It's hard to imagine that the sports industry could possibly grow any larger, but the proof is easy to see. No segment of the restaurant business is booming more than eateries with sports connections. Not the ones owned by sports stars--those always have been mediocre and usually short-lived. But the gigantic restaurants located near major sports facilities, with lots of memorabilia and big television screens. The Chimes has served the LSU branch of that market for a long time in Baton Rouge, and here they are now in Covington.
On a bigger scale, it must be noted that the kind of money that went into the building of this place would, a few years ago, ever have been spent on such a low-end restaurant. Here is the menu of a neighborhood cafe, served in a rustic but magnificent setting. This is the restaurant of the 2010s, heading ever downmarket.
After many months of construction, the opening of The Chimes had the inevitable effect on the North Shore dining scene: everybody jammed into the place. It's still busy most of the time, despite its slightly out-of-the way location. The menu is the pop-style Cajun-Creole thing that you know from places like Copeland's, but with a minimum of gimmickry.
The Baton Rouge Chimes opened in 1983 in an old art deco building housing a pharmacy and a movie theater, not far from the gates of LSU. It became a prime hangout for LSU students and fans, who form a majority of the population of Baton Rouge. The second location opened in Covington in 2011 on an isolated patch of Bogue Falaya riverbank. The land included a small, River Road-style plantation building and the original Covington City Hall, both of which have been restored.
The restaurant is in as fine an environment as can be had in these parts. The Bogue Falaya River curves alongside the building, its decks and wooden ramps, surrounded by large cypress trees. It feels like the middle of nowhere, but is actually across the little river from downtown Covington. The dining room is largely built of big raw-wood elements and feels perfectly in place. The tables surround the bar (with its seventy-five or so beer taps) and the oyster bar and grill.
The Chimes is a major draw for its oysters alone. They shuck nice ones to order, and grill them if you like. In happy hour and all day Tuesday, the bivalves are five dollars a dozen--a great deal. Basic fried seafood and burgers are fine. More advanced cookery is not.