Mid-City and nearby neighborhoods are heating up for local diners, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by John Blancher, owner of Ye Olde College Inn and Rock 'n' Bowl. Blancher's newest venture, which opened in December 2013, is Ye Olde Bake Shoppe, a charming bakery and lunch spot housed in the newly renovated Carrollton Avenue shopping area that is home to College Inn and Rock 'n' Bowl.
There's something inherently humorous about naming a sparkling new bakery "Ye Olde" anything, but it's clear Blancher intends to associate the Bake Shoppe with the College Inn, and for good reason. The neighborhood restaurant is a local institution, dating back to 1933.
The Bake Shoppe's walls are decorated for Mardi Gras and with vintage local advertisements and news clippings. A display counter showcases an array of pastries both savory and sweet, from biscuits and croissants to brownies, cannoli, cookies, decorated cupcakes, danishes, doughnuts, macarons and scones, as well as a few prepared sandwiches if you're looking to pick up lunch in a hurry. A large window on the far wall above a condiment station allows customers to peek at the bakers preparing king cakes and other treats.
It's nice to see a new bakery focusing on classics instead of killing itself with novelty. There's a sort of arms race with local bakers and their ingredients in New Orleans right now, with bakers constantly trying to one-up each other with ambitious flavor combinations. Ye Olde Bake Shoppe wants little to do with such endeavors and sticks to the basics.
To this end, it succeeds. Doughnuts are fluffy and sweet without being cloying. From old-fashioned glazed to simple chocolate frosting, they pair well with strong coffee, also available here. Large muffins are a pleasure, particularly one bursting with plump blueberries, as are individual coffee cakes topped with a sugary glaze.
The Bake Shoppe's lunch fare isn't as varied as the sweets and pastries. There is only a small handful of offerings if you're looking for a meal more substantial than a couple of doughnuts and a cup of joe. A bagel stuffed with cream cheese and lox, topped with the traditional red onions and capers, was a soggy disappointment; it was pre-prepared and sat to long in the display case. A staffer mentioned the bagels are not made in house. On the other hand, keep an eye out for two hot sandwiches, one with corned beef and the other with braised short ribs, both of which are served with a savory horseradish sauce. These are excellent and well worth $9 for a generous half portion, including a bag of chips.
Another noteworthy option is the rich, creamy tomato-basil soup, perfect for a rainy day. So is the chunky chicken salad, lightly dressed with mayo and served on a croissant. Southwestern chicken muffins were an intriguing item, though they turned out to be little more than cold spiced chicken meatballs. They proved better when taken home, heated and added to a sandwich.
It may not be particularly "Olde," but the Bake Shoppe is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and worth a visit for a leisurely breakfast of pastries and coffee. a quick hot lunch, or that short rib sandwich.