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Just past the alpine height of her career, film’s grand governess Julie Andrews wrote a novel—her first—about an orphan girl who finds home through horticulture; for season after glorious season, ten-year-old Mandy scales the orphanage wall to cultivate a garden that’s just hers at a nearby deserted cottage. I think of Mandy (1971)—more grounded and sweeter than a fairytale—when walking around BLDG 5.
The owners, Misti and Brumby Broussard, are not gardeners, nor are they orphans, as far as I can tell, but they have the same eyes for latent strengths in wild, unloved spaces. And here they come to unearth that power for the rest of us.
Homey yet elegant, the Perkins Road Overpass restaurant, bar, and market looks like Middle Earth’s take on an Anthropologie. You won’t find One Ring, but a display of dangling African gloss beads caught my eye. The high-ceilinged front room serves as the market and holds a lunch counter, grab-and-go freezers, and low shelves and bins teeming with culinary-adjacent items: candles that smell like wine, greeting cards featuring fruits and cheese (“You’re the Jam!”), and precious dish towels I could never bear to blot with.
Most of the building is new construction but this well-appointed, aromatic entrypoint housed, until recently, a mountain of woodworking equipment, which probably smelled just as wonderful to those of us besotted by the scent of cedar. See the woodworker’s artistry in intricate grooves patterning one market wall—and see the man himself down the pebble path from BLDG 5.
The building is another eclectic acquisition in landlord Leslie Bratton’s Overpass compound, which includes the undersung venue Beauvoir Park. After he collected the buildings, he collected artisans to fill them. In addition to the woodworker, there's the muralist T.J. Black, whose nautical daubings on BLDG 5's floor suggest depths below. (Tolkien tackled sea creatures too.) Now, to his portfolio, Bratton adds restaurateurs.
Misti, a Corpus Christi native, and Brumby, from New Iberia, met in a supply closet on the set of America’s Sweethearts, a 2001 rom-com about a publicist and an assistant who cast off Hollywood for a humbler sort of love. Taking notes, the pair left town for San Diego, opened a high-end furniture store, started a family, and set eyes on coming back to the South. “We always felt like this was the place to raise our family,” said Brumby.
Four years after landing in Baton Rouge, they’ve opened BLDG 5, which combines Brumby’s culinary degree (attained from the Culinary Institute of Louisiana) with a shared sense of taste that extends from the soft furnishings to the charcuterie. I visited first in late November, in gloomy weather that only underscored the couple’s hard work. Rain slicked the backyard deck and tables. I took my life in my hands climbing the steep, wet stairs to reach the rooftop area. And there I found the perfect vantage for viewing what the Broussards have wrought: fiery orange leaves, autumn’s last flares, fluttered to the patio below me and matched the metal chairs that, under a different sun, would hold a hundred Baton Rouge diners in one day. Overcast, damp, and forbidding—and still, nature and nurture found ways to shake hands at BLDG 5.
Blame the oak tree at the deck’s center for the fallen foliage—it’s also the backyard’s best feature, one of many strong contenders. The long tables have traveled across the sea from German beer gardens, losing little of the conviviality along the way. Fairy lights form a druidic triangle overhead. And planters, everywhere, show off all the shades that green can be.
I like the green particularly on my plate. There are places where the salad is the sad option—gray, dry grilled chicken over limp romaine—and then there’s BLDG 5, where the autumn salad plate is an eruption of color: sunset-hued caramelized squash and russet spiced pecans nestle in a bed of crisp leafy greens and cool cucumbers while the pomegranate-ginger vinaigrette barely dampens the plate—content, like Barbara Hershey, to let the salad shine.
Opulence can be daunting, when it’s not silly, but the Broussards have achieved nearly the opposite in this intimate gathering space. Even the so-called Relic Room, anchored by a wall hanging that resembles a ship’s prow more than saintly salvage, has endearing backstories to each of its exotic touches. Overhead, a family of onion-shaped chandeliers is seen as a saving grace by the Broussards. “We thought we wanted this room to be industrial, but we found these chandeliers and they bring such warmth,” said Misti. Along one long wall, bits of stamped leather are affixed to wooden planks dangling from metal bars. Chalk it up to those kooky Hollywood types, or ask a few questions to learn that the leather samples were saved from Mixture, the furniture store the Broussards ran together, and the artwork on each piece demonstrates the vibrant effect of an adjacent Indian textile stamp. The metal bars come from industrial box rollers acquired at a Round Top, Texas, antique show. The room’s one table was handmade by local artist Benjamin Bullins, with wood salvaged from an old house in New Orleans. (A stamped metal tag on the table reveals the former address.) To hide the Relic Room’s television—a handy component available for meetings and presentations—the Broussards attached an oversized silk screen to the old metal barn door track from Misti’s father’s farm. Give a couple of interior design enthusiasts a few minutes with wood, leather, metal, and paint, and they’ll have something Etsy-worthy no time. Me, I’d still be trapped in a cage of my own clumsy making.
The Broussards have built memories into the menu too, with help from Chef Breck Hatcher. “We’ve traveled a lot, and we always focus on food wherever we go,” said Misti. (They cite Vegas and its metropolis-like hotels as an especially fun place for foodies.) Now Baton Rougeans can experience the chicken karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) Brumby couldn’t get out of his head after one vacation. For a fuller feast, the deeper south celebration of the Baja Board—with portions of chipotle-rubbed chicken, black beans, street corn, lime-cayenne drizzled romaine, pickled onions, and an array of Mexican condiments—feeds a whole gang of grazers. There are also simple odes to local produce, like roasted cauliflower soup, while Brumby’s Cajun pedigree isn’t ignored with the rich pork stew.
My visits have been limited to lunch so far, where murmuring, svelte people mostly grazing on salads tell me that Baton Rouge’s glamour class has already converged on BLDG 5. I am of two minds on this: either a casting notice for a feature film was posted and I missed it (otherwise I might have brushed my hair and worn my clean sneakers); or, hey, just because we have cheekbones like knives and legs for days doesn’t mean we can’t eat just the same as you people.
A third theory doesn’t involve my genetic gifts at all, but here it is: beauty begets beauty. When doors open wide to some place warm and well cared for, you’ll forget your vanity for a while in favor of forkfuls, bellyfuls, of international, seasonal food—only to learn later that it was not the spinach in your teeth or crumbs in your lap a fellow diner remembered, but how you glowed, how we all did.
Read the original story here: https://countryroadsmagazine.com/cuisine/restaurants/bldg-5-baton-rouge/