Pretty in pale pink and light lime green, Sugarbakers was the perfect antidote to a gray, depressing day. The slick, pastry-porn photos on the walls seemed to suggest redemption through indulgence. Hot chocolate was all but inevitable. And a large cup of good chocolate it was, enlivened by a smidgen of cinnamon but not encumbered by the optional mini-marshmallows.
Looking around, it appeared that this was not the kind of place the terminally hip would hang out in, but the friendly service and designer-cheery atmosphere seemed just right for a location across from the Quarry Market. The menu radiates a kind of earnest cheerfulness, too. “White-meat chicken made into a great salad with lettuce,” reads one description; “fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned well on focaccia bread” is another, almost self-effacing, descriptor. On this gloomy day, the chipotle-chicken sandwich with melted Monterey Jack on focaccia promised both thermal and chemical (capsaicin) rewards. $9.95 is a substantial amount to pay for a sandwich — even in such high-rent surroundings (other sandwiches can be had for as little as $6.95; salads run from $4.50 to $11.95 for the 10-gallon Texas Caesar), but the sandwich was extremely good. The chicken breast was tender and moist, the chipotle mayo just punchy enough, the cheese, lettuce, and tomato all in perfect balance. These are not qualities to be sneered at.
There will be no sneering regarding the blueberry bread pudding either — especially now that I know that Grandma Harris, the matriarch of this family-run café and bakery, is often responsible for bakery operations in the kitchen. But I did find it just a trifle dense, a tad over-generous with both nutmeg and the warmed whiskey sauce, and a little short on blueberry. But I finished it.
Any faults, imagined or real, were more than overcome by the trio of cookies I took home. The peanut-butter kisses were identical to some I made over Christmas, the pecan chocolate chips were faultless, and the thumbprints with lemon icing were ethereal. Most cookies are fairly priced at a dollar, too.
Sugarbakers is also open for breakfast with the standard array of favorites: eggs several ways (including migas), pancakes, and three variations on French toast. — Ron Bechtol