Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the elegant Juban’s restaurant in Baton Rouge attracts diners for its sumptuous Creole cuisine, stellar wine cellar, and gracious hospitality. The family-owned dining establishment is run by Carol Bannerman Juban and husband Ken Juban; their son-in-law, Michael Boudreaux; and Miriam Maxwell Juban and son Jason. To herald its 25 years in business, Juban’s is now offering 25 cent martinis for lunch, and will host a special silver anniversary “mile-high-pie” celebration in October (the restaurant opened in October of 1983).
Centered by an atrium bar with skylight and a fireplace, Juban’s has a handsome main dining room and nine private rooms to accommodate six to 160 people (with wireless internet). It is a popular spot for business lunches and seminars, weddings and receptions, and bridal luncheons. Outside catering and on-site cooking classes with a group lunch are also offered at this Baton Rouge landmark that has a loyal local following.
A magnet for oenophiles, Juban’s offers wine dinners that are held throughout the year. “We get the owners of vineyards to come,” says award-winning Executive Chef Terry McDonner, who has been at the helm for the past 12 years. He was formerly with acclaimed Chef John Folse for 10 years, and has worked his way through kitchens “all over the world,” learning various styles of cooking.
Juban’s 1,200-bottle temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar is available for private dining for eight people or less. “We’ll pair the wines for them. The menu really depends on what they want to spend; sometimes it is five courses, sometimes it is seven to eight courses,” Chef McDonner says. As an added perk, vintage furs and scarves are available for the ladies in the wine room. Known for its collection, Juban’s has been bestowed the “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator magazine since 1994, and features a comprehensive wine list with more than 800 selections.
Juban’s is able to tap into the business pulse of the state’s capitol, while also presiding as a place of homey familiarity for longstanding customers and employees. “Because of Baton Rouge being in the center of the chemical corridor, with the legislature and two universities here, we get a lot of visitors to this area from other cities, and a lot of corporate business dining. Which is why we built a number of smaller rooms for business dining,” says Miriam Juban. “The legislators can eat easily at Juban’s a complete meal with a cocktail or a glass of wine for less than the lobbyist limit,” she comments. “Business and food mix well. We also have a great number of locals of course.”
In the handsome 25-seat bar, you can sometimes see businessmen enjoying a glass of wine with their open laptops during lunch, while singles and couples enjoy crisp, light cucumber martinis made with delicate, cucumber-infused Hendrick’s Gin, honey bourbon, or various drink specials during happy hour.
With the décor of the Vieux Carré as a backdrop, diners feast on the chef’s unique rendition of Creole cuisine fashioned with Louisiana ingredients, including chemical-free, wild-caught local shrimp, fresh crab, and duck. Aside from the atrium bar, a popular spot to soak in the relaxed atmosphere is on the veranda, where you can kick back with a cocktail or nibble on house specialties while letting the fans cool you down.
“We are very much like a New Orleans restaurant,” Miriam says. “Our goal has been to present the best in flavors of Louisiana cuisine while representing our bounty of fresh seafood served with the graciousness of a southern home. Our business has been about wonderful relationships with customers, employees, and purveyors.” The Juban family lived on the site for many years before converting it into a restaurant.
New this summer is the tomato Napoleon designed with green tomatoes that are separated by lump crabmeat and topped with Louisiana wild-caught shrimp, layered with veal liver medallions with applewood smoked bacon and caramelized onions over a grit cake. A light and visually appealing summer appetizer is the shrimp martini, which is similar to a shrimp cocktail, only served in a martini glass.
Bayou Pearls are a favorite at dinner: flash-fried pearls of Louisiana crabmeat with roasted red pepper and tasso are wrapped in angel hair pasta finished with a lemon beurre blanc. A must-try starter is the Trois Gateaux consisting of a Louisiana crab cake with champagne beurre blanc, a crawfish cake with diablo hollandaise, and a scallop foie gras cake with balsamic syrup. The seafood bouillabaisse featuring fresh Gulf fish, shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat, mussels, and Louisiana crawfish poached in a spicy saffron-infused broth is highly recommended for dinner. Those who are on a low-carb diet should consider the 12-ounce, free-range South Dakota bison ribeye.
One of the stars of the show for dinner is the Hallelujah crab. Crispy flash-fried Louisiana soft-shell crabs are stuffed with a mélange of Louisiana crawfish, shrimp, and crabmeat over asparagus and almond rice pilaf, topped with a Creolaise sauce (see recipe following this article).
Each evening, the chef prepares special soups, creative appetizers, fresh fish, and beef main courses. The middle of the meal is refreshed by a house made sorbet as palate cleanser. If you love gumbo, try the chicken, roasted duck, and andouille gumbo that is spiced just right. The oven-roasted rack of Colorado lamb is another good choice. You can get your ribeyes or filets with additions such as jumbo lump crabmeat, a grilled eight-ounce lobster tail, Louisiana crawfish tails, a crispy soft-shell crab, jumbo Gulf shrimp, and various sauces (try the mushroom bordelaise).
Not to be missed for dessert is Juban’s warm bread pudding served in Myers’s rum and Grand Marnier sauce, the Godiva chocolate mousse with fresh berries, whipped cream, and a raspberry coulis, or any one of the milk shakes (with or without alcohol). The waiters are quite adept at making French-pressed coffee. Service is warm and hospitable. Once you have feasted on the superb Creole cuisine and enjoyed the fine wines, relaxed atmosphere, and gracious staff, Juban’s is the kind of family-run restaurant you will want to return to again and again.