The first time I remember eating in a restaurant was in Donaldsonville, while traveling with my father.
I had ham and Swiss on toast. The chef cut it diagonally, which I thought was neat. Every time my dad's work took us to Donaldsonville, I wanted to eat there and always got the same thing.
In ways I haven't changed much from that 4-year-old boy. I relate a favorite restaurant to a dish it serves and often to a group or to a person, just like I do that restaurant to my dad.
For years, when I worked out of The Advocate's building on Lafayette Street the favorite reporters' haunt was Poor Boy Lloyds.
A tightly knit group of us would crowd around any table we could find at lunch or spread out in a more leisurely fashion at dinner.
I still picture Lloyd, his waitress, Mary, and that group of idealistic reporters like they looked then - except for the one who is still around, Ed Cullen, who I realistically see as being as grey as I am.
At Lloyd's I always got the oyster poboy.
Mike Dunne came late to that group, but he and I had our favorite spot. Every few weeks one of us would glance at the newsroom clock and ask, "Mike Anderson's?"
That would either bring a big smile or a dejected, "I'm too busy."
When we made that venture away from downtown, inevitably we both got the catfish lunch as we talked about the stories we were working on together or separately. Mike and I had the ability to finish each others' sentences whether we were talking or writing.
People from the newspaper often gathered for lunch at Pinetta's, pulling a couple of tables together to accommodate us all. After trying a couple of things there, I became a permanent fan of the veal Parmesan.
I felt I had lost a friend when Pinetta's closed. After it re-opened with the same menu, I took my wife, Mary, there on our first Baton Rouge date. Each time we return, I realize what a creature of habit I am because I always order the veal.
If my co-worker, Heidi Kinchen, and I go to lunch, the car drives itself to Sombreros. We both have quesadillas - hers shrimp and mine beef - while we chat with the cops and political figures who parade by.
For years, my friend Bill Davis and I have met every few months at Lone Star for a sirloin lunch as we catch up on our families and national politics.
My son, Casey, and I have had great conversations on all manner of subjects over chicken shawarma at La Shish.
At Taste of Louisiana I meet with one friend to talk politics and with another to talk philosophy and history. The waitresses know when I walk in that I'm going to order the orchard salad.
There's something warm about finding a restaurant and a dish you can count on.
There's also something special about breaking bread with people you like.
Email Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson at email@example.com.
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