There is a bakery in the neighboring town. We call it, simply, The Bakery. You can actually hear the capitals when someone says it, as if it is the only bakery to ever be in existence, or the only bakery worthy of the name. It has another name, but we have never used it… at least not in my family.
It is a simple place. Two storefronts on the main street, with the wall knocked out in between them. One side houses the display counters, the other is outfitted with old laminate café tables and chairs. There are places on the tables where the laminate has been rubbed off through years of rough handling and diligent scrubbing.
The back of the store is where the magic happens. This is where the staff arrives at 4am and begins making the delightfully sweet treats and savory, satisfying soups and sandwiches that are served daily. There are windows looking out from the “bakery” portion onto the hall, so anyone can stand and watch as their favorite sweet is made from scratch. The staff usually keep the door to the kitchen open, as well. It is not unusual to see customers (my family, always) standing in the doorway and talking with the staff as they build sandwiches and cut fresh fruit for the lunch crowd.
They serve the best food at The Bakery. The cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting and pecan studded caramel rolls are as big as my hand. Not the palm, the whole hand. The strudels are so flaky they seem to explode in your mouth, and filled with the dreamiest fruit filling imaginable. Their chocolate cupcakes are more like cupcake shaped brownies, topped with the fluffiest frosting.
There are breads and rolls of every sort. Garlic bread, sourdough bread, onion rolls, wild rice bread, cranberry bread, raisin bread, cheese bread, zucchini bread... the list goes on and on...
The lunch menu is my personal favorite: bagel sandwiches, piled high with meats and cheeses; hoagies; homemade, hearty soups; salads and fruit cups. I can feel myself gaining weight just thinking about the delicious offerings they serve every day.
Oddly enough, the food is probably only the smallest part of why The Bakery is so popular.
The Bakery is the kind of place where no one minds if children leave sticky fingerprints and drool on the glass display counters while they search for the cupcake with the most frosting, or that one cookie that has the perfect number of chocolate chips. There are coffee pots out in the eating area, so the local “retired farmers guild” (those gentlemen who have passed on their farming responsibilities to younger generations or sold out to larger corporations, and now spend the morning hours solving all the world’s problems over cinnamon rolls and coffee) can serve themselves as many cups of hot, black java as they would like. Teachers congregate in the mornings, loading up on sugar and caffeine before heading off to face the battle of forcing knowledge onto reluctant (and, sometimes, outright rebellious) youth. Business meetings are held here, folks in uncomfortable looking suits signing papers while wiping gooey frosting off their faces.
I think The Bakery has a bit of a feminine feel, like the best Grandma’s Kitchen in the world. Lacey shelf paper peeks out from under the many cookie jars and teapots on display. It is a place that really captures the best feelings of home. Laughter, safety, good food, friendship. There is always a smile for everyone, and it is never a problem for the staff to pull an entire tray out of the counter to give a customer that perfect roll or sandwich (nope, one to the right. No, not your right, MY right. There you go, that one is perfect!!) People are friendlier in The Bakery. When it's crowded during a rush, folks will scoot over and invite you to pull up a chair at their table. When someone gets up to refill their coffee cup, it isn't unusual for them to walk the table circuit, offering refills to everyone else who has a cup.
When Big Sprout was little, and known as simply Sprout, she and Grandpa used to go up to The Bakery quite regularly. Big Sprout would call it her "date" with Grandpa, and was so proud of her special time with him. We were always astonished when she would eat almost all of a cream cheese cinnamon roll and caramel roll at one sitting. Those things are HUGE! I worked two blocks away from the Bakery for a few years, and it became my favorite lunch spot. Little Sprout has discovered the joys of "dates" with Grandpa, and now requests visits to The Bakery on a regular basis.
I am happy to live somewhere that little places like this still exist. It makes me smile when the gals working behind the counter remember my Sprouts and know what they like best. I love to walk in and smell the delicious scents of baking goodies. It feels good when the members of the Retired Farmers Guild play peek-a-boo with the baby at the next table.
It's a good place.
And that's all I have to say about that...