrimp were crispy, big and well-seasoned. The chopped, deep-green lettuce and juicy red tomatoes were fresh, and the condiments and pickles were on the side as requested—I like to add just a little bit of mayo and hot sauce to mine. Not everyone gets the New Orleans classic right, but Iron Fork’s po-boy was a respectable take. And I had plenty left over to take home.
But I wasn’t done. Known for its lunch specials, I knew I needed to take a stab at these for a true Iron Fork experience. The Thursday specials were either homemade lasagna or a dish called Chicken and the Sea. While I was willing to splurge on this particular day, lasagna seemed like a carb-loaded bridge too far. I opted for the latter, which featured a fried chicken breast covered in shrimp etouffee. The chicken was juicy, perfectly seasoned and with a fried exterior that held up to the smothering of shrimp etouffee. The shrimp were of a respectable size, but despite visible bits of green onion and stewed tomato in the roux, the etouffee was surprisingly bland.
I was also a bit confused by the side of dirty rice when there was already rice in the etouffee. It seemed like overkill and was also disappointingly bland. The special came with a soft, garlicky breadstick and classic stewed corn, but I would have preferred some kind of green to cut through all the heavy components.
Sides aside, the fried chicken still hit the spot on flavor and texture.
On the way out, I gave in and ordered from the hot box to-go: one boudin egg roll and a bag of smoked pork cracklins. Of course, I had to taste them in the car while they were still warm. The egg roll was crisp and filled with a satisfying boudin stuffing, and the cracklins were crunchy, spicy and indulgent.
Minus a couple of misses on the special’s sides, I had no regrets for stopping in at Iron Fork. Well, one regret: That I hadn’t come on Wednesday to try its barbecue ribs and chicken special.
I’ll have to visit again when I need to pause and indulge for a while at midday. Here’s hoping Iron Fork breaks the curse at this location. We all need a chance to dig into some of this Cajun goodness.
Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
7520 Perkins Road
This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue of 225 magazine.