Venue Review: Nosh
Open the door of Smiley’s Bakery and Cafe and a blast of fresh-baked bread hits you — not the bready smell of most bakeries, but the real, sweet, warm smell you usually get only when you bake bread in your own kitchen.
It only gets better from there.
This tiny bakery, cooked up by Amy Graham, who years ago owned Amy’s Bakery and Cafe on the west side, is packed with delicious, homemade goodies that rise above the pastry pack. Plates of cookies, muffins and brownies crowd the modest glass case at the counter. Fresh pies cool on pedestals above. The smell of fresh bread battles the smell of good coffee. The cafe itself, speckled with mismatched chairs and tables, rusted tin pie plates tacked to the wall, and a shelf of children’s books is so sweet and homey that it almost feels like confection.
I didn’t quite get the bakery’s name until I was greeted at the counter on an early morning by Graham, whose smile is as sweet and genuine as her strawberry rhubarb pie.
“I just like to make people happy,” she said recently, taking a break from baking. “When you make them good food and give them a nice place to hang out, it just makes my day.”
That first visit was for breakfast, and it left us dying to come back for lunch.
The French toast ($4.95) was bolstered by a robust, crusty white bread (homemade, of course) with a few sesame seeds sprinkled on the crust. It was perfect — somehow dancing between airy levity and custardy richness. I’m kind of bummed that Graham doesn’t offer real maple syrup for a surcharge, but real syrup is so rare anywhere in this town she can hardly be faulted.
Other breakfast choices are just as good. A delicate cinnamon twist ($1.95) slaked in sugar was so light and flaky that it practically dissolved on the tongue.
In a world where muffins tend to be dense, doughy and bland, Smiley’s cranberry walnut version ($1.95) was packed with fresh berries and huge chunks of nut suspended in a lovely cornmeal concoction.
It’s a good place to linger over coffee, baked goods and the newspaper. The music wanders between scratchy old Edith Piaf and scratchy new John-Alex Mason. There is free Wi-Fi and an effortlessly hip atmosphere that led my wife to say, “You know, this is basically a breakfast