Wed 19 Jan 2011
When David Guas struck out on his own from the Passion Hospitality Group, he called his venture DamGoodSweet. After a visit to the Courthouse Farmers’ Market in Arlington this past weekend, we stopped into Bayou Bakery and found out exactly what the phrase means firsthand. Guas’ new take on the community coffeehouse is an impressive rendition of the flavors and spirit of New Orleans cuisine. Damn good sweet, indeed.
Bayou Bakery opened in late November last year after a ton of anticipation. The location is ideal: at the corner of 15th Street and North Courthouse Road, Bayou can cater to the courthouse crowd on weekdays and the market crowd on Saturdays, with a healthy neighborhood following in the evening. Demand has been high enough to warrant Sunday hours, as well – they just started this past weekend. When we arrived seating was at a premium, though a brisk carry-out business made it possible for us to order and grab a table right away.
But what to get that would give us a good feel for the place in short order? We settled on a few NOLA favorites and a couple of unexpected treats. Check them out with us after the jump.
We’re no experts on Cajun country, of course, but we recently spent a long weekend in New Orleans and the city made a distinct impression. We were eager to see how faithful Bayou Bakery would be to those sights, sounds and – most importantly – tastes.
The appearance starts things off on the right foot. Reclaimed shutters line the upper space between the kitchen and the dining room; their weathered faces would be right at home on the streets of most Southern towns. A lounge space toward the rear includes a converted church pew for bench seating. And stained glass hanging in one of the front windows features six colorful renditions of the New Orleans Water Meter cover that has become an iconic symbol of the Crescent City.
Behind the counter, coffee orders are flying back and forth with ease. If they’re accompanied by a food order, patrons receive a laminated card with the name of one of Louisiana’s sixty-four parishes printed on it. Throughout our time at Bayou we heard calls for Lafayette, Natchitoches and Plaquemines rattled off with impressive pronunciation.
But the star of the show – both in New Orleans and at Bayou Bakery – is always the food. Strong coffee, hot dough and powdered sugar were a tempting combination in the French Quarter and they hold the same allure in Arlington. I knew I wanted an order of beignets and a milky cafe au lait to wash them down. What I got was a plate of three hot (but not painfully so) pillows of dough thoroughly coated in powdered sugar and still glistening with a sheen of oil. They practically dissolved in our mouths, they were so light. Needless to say we made short work of them, and for $3 an order they were a steal.
The coffee held its own, though I was surprised to see that Bayou uses Counter Culture coffee instead of one of the classic Louisiana purveyors. The brew was bold, with that rich French Roast flavor that stops just short of burnt. It was cut significantly by the milk, and the combination was smooth and strong.
Elizabeth ordered a buttermilk biscuit, baked fresh in the shop and served on its own or as a delivery vehicle for breakfast sandwiches featuring Benton’s bacon or turkey sausage. It was dense and held up well, but it was destined to come up short next to the glory of the beignets.
As we perused the rest of the menu, we saw sandwiches and hot entrees that made us wish we were close enough to visit Bayou at lunch or dinnertime. I’m especially eager to try their take on a muffaletta sandwich as well as a number of their “Chew Dat” daily specials.
Our taste of Bayou Bakery didn’t stop with the baked goods, though. As I placed the order I found my eyes drawn to brown paper bags decorated with the Bayou Bakery logo behind a sign that announced “PORKORN.” I took a closer look, and smaller print described the contents as “peanut-caramel popcorn with Benton’s bacon” and spices. Sure, we were there before noon…but how could I resist?
That salty-sweet combination that seems to be cropping up in desserts everywhere strikes again – and it was damgoodsweet for sure.
We left Bayou Bakery with a healthy appreciation for David Guas’ classic New Orleans fare and an eagerness to return and try some of his more adventurous takes, as well.