It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time for the latest Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores our city’s culinary nooks and crannies. As before, our core team consisted of Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, sommelier at the legendary Le Rêve), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, informal taco scholar), me (recovering vegan and known taco-truck stalker), and this month’s special guest, Kristy Perez, one of the most promising emerging artists on the Texas scene (look for her CAM solo show at Sala Diaz, July 10.)
We rolled up to the roundabout intersection of Olmos Drive and McCullough, headed east on Olmos, and quickly found ourselves in Damien Watel Land. Watel has already conquered an entire strip mall on Olmos Drive with Ciao Lavanderia, Bistro Vatel, and Ciao Vino. Recently he collaborated with his mother to open Bistro Bakery across the street in an amazing triangular-shaped building that isn’t exactly like the Flatiron Building in NYC but at the least has some good karma after hosting the Yarn Barn all those years.
The Bistro Bakery has one of the most inviting exteriors of any eatery in town. Its hand-painted glass sign might have been created by Belgian artisans, or a team of Hollywood set decorators. The combination of the quaint building and the bakery’s Old World appearance gives the impression that a wool-garbed cyclist might pull up at any moment in search of a baguette. In reality, one too many women who look like Annette Benning in American Beauty pulled up in military-grade SUVs. It’s still Olmos Park, but the bakery transcends.
We mulled over the various soup, sandwich, and quiche options. Kristy and Frenchie ordered the quiche with crab and the quiche Lorraine. The crab version was the more exciting of the two, with a strong nautical flavor. The quiche Lorraine should be a hit with just about everyone who’s never read the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Frenchie went so far as to say it was “perfect” — a superlative he’s never dropped in our previous travels. Light in texture yet rich in taste, the Lorraine is the highlight of the lunch menu.
I tried the gazpacho as a tactic to leave room for the croissants. The chilled soup had decent body and was full of various mild flavors in a way that was never boring and also perfect for a light summer lunch. Carlos ordered jambon beurre (a ham and butter sandwich.) He thought the bread and overall flavor was incredible, though he would have preferred more ham — but that’s to be expected from an unapologetic carnivore. The lunch plates came with a very small green salad of very high quality. Kristy liked the sharpness of the dressing, but she and Frenchie would have preferred a bit more greenery. It was almost a garnish. Carlos, on the other hand, only interacts with vegetation when he’s walking over it, so no complaint from him on this issue.
We tried a chocolate croissant, an almond pastry, an e’claire (with more chocolate). The pastries at only $3 each were an incredible combination of price and quality. Though lunch plates are only $6-$8, and still an excellent bargain, the pastries make the most sense. For those driving toward a diabetic cliff without brakes, the Bistro Bakery croissant is a delicious and elegant way to go. There’s probably a Thelma and Louise allusion in here somewhere, but we’ve gone on too long already.
Bistro Bakery must be considered one of the best bakeries in town. Their croissant is a great addition to the local culinary landscape.
Frenchie: It was like a great French home-cooked meal.
Carlos: The bread, butter, and ham — yeah, that was incredible.
Me: In an era of simulated experiences, it’s great to see something this authentic.
Kristy: What can I say, except kisses to Damien’s mom. Without her, would everything taste just as good?