Rue Cler Bakery

Not that Rue Cler, Durham’s premier French restaurant, needs any more good press, but for some reason I never remember about their bakery and cafe. That neuron was one of the few to fire this morning, and I thought that there would be no better way to recuperate from an awesome first night of the Troika Music Festival than coffee and beignets at Rue Cler’s bakery.


Rue Cler, which is right across the corner from the post office on East Chapel Hill St., was one of the first upscale restaurants to venture into downtown Durham, paving the way for many other venues.


I got a half-dozen beignets and the crepe du jour (egg, roasted peppers, bacon and gruyere). The crepe was exactly as good as it sounds.

Egg, roasted peppers, bacon, and gruyere crepe

Egg, roasted peppers, bacon, and gruyere crepe

It’s hard to describe how good their beignets are. They’re like flaky, chewy pockets of fried heaven. They also make fresh baguettes daily — they come out at about 2 pm, so show up early if you want one.

beignets at Rue Cler

Donut heaven: beignets at Rue Cler

While not as incredible as the Screaming Females show at the Pinhook last night, the bakery at Rue Cler made me feel like a new (and much fatter) man this morning. They stop serving crepes and beignets at 10.30 am, so don’t miss out!

Rue Cler Bakery (map)
Monday: 7.30 am – 4 pm
Tuesday – Friday: 7.30 am – 6 pm
Saturday: 8 am – 6 pm

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm  Comments (7)  

Good, Better, Best Desserts and Cafe

Way down 55, right before you reach RTP, is Good, Better, Best Desserts and Cafe, Durham’s newest bakery. Although they aren’t going to take much business from Guglhupf, their healthy approach and inventive cookies are a welcome change of pace.


They’re still trying to get the word out, so their selection is currently limited to sandwiches, muffins, and cookies. We went for the banana pecan and carob chip muffins, a handful of cookies, and some super-spicy ginger tea.

Since she doesn’t use any refined sugar, additves, etc., the muffins are a bit drier and denser than what you’d normally expect.  The honey yogurt or carrot currant muffins sound like they would work better than the more straightforward ones we ordered.

Carob chip muffin

Carob chip muffin

I really enjoyed the cookies, especially the molasses and date nut turtle ones. These aren’t huge, soft cookies — in fact, the granola cookie is more of an energy bar — but the “healthy” bakery angle works best for the less sweet items.

Banana nut muffin

Banana nut muffin

They also serve corned beef, pastrami, and turkey sandwiches from 11-3, for $8.50 a piece.  All in all, Good, Better, Best reminded me a lot of Bull City Bakery, but without one killer item like BCB’s pound cake. That being said, if you’re in the area, stop by and pick up some tea and cookies. You can also call ahead and place an order for cakes and pies, including carrot cake, cheesecake, and what has to be a first for Durham, butternut squash pie. Have you guys had this before?

Good, Better, Best Desserts and Cafe (map)
Tuesday – Friday: 8 am – 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday 

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Fresh Madeleines at Daisy Cakes

Tanya Catolos, the pastry chef at the Washington Duke Inn, just opened Daisy Cakes, a mobile storefront (technically a 1978 chrome Streamliner) for her cupcakes and other baked goods, located a block up from the Farmer’s Market.

Here’s the Streamliner in context, on the corner of Foster and Geer, right across from the Manbites Dog Theater and the now-defunct King’s Sandwich Shop.

After some truly heinous cupcake experiences in the Triangle, I was really happy with Daisy Cakes. That’s the Pink Lemonade cupcake (lemon with raspberry buttercream frosting). The cupcake itself is more cakey than spongey, and the frosting is creamy and super light but not at all airy like grocery store frosting.

If I ever buy a madeleine mold pan (or mini loaf pans) my masculinity will be officially rescinded, so I’m pretty elated I can now get fresh madeleines in Durham. It doesn’t get much better than warm, lemony discs of pound cake.

One of the cuter items on hand are “Pop’t-Arts,” which is basically flaky shortbread with a layer of strawberry preserves. They’re warmed before serving, but they really open up when you toast them at home too.

They’ve got a couple of tables set up next to the bus, great local coffee (Counter Culture), and tons of adorable in the vein of Locopops. I hear they’re starting to get swarmed, so in case supply doesn’t keep up with demand, you may want to show up earlyish for your Pop’t-Art.

Daisy Cakes (map)
Saturday: 8 am – 1 pm

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 9:27 am  Comments (20)  

Panaderia La Loma

All right, y’all, confession time:  I’ve never really liked pan dulce from Mexico.  Something about pan mexicano was always too dry, too frosted, too uninteresting.  For years I’ve wanted to like the stuff, admittedly, because it is generally easier to find than Central American pan dulce (which has more rice flour, more egg, more cheese, that sort of thing–look for quesadilla hondurena at Compare! it’ll knock your socks off ((pick one that feels heavy)).  So I went into La Loma somewhat hesitantly the other day, drawn mostly by the relatively recent sign indicating they now have paletas and helados.  In a hurry to get in because it was so freakin’ hot I merely glanced at the handwritten sign on the door saying they also had tacos or tortas or something.  Can I get a bleg! for someone out there to verify?  If a panaderia is running tortas the sammich’d be made more awesome with fresh bread.  Right.

Consider the spread above.  I avoided the omnipresent concha (as it is called in most regions; a puffy round disc smothered in colored sugar frosting) to sample these delights.  The oblong one was predictably the driest and hardest.  A real dipper for coffee, that one.  The large, dark one, bottom right, wasn’t quite as good as I wanted it to be, but it was airy and enjoyable.  Bottom left is a nicely layered version of the concha.  Not quite a Mexican cinnamon roll, but much better than the dry dinner roll taste of many conchas I’ve had (see bottom left of second photo).

Here the limits of my camera are evident, but I tried to show the spiral shape of the last pan dulce.  This one in particular was a delight.  It had the light chewiness of a good bread while maintaining the delicate textures of a sweet bread.  The thought of even sipping my coffee between bites of this one never crossed my mind.  Unfortunately it is the hardest to see in the above photo, but I really recommend eating a dozen of them–if you’re into that sort of thing.

Lastly but not leastly, is the helado.  They were out of paletas but had about six different helados.  I chose the one I knew nothing about.  The baker didn’t know what it was called in English, in Spanish it is la tuna–like the fish, he said–the fruit of the nopal.  It wasn’t until later I realized it was prickly pear.  I’ve never had a prickly pear and can’t really compare the taste of it.  It was light and really refreshing.  It was perfect for the hot day, certainly better than a quite sweet paleta from LocoPops (don’t get me wrong, they do paletas quite right, though they’re generally sweeter than this helado.)

The folks at La Loma are from outside of Mexico City.  Perhaps that region has something going on when it comes to pan dulce.  All I know is that the place smelled great and the breads were much better than I’m accustomed.  They make a french bread that I think would do a po’boy/torta right, for those who venture to do it at home.

Panaderia La Loma (2908 Hillsborough Rd)

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 4:55 pm  Comments (5)  

Pound Cake at Bull City Bakery

North Durham’s Bull City Bakery (right across from Kuts ‘n Kurls on Guess Rd.) has been around for about two years, and although they don’t have much for walk-in customers, their pound cake alone is worth a visit. 

The bakery seems to get most of its business from whole cakes (wedding cakes, business and school events, etc.), but in-store they have several kinds of pound cakes (chocolate, lemon, and orange ginger this time around) and 8 or 9 different varieties of cookies.  All their other items, including pastries, have to be ordered ahead of time.

Dean, the owner, is a great guy – after ordering a slice of lemon pound cake and an oatmeal butterscotch cookie, I mentioned the blog (since I was taking some photos) and he gave me a cranberry orange oatmeal cookie on the house.  I can also appreciate the “cake rules” from their website:

  1. Frosting should never come from a bucket.
  2. Cake Mix may be homemade, but is never scratch.
  3. Yellow and White are not Cake Flavors.
  4. Friends don’t let friends eat bad cake.
  5. Good cake makes parties better.
Amen to #4!

They haven’t gotten a lot of traffic at their location, but they’re one of a few bakeries that fill Durham’s underrepresented southern bakery niche.  Dean also mentioned that he hopes to pair up with Maple View Farms and sell ice cream sandwiches at Duke football games, which would add up to about 1000 calories of delicious.  

The cranberry orange oatmeal cookies are terrific (they sell out pretty often), and the pound cake is some of the best I’ve had in the Triangle.  But really, with a name like Bull City Bakery, how could it be bad?  (Also, in case you were wondering, the restaurant next door – Cafe Latino Deli – unfortunately closed a few weeks ago.)

Bull City Bakery (map)
Tuesday – Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10 am – 3 pm

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 3:17 pm  Comments (11)  

Panaderia La Favorita!


I always thought this bakery (2022 Chapel Hill Rd) looked cute from the outside, but never ventured inside during the year I lived 1/2 a block away from it.  Not sure what my problem is.   It is a really cute place with a large baked goods selection for cheap (these were $3.20):


Also, the woman there was very helpful, or tried to be, when I was staring at the large bakery display.  I know some Spanish but apparently I don’t know any baked good terms.  They also have dry cooking ingredients/spices that might interest someone who cooks, and they have pinatas.  Probably nothing you couldn’t find at Compare, but less overwhelming and with fewer cow heads.

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 10:30 am  Comments (4)  

Golden Krust coming to North Durham

Rumor has it that Golden Krust, a small chain Jamaican bakery, is moving into North Durham next to the Staples. Apparently they have some pretty decent patties.

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 7:52 pm  Comments (4)