Looking to take a step off the beaten path? Then Bakery Bar belongs on your list of places to check out. Located in the Lower Garden District just a stone’s throw from the GNO Bridge, this savory/sweet mashup opened back in 2016 when it took over the space occupied by the long-running Italian hideaway Eleven 79. Using their (awesomely named) Debbie Does Doberge cake business as its starting point, Bakery Bar owners Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV cooked up a savory menu to go with it, as well as a retro-inspired cocktail program. A year ago Joel White signed on as executive chef, who has since helped spearhead their current concept menu approach.
“New Orleans has such an amazing restaurant scene that it makes it difficult to stand out,” White said. “To get noticed you just have to do something special.” White answers this challenge with his themed menus, which change up about every six months, allowing Bakery Bar to reinvent itself periodically in a competitive market. Just in time for Mardi Gras is his “Myths and Legends Menu,” which draws upon Greek and Norse mythology along with a smattering of Americana tall tales and urban legends. It is a geeky/brainy concept and makes for a fun menu. Of course a concept is no good if the execution fails, but thankfully this isn’t the case here. Take the “Paul Bunyan” – braised oxtail in a blueberry coulis with maple syrup-spiked collard greens and mushroom barley. The warm, rustic dish works just fine on its own but note the components which tie into the Paul Bunyan myth. Yes, its gimmicky, but it is smart and it works.
Entrees to consider include the “Phoenix” with half a smoked chicken accompanied by an umami-rich mac and cheese made with creamy Humboldt fog cheese. The charred green onion (and the layer of ash in the cheese, for that matter) play into the phoenix theme. A Siracha barbecue sauce brings some heat. The “Sword and the Stone” features swordfish cooked sous-vide with an accompaniment of roasted, pickled and pureed root vegetable tied together with an apricot beurre blanc (stone-fruit, natch). The sous vide method touches on some of White’s skills as a chef; it’s not quite modernist, but you will note a lot of technically creative touches. The raspberry caviar in the Fenrir’s “Binding” dessert, for example. “Fenrir was an overly-strong demigod in Norse mythology, and Loki went to the dwarves to craft a chain strong enough to bind him,” White said, explaining the dish. “Called Gleipnir, it was made from impossible ingredients like the breath of a fish and the roots of a mountain but was also super-light.” This plays into the airy lemon-chiffon donut and the chain pattern on the plate. As this is Norse mythology, the caviar (set with agar agar) represents blood. Confused? You don’t have to think about it anymore than you want to – just eat it. After all, it has frosting made from Trix cereal (Loki was a trickster god).
Clearly, Bakery Bar makes for a fun, idiosyncratic dining destination. The menu alone is a doorway into conversation and the full bar will keep you talking all night long. It is kid friendly as well, especially for brunch, and the little ones will “oh and ah” over the Debbie Does Doberge cake case, all of which are conveniently sold by the slice.
Debbie Does Doberge, the local cake phenomenon owned by Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV, sits at the core of Bakery Bar. A stand-alone company in its own right, their kaleidoscopic cakes are for sale out the case and may also be ordered and shipped online. Kids will love the colors of the Rainbow Surprise Wedding Cake, while adults may opt for more grownup flavors such as Pistachio or Triple Chocolate. Look for their new location -Debbie on the Levee – to open soon in Kenner’s Rivertown neighborhood.
Bakery Bar, 1179 Annunciation St., Lower Garden District, 210-8519, Bakery.bar. L, D Tues through Sun. Weekend Brunch. Closed Mon.
Ice Cream Dream
It’s hard to find comps for a place like Bakery Bar, but lovers of ice cream need to check out Piccola Gelateria on Freret Street. Along with the city’s best Gelato – try the Amarena Cherry – it offers a short list of savory crepes. Just save room for dessert.