Chain cafes and bakeries in America are depressing. I’m sure when Starbucks first opened, all those years ago back in Seattle, people were excited about how different this neighborhood cafe looked. Perhaps the dark interior and quasi-artsy posters were endearing. Maybe the decor even felt that way when Starbucks began opening up all over the country. Now, however, walking into a Starbucks feels like entering a cheap imitation of an actual neighborhood cafe.
European chain cafes are a different story. Like all twenty-something American females, I’m afflicted with the disease that makes everything with the adjective ‘European’ attached to it feel classier. Walk into a Starbucks in Paris and you’ll understand what I mean. Then there’s the homey-ness of Caffè Nero and the chic atmosphere at Lagekahuset. How do they do this? It’s a mystery.
Now, Breads Bakery isn’t a chain cafe, at least not yet, but from the first time I walked in, it made me think of all those European cafes. The space is clean, with bright and inviting graphics. There is a dizzying option of pastries and breads to choose from. They are proudly displayed in self-serve cases. It’s the kind of cafe you hope will open up a few more locations so you’re never that far from a swiss muesli roll.
Despite the adorable atmosphere and despite my near-obsessive love of their swiss muesli roll, I didn’t have high expectations for their croissant. The dark, humid day I visited would be enough to make even the best bakery produce a few lackluster pastries.
The croissant from Breads Bakery is proper good and much better than what you’ll find at your run of the mill chain bakery, European or otherwise. From the outside, you wouldn’t expect much. It’s a bit dry looking and the layers appear to have all melded into one. You expect a dry and brittle affair like at Patisserie Valerie or a experience doughy a lá Pret-a-Manger. It is neither.
I tore off an end, my favorite part, straight away. It was crunchy and crackly with a definite butter taste. There were some layers, though not as many as would make for a truly excellent pastry.
The pain au chocolat is good, though not as good as the plain croissant. The chocolate is a bit too sweet and the lack of crunch and layers that can be forgotten in the plain croissant make the experience of eating the pain au chocolat less satisfying.
While you won’t travel as far for a Bread’s Bakery croissant as you would for an Almondine one, they are a truly delightful addition to the neighborhood. Union Square may have the pretzel croissant from City Bakery, but when you’re just craving your good, reliable buddy, Breads Bakery is the place to head.
And make sure to get a swiss muesli roll for the road.
Chain cafes: acceptable, nice or just cheap?