From a stall in downtown Baton Rouge’s Main Street Market, Taste is serving some of the best sandwiches in the capital city.
Taste, formerly Taste of Downtown, pairs quality meats and vegetables with ingenious condiments to create new, fresh flavors.
On a recent lunch at Taste, I tried the special — a meatloaf po-boy ($9), dressed with fresh tomatoes and a root beer barbecue sauce. Fully expecting a heavy, nap-inducing sandwich, I cleared my schedule for the afternoon. While not at all light, the meatloaf po-boy was plenty filling.
Served on French bread, the meatloaf tasted of quality ground beef and onions. It’s the dense, satisfying and satiating umami flavors you crave from proteins. The root beer barbecue sauce tasted a little sweet like molasses, but the licorice and root beer flavor lingered along the taste buds long after finishing the sandwich.
My lunch guest tried the Bou-Ray ($9), an homage to the south Louisiana pastime, bourré.
“Unlike the Cajun card game, this sandwich is a sure bet,” he said later.
A nearly half-inch hunk of thinly sliced smoked ham flanked by strips of deceptively peppered boudin, the sandwich sounds like a gut bomb. But the heat doesn’t overpower the rest of the flavors. It’s a slow build-up.
The sandwich’s other flavors — pepper jack cheese, pepper jelly and smoky mayonnaise — rise to compete with the spice. Neither the cheese nor the jelly added a lot of sharpness, but the sweetness of the jelly is a nice counterpoint to the boudin. Like the meatloaf special, this too was a filling and satisfying po-boy.
Another guest tried the Figgy Piggy ($9), constructed with figs, bacon, blue cheese and ham on toasted French bread. Just one of those ingredients could threaten to overtake the sandwich, but the mixture of sweet and salty flavors complemented one another in every bite. The salt of the ham and bacon balanced the sweet of the figs and the funk of the blue cheese.
The New Orleans-style French bread used at Taste provided a sturdy foundation of flavor. Crispy on the outside without being too chewy, the bread “is soft and yields easily to the bite,” according to a fellow food critic.
“If limited to one sandwich bread for the rest of my life, this is the one I’d choose,” he told me.
A side of flavorful cole slaw accompanied each sandwich. Composed of fresh cabbage and carrots, the slaw was lightly dressed and tasted mostly of pepper and Dijon mustard. On one trip we also tried a fresh salad of spinach, strawberries and dried cranberries served with a homemade strawberry vinaigrette dressing that was well-balanced between sweet and tart.
On Saturdays, Taste also serves a terrific brunch for the farmers market crowd, starting at 7 a.m. Like the best of the market, they sell out fast.
For the sake of Baton Rouge lunches, let’s hope Taste expands beyond the Main Street Market soon.