by Ian McNulty
There are a lot of choices on the long display counter at Manhattan Jack (4930 Prytania St., 504-357-2003), a new bakery and café that opened in the middle of an Uptown restaurant row. But even if you don’t see something that grabs you right away it pays to linger a while. That’s because at regular intervals owners Jack Petronella or Coleman Jernigan emerge from the kitchen with a baking sheet of something hot from the oven that might do the trick.
Small-batch baking and a highly varied repertoire are two calling cards for this new spot, where two-dozen different breads and pastries share the billing with candies, sweets and coffee. Buttermilk drops, doughnuts, biscuits, macaroons, cupcakes, peanut butter-filled brownie sandwiches, croissants and crawfish pies are all part of the program, while convincingly legit bagels (crusty outside, chewy inside, not just a bun with a hole in it) are a particular specialty.
The Manhattan Jack name is a nod to Petronella’s roots in New York and New Jersey, where he previously ran a pair of candy shops. Jernigan’s experience is as a chef and barista. Initially, they planned to start a wholesale candy company in New Orleans, and a line of confections and pastries with the Manhattan Jack logo are sold at local cafes.
They soon switched gears, however, and last month opened their own café in a one-time fitness studio. It’s now an open and modern-looking spot with a long, communal table in the center, easy chairs up front, local art on the walls and people setting up with laptops and a coffee or dashing in for a quick bite.
Manhattan Jack is still rolling out different facets of the operation. Most recently, they’ve added a menu of classic sandwiches with the likes of Reubens, Cubans, clubs, French dips, Monte Cristos and croque monsieurs.
Next up, Petronella says they plan to add more plated desserts on Friday and Saturday nights to serve as an after-dinner destination for patrons of the many nearby restaurants.
“We’ll turn the lights low, light some votives, get some good music playing and make a place to be part of someone’s date night,” he says.
Manhattan Jack is open Tuesday to Sunday, beginning at 6:30 a.m. Service continues through 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, through 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and through 2 p.m. Sunday.
4930 Prytania St., (504) 357-2003