Bakery Bar is fun. The board games on shelves lining the walls and the lively late-night crowd that packs the bar show that, but the spot is built around the odd marriage of cake and cocktails.
The team behind Debbie Does Doberge opened the Lower Garden District spot in April, after building a following for its decadent multilayer cakes. Dessert and cakes feature prominently, but what sounds like a niche operation is actually a lot more. It's a lunch spot offering creative salads, snacks and daily sandwich specials. It's a cocktail haunt where some of the city's veteran bartenders throw handmade shrubs and sodas into quality quaffs. And at night, it's a place to play and have a little fun.
What Bakery Bar is not is a full-fledged dinner operation, at least for now. Though the name belies its sweet inclination, there's a short menu of savory options. Most items are appropriate for snacking, with the exception of a burger and a few sandwiches. A beautiful cheese and charcuterie platter arrives with mustards and compotes decorating the spread like paint dollops on a palette.
A medley of emerald kale with sesame seeds, cauliflower florets in yogurt dressing and wisps of red onion accompany a generous portion of hummus and buttery, crisp garlic croutons — an intensely satisfying dish rich in flavor and texture.
The wedge salad is an excellent variation on the steak house classic. A slice of iceberg lettuce is draped with sharp green goddess and blue cheese dressing, dill and garlicky tzatziki oil studded with cucumbers.
Jalapenos are folded into chunky pimiento cheese, which is sandwiched between two miniature scone halves with pickled tomatoes and lettuce. The sharp bite from the peppers cuts through the cream and cheese, adding elements of brine, crunch and heat to the Southern favorite.
A petite slab of buttery, toasted Pullman bread is hidden under a pile of juicy Gulf shrimp slathered in remoulade and decorated with horseradish. The dish — reminiscent of an East Coast lobster roll — would be fine as is but a blanket of carrots, jalapenos, cucumbers and cilantro takes the dish to another level.
It's a good idea to leave room for dessert. A pastry case sidling the bar provides a fun way to ogle the goods, including classic layered doberge cakes and petite "salty balls," orbs of salted cake batter encased in chocolate (the creamy coconut and almond versions made me want to swear off Almond Joy bars forever).
A playful take on doberge reimagines the cake as a creme brulee, and the result is a creamy, custardy hybrid that's as decadent as it sounds.
Some of the cakes aren't for the timid. The Velvet Elvis is a rich and saccharine slice laden with rich peanut butter and bacon fondant. Key lime pie is a longtime favorite, and Bakery Bar's version is every bit as cool and creamy as I remember.
It's hard not to feel a little guilty when capping an evening here with a glass of bubbly and a slice of cake. But it's a worthy indulgence. So in the spirit of Marie Antoinette, guilt be damned, let them eat cake.