My Rouses Everyday, January | February 2018
It’s hard to nail down what Spanish Town Market is, exactly.
Is it a grocery store? Certainly they sell staples and fresh produce, and Baton Rouge residents have been shopping there for more than a century. It is also a hip little diner with the usual fare of sandwiches, salads, specials and sides. It is a coffee shop, quirky yet straightforward, with local art on the walls and strings of lights on the ceiling. And it is an institution, a community meeting point, its patio ever lively with conversation and strummed guitars.
Spanish Town Market is located in the heart of the historic Spanish Town district, on Spanish Town and Seventh, beneath and between the lush trees and verdant lawns lining the street. Outside, regulars gab with one another, some around single tables, others leaning back to join in conversations two tables over. Everyone, it seems, knows everyone. You might sit and chat, but you will more likely be enticed to the counter inside, drawn by whatever is sizzling on the kitchen grill.
The market serves an evolving menu of freshly prepared lunches and dinners. When Dearman’s burned down, Spanish Town Market’s fries became the best in the city — fresh cut, and seasoned just so. The sandwiches and burgers are homemade, prepared a dozen ways, and christened with names like Mushwiss and Smokin’ Chick. This is no greasy spoon, though. There is an elegance to the cuisine and a pride in its presentation. The lightly fried Gulf shrimp po’boy is a lunchtime standout, topped with tomatoes and shredded lettuce, served on bread that’s airy and flaky.
This kind of quality comes only from a labor of love. Five years ago, Baton Rouge local Taylor Blanche went in with his fiancée and brother to buy what was then called Capitol Grocery Store. His goal was to restore and revitalize the corner store. The trio succeeded. The market has become an evening go-to spot for their well-loved pizza by the slice, and it is by far the best place to watch the famed Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade — and everybody knows it. Just follow the pink-frocked crowds to find this charming oasis of food and flamingos. You won’t want to leave.