Dining out: Corner Bakery Cafe

Published: Friday, April 2 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

I visited a bakery cafe recently that was a total disappointment. The food was OK, but the staff seemed apathetic and the bakery case was sparingly stocked with a few dispirited-looking brownies and croissants that had hardened on the outside.

Frankly, it was depressing. Bakeries should be among the most cheerful places to visit, with gleaming cases stuffed with plump cookies, chewy brownies and cakes so moist they're practically dewy.

Just stepping into a nice bakery (Les Madeleines comes to mind here) is like breathing in endorphins for me.

Maybe that's why Corner Bakery Cafe was such a lovely experience. This chain bakery, which recently opened on Foothill Boulevard near the University of Utah and is planning a Fashion Place store, is everything it should be.

The place is stuffed with goodies. The cases are full, there are bins of bread behind them, and entryway tables are fully stocked with tiny chocolate-chip cookies or slender crisped slices of raisin bread in shiny, crackly bags tied with black ribbon.

The interior is clean, cheerful and well appointed, with dark woods and a compartmentalized dining room that gives this casual establishment an upscale vibe. And the menu is so full of high-quality, extra-mile sorts of food that I began planning my next visit before the first one was over.

My husband, who regular readers of this column know is something of a bacon fanatic, was excited to see chicken carbonara with bacon and peas on the menu. Frankly, it's not carbonara in the strictest sense: Real carbonara gets its sauce from a combination of bacon fat and fresh egg that's cracked over the hot pasta and mixed in just before serving to form a distinctive, creamy sauce.

What Corner Bakery's version lacked in authenticity it made up for in taste. The sauce was light and milky, the chicken was juicy and the bacon was included in just the right proportion, with peas providing fresh green contrast. With it he had a simple, but well-made, Caesar salad.

Our son followed Daddy in choosing the kids' penne noodles with fresh cream sauce with a little pesto stirred in for extra taste and color.

I went a more "lunchy" route with my meal, the soup and sandwich combo. I appreciate that Corner Bakery puts no restrictions on what types of salad and sandwich diners can choose in combos, as many other restaurants do.

I chose the loaded baked potato soup and Bavarian ham sandwich on pretzel bread, a combination that was perfect to ward off the blustery day outside.

The soup was creamy but not too thick, with rich and well-balanced flavors of potato, cheese, bacon and green onions. The fresh pretzel bread, with that salty glaze you get on real baked pretzels, elevated to greatness the simple sandwich of smoked ham, red onions, tomatoes, Havarti cheese with caraway and a swipe of mustard-mayo.

Those details — thoughtfully chosen breads, Havarti cheese with caraway, cream sauce with pesto stirred in — are what lift Corner Bakery above the pack. They're found all over the menu: salads come in two sizes, and there are thoughtful combinations and interesting food for every type of eater, from meat lovers to vegetarians.

And luckily, the good details continued once we delved into the dessert cases. Everything was good — cookies positively encrusted with mini M&Ms, a moist and fudgy miniature bundt, buttery mini chocolate-chip cookies, brownies so dark, rich and semi-sweet that they were almost fudge.

But to my surprise, my favorites were the sugar cookie, simple and perfect with tender center, chewy edges and a sprinkle of coarse decorating sugar; and the complex, flaky and delicious apricot-walnut rugelach.

Soup $3.49-$6.29, salad $3.99-$7.79, sandwiches and panini $5.89-$7.39, combinations $7.29-$7.79, pasta $6.79-$7.79, breakfast items $2.99-$5.79, kids' meals $4.29.

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.

e-mail: skratz@desnews.com

Corner Bakery Cafe

Rating: ★★★1/2

Where: 610 S. Foothill Blvd. (also opening soon at Fashion Place Mall, Murray)

Hours: Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 801-583-2000

Wheelchair access: easy

Web: www.cornerbakerycafe.com

Also: catering available

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