The Overpass Merchant is located under an overpass on a little patch of Perkins Road that always feels weirdly mysterious to me. It’s the patch where the busy, congested boulevard rapidly transitions into a two-lane street lined with small merchant shops, bookstores and a smattering of restaurants, the whole thing sheltered under pair of traffic-jammed bridges looming overhead.
Inside, the sleek urban space is intimate enough to maintain the mysterious feeling. Co-owners Lon Marchand and Nick Hufft opened the popular spot in the spring of 2016 for lunch and dinner, late-night bites, and Sunday brunch. The weekday $9.99 lunch plates are a bargain. Add a couple of small side salads and there’s plenty on one plate for two to share.
The menu has no specific theme that I can discern. It is, rather, a collection of delicious, fun, shareable foods that span the globe from Canada to Korea.
The starter menu roves happily all over the place. Crisp frites are cut and fried to order then presented with roasted garlic aioli. Dreamy, decadent cheese curds are served deep fried with a side of zesty buttermilk ranch dip. Add beef cheeks and gravy and you have Merchant Poutine. Fried chicken skins are shatter-crisp and drizzled with a spicy-hot honey sauce. Don’t look to the green beans for a healthy respite: They are tempura battered, fried, and served with a Korean ranch dipping sauce.
The only way to justify this culinary debauchery is by sharing with others and reminding yourself that you only live once.
Keep that sentiment firmly intact as you tuck into a platter of coconut shrimp tacos. The large specimens are fried with a bit of coconut in the batter and presented with avocado coleslaw, salsa, sour cream and four tortillas so you can build your own Frankenstein.
This is the only place on earth where I will ever be a Billy Ray Cyrus fan. Save for its Nashville origins there’s no sign of the mullet-adorned “Achy-Breaky Heart” crooner on the hefty sandwich that bears his name. Chef Jonathan Breaux brines chicken in a mixture of tea, cayenne, garlic, bay leaves and spices before it’s fried, lacquered in a spicy-hot buffalo-style sauce, topped with jalapeno coleslaw and offered up on a hefty bun. Ditch the coleslaw and sub in cheddar, thick-cut bacon, and a fried egg and the sandwich morphs into The Hot Lonnie.
If burgers are your jam this is your happy place. A blend of freshly ground chuck, brisket and short rib is cooked to your desired doneness and dressed with choice of American, aged cheddar, or Maytag Blue cheese as well as applewood smoked bacon, fried egg, roasted pork belly, and caramelized onion jam.
I’m not much of a late night diner but the next time I stay overnight at my daughter’s collegiate apartment we are making a midnight run to Overpass for the Korean Pork Frites, which only appear on the Late Night menu (Friday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). It’s a beautifully insane mishmash of those perfect frites topped with sesame fondue, green onion relish, bulgogi vinaigrette, Sriracha, wonton chips and toasted sesame seeds.
Bistro Byronz 5412 Government Street Baton Rouge | 225-218-1433 | bistrobyronz.com
The Overpass Merchant 2904 Perkins Road Baton Rouge | 225-508-4737 | theoverpassmerchant.com.
While the menu at The Overpass may be all over the place the one at Bistro Byronz is decidedly of the Louisiana French-Creole ilk. Refined and respectable, this is great pick for a first date, dinner meeting or an affordable, yet impressive spot to bring the parents for dinner. The cassoulet, a French bistro classic, marries the Old and New Worlds with white beans, smoky tasso ham, chicken, and duck sausage.