The Shaq Diet
And Where to Eat in Baton Rouge
In 1992, when I was in law school at LSU, I lived across Highland Road from a strip mall that included a sandwich shop called Blimpie’s. I was already sort of a snob about food, but I could walk there and it was inexpensive.
In 1990, LSU had a great basketball team. In addition to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was basically Steph Curry before there was a Steph Curry, that team had Stanley Roberts, Maurice Williamson, Wayne Sims and Vernel Singleton, who in my memory was a clone of Scottie Pippen.
Oh, and also that team had Shaquille O’Neal. It’s hard to imagine, watching the NBA these days, how dominating Shaq was at the time. These days the game is more about outside shooting, and centers like O’Neal aren’t as critical, but back then Shaq was unstoppable. Unless you fouled him, of course, which is what most teams did.
The Blimpie’s Sub Shop near my apartment had a pair of Shaq’s shoes on the wall above the cash register. He wore very large shoes, because he is a very large man. According to the internet, he is 7 feet 1 inch tall. I would not describe him as “gangly,” either. Small children could use his shoes as a boat.
I met Shaquille O’Neal at that Blimpie’s, and by “met,” I mean I was at the Blimpie’s at the same time he was, and as I left, he was leaving too. I held the door open for him. Here’s how it went down:
“Thanks, man,” he said.
“No problem,” I responded.
That happened; that was real. I exchanged words with Shaquille O’Neal. I think we made eye contact.
I’m not going to pretend it made us friends. I mean, I have been pretending that for many, many years, but I know it’s not true. He’s probably not going to call me some day and say, “Hey, remember that time you held the door for me? That was awesome. Let’s get a sandwich together again, soon.”
And if he does call me, I will not suggest Blimpie’s, because the one near my former apartment is not there anymore, and also the food at Blimpie’s was not all that great anyway. It was convenient, but it was not a fried oyster po-boy. I apologize if you prefer “subs” over po-boys, but if that’s the case there’s not much I can do for you and you may also be from Philadelphia.
While I lived in Baton Rouge, a sandwich from Blimpie’s met my needs, which were for something fast, cheap, edible, and filling.
Baton Rouge has changed a great deal since I was in law school. It’s larger and more congested because a lot of people have moved there, but the increase in population means there are also a lot more restaurants than there were in the early 1990s.
I’ve heard good things about some of the places that have opened downtown – City Pork, Cocha, and Kalurah Street Grill, for example. I thought Stroube’s was good when I tried it, but I haven’t been back there, or to Juban’s or Mansur’s, in a decade. There was some good Indian food in the '90s, and I have memories of a decent Thai restaurant, too. But even though I get to Baton Rouge fairly often, I’m usually there briefly and moving on. I haven’t tried most of the new spots.
But that could change, so if you know of a good restaurant in Baton Rouge, please share it with me in the comments, including why you’d recommend it.