Customers drive cars, pedal bicycles or stroll leisurely in for the daily luncheon special or a creatively delectable sandwich at Yvette Marie’s Café nestled within Circa 1857, the rambling, shabby-chic antique mart at Government and 22nd streets bordering Baton Rouge’s Garden District.
“We credit the quality of our food, our fresh ingredients, a creative menu and the uniqueness of the atmosphere to the number of return customers we have. It’s been word-of-mouth, unless you know we’re here, it’s hard to find. There’s practically no signage,” said owner Jay Bruno.
The eatery has built a reputation for top-quality muffulettas, freshly made soups, meal-size sandwiches and a hot luncheon special served daily in an cozy setting of old tables, creaky booths and antique chairs.
A total of 125 customers can be accommodated in the restaurant’s three dining areas and large tropical patio just outside the building. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s closed Sundays.
“We probably have the most diverse customer base of any restaurant in Baton Rouge,” catering manager Ellen Alderman said. “They range from hipsters to corporate lawyers, from nearby residents, to mothers with young kids.
“This is a quiet place where people can leave the stress of their office and enjoy a relaxed environment. We have lots of regulars. We get to know our customers.”
Yvette Marie’s offers a variety of sandwiches, including three of its most popular items: the Grilled Veggie Muffuletta; the Chicken Salad Club with bacon and avocado; and the Ham and Brie, with brie cheese melted over baked ham with apricot preserves.
Other warm sandwiches listed in the menu’s “Pressed for Thyme “ category are the Chicken Caprese, with grilled chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto; the Pulled Pork with chili glaze and provolone served on a jalapeño-cheddar roll and the Turkey and Apple sandwich with smoked turkey, apple slices, brie cheese and cranberry sauce on a croissant.
Prices range from $5.95 for the Egg Salad on ciabetta bread and top out at $9.50 for the Cobb Salad with chicken breast and the Granny Smith salad that includes apple, pecans and grilled chicken breast.
A soup du jour is made fresh daily, along with a hot meal special such as the Apricot Glaze and Pork Loin with roasted new potatoes and steamed asparagus for $8.95; and the Burgundy-Braised Beef Tips with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli for $8.50.
The restaurant’s signature soup,Tomato Basil Bisque, is available in a cup for $3.95 or bowl for $5.50. Desserts include slices of fresh layer cakes such as Italian Cream cake or Chocolate Toffee baked by Nanette Mayhall.
Garrett McCutchan provides soft background music on his five-string viola and guitar every day.
Yvette Marie’s Café is owned by Jay Bruno and his brother, David Bruno, who also operate Bonnano’s Fine Catering at 631 S. Eugene St. a few blocks from the restaurant.
As executive chef for the restaurant and catering service, David Walker designs and executes the menu for the restaurant. Quetto Hewitt is manager.
The Bruno brothers purchased the catering business and the restaurant from Yvette Marie Bonanno-Thorpe in 2008. She had started the restaurant several years earlier as a satellite to her catering business. Jay Bruno said sales have tripled since they purchased the restaurant and the seating capacity has been doubled.
The intimate eatery with the adjoining leafy courtyard has become a gathering spot for Garden District residents and others in the midcity area for lunch and for various special events held throughout the year.
Circa 1857 tenants join in for the Hospice of Baton Rouge fundraiser wine tastings each fall and spring, an event coordinated by Charles Calandro, with food provided by Yvette Marie’s.
Jay Bruno said the restaurant can serve up to 1,000, combining the courtyard space with the interior dining areas.
“We’ve done everything from a high-end chef’s dinner, to a crawfish boil and a wedding reception for 500,” he said.
The Bruno brothers, natives of New Orleans, also own The Mellow Mushroom, 4250 Burbank; and the Louisiana House Dining Room on the ground floor of the State Capitol.
The antique mall was dubbed Circa 1857 from its official address, 1857 Government St.
Call Yvette-Marie’s Café at (225) 383-0388 or go to yvettemariescafe.com.