Baton Rouge food tour teaches downtown history, culture

You may be a life-long resident of Baton Rouge, but how much do you actually know about the city? A former social worker is taking groups on tour of downtown. Along the way they taste their way through the city's culture, while getting a lesson in history as well.

Monday, Kim Harper and a group of six sat outside of Poor Boy Lloyd's. It's the starting point for the two and a half hour walking tour.

"I'm Kim and I will be your tour guide," she said to the group. "The name of this food tour is the C'est Si Bon food tour. When a cajun is enjoying their food, they say C'est Si Bon. It means it is so good."

Along the tour, Harper encourages participants to use the phrase if they're enjoying the food.

She says a visit to Miami, learning about the history and culture there on a Cuban Food Tour, she thought the idea was something Baton Rouge was in need of.

"I thought, Baton Rouge, we have great food and great history. We need something like this in Baton Rouge, especially to bring people to the downtown area."

Harper, who was born and raised in the city, says her earliest memory of food is from Kindergarten. She says her mom wrote a cookbook and tested every recipe on the family.

There are six restaurant stops along the tour. In between, are lessons on history and culture.

"This building here is the oldest in downtown Baton Rouge," she pointed out, along the walk. "It was built in 1762, the house of the first probate judge in Baton Rouge."

There's also a stop at the Hilton, where Harper gives some history on the hotel and those who have stayed there.

"From 1928 to 1980, every single Louisiana governor stayed here because it was the custom of the owner to provide free lodging during their political campaigns," Harper said. She also explains about why Governor Huey P. Long had a tunnel put in beneath the hotel.

"I tell people to come here all the time, but I've never actually been myself," commented one of the people on the tour, who works at a nearby hotel. She said now, she can tell people where to go and what to try.

Harper promises you will feel full after the tour. She says her goal is to get people to rediscover the area because so much has changed.

"This is a true hidden gem in the heart of old downtown," she said, about Zolia Bistro, another stop on the tour. "A lot of my locals haven't been here or have never heard of it."

Harper and the owners of each restaurant hand-pick the tastings, to give a full sampling of what is unique to Louisiana.

One of the best highlights on the tour, is most definitely dessert.

"This is their twist on a beignet," she said. "it means fried dough in French. But this is the Hilton's twist. A stuffed beignet, stuffed with cream cheese, graham cracker crust, deep fried and covered in homeade fosters sauce."

The cost of the tour is $45 per person.

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