Chef (and cookbook author) David Guas has created a third-space that should be known for more than just their version of the New Orleans doughnut. The bakery/restaurant on the corner of North Courthouse and Clarendon is small but airy. The back of the restaurant is a cozy nook that is decorated with Cajun kitsch, funny signs that reference "fancy ladies" and some overstuffed chairs, while in the front the tables and booths are bathed in the light of the floor to ceiling windows that display stained glass. Over the speakers you can hear the beats of The Big Easy interspersed with the names of the parishes in Louisiana (it's how you know when your food is ready), both adding to the laid-back vibe. The cozy environment encourages people to linger over a counter culture latte, a cup of house-made lemonade or beer. This is fantastic until you find yourself standing awkwardly in the corner waiting to pounce on the first available table.
Elliot and I were at Bayou Bakery around noon on a Sunday, so we were lucky enough to be able to decide between the breakfast and lunch menus. I opted to go for an egg and cheese biscuit while Elliot gravitated toward the muff-a-lotta sandwich. The biscuit left crumbs on my plate after each buttery bite, proving to me that this was the real deal (and something that I would be hard pressed to create in my own kitchen). The entire sandwich begged for a little something extra, so I topped it with a touch of apple butter that I found next to the coffee condiments. Elliot’s muff-a-lotta was dynamite. Between the two halves of the sesame seed bun you found a spectacular combination of salami, mortadella, smoked ham, provolone cheese and a smear of an olive salad. It was practically drool-worthy, especially when you consider it was a mere $6.
Given all the hype, it stands to reason that our first experience at Bayou Bakery would be a bit of a letdown. After all, those hailing Guas's new concept buy ink by the barrel. He was even nominated for Food & Wine's Best New Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. But with all that, it is impossible to ignore that the food speaks for itself. Classic recipes paired with strong execution make for a dynamic dining experience, even if you're wearing yoga pants or cycling shorts. It is safe to say, that despite the schlep required to get there Elliot and I will be back soon, hopefully to celebrate Mardi Gras.