Monday, September 11, 2017

Corner Bakery Cafe

Corner Bakery Cafe is a chain of fast casual "bakeries", the sort of place that you are pretty sure doesn't actually bake anything there (or, if they do, it is from frozen).  As a "Bakery Cafe", they serve breakfast dishes, sandwiches/soups/salads, and a handful of baked goods.  They don't serve things like, well, loaves of bread.  So like Panera, but, even less legit bakery.
 I've walked by the San Francisco location most weekends (yes, it is kinda on a corner).  I've never given it a second look.  I don't really do sandwiches/soups/salads, and, I doubted the baked goods would be very good.  But, when I was browsing around reading up on birthday freebies, I saw that they give a baked good for your birthday.  And, a bonus one for signing up for the birthday club in the first place.

I couldn't pass up the chance to try two free baked goods, even if I had no expectation of them being good.


Ordering Line.
Corner Bakery Cafe is a casual place, where you order at a register up front, near display cases filled with the baked goods.  Food is prepared in a kitchen out of sight, and brought out when ready.

I visited about 5 times before writing this review, first to scope it out, twice to successfully get my treats, and 2 other times to fail to get what I wanted as they were sold out.  It was never busy.  Every.  Yet the restaurant has a very long hallway in the middle where you are supposed to queue up.  If there was ever a queue.
Barista Station.
Espresso drinks come from a welcoming looking barista station, but one that lacks an actual quality espresso machine.   You still order all drinks at the main cashier however.
Self serve drip coffee and standard condiments make up a side bar.
Cold Drinks.
Opposite the coffee station is the cold drinks (soda, tea, lemonade), also self-serve, and the rest of the condiments are here as well.
Seating Area.
Seating is a mix of standard height tables for 4, and higher tables for 2.  Seat yourself.  I think they bus the tables, but, on all visits, again never busy, tables always had dirty dishes on them.

Bakery Sweets

The only part of the menu at Corner Bakery that I cared about was the baked goods.  Partially because I'm a baked goods lover, but also, because my freebies were only good for them.
Cookies. $2.19.
First up for baked goods is large size cookies, all of which looked crispy style and not very good, but then again, I don't like cookies.  They had a good selection though, chocolate chip, monster, oatmeal raisin, sugar, and even english toffee.
Fudge Brownie, Maple Pecan Bar.
The maple pecan bar did catch my eye, as I love pecan pie, but closer inspection revealed that it looked like mostly shortbread, not much gooey filling.

I found it strange that on all visits they only ever had 1-2 of each bar item on display.  It made the case look empty, and made me wonder if they really sell that few?  Are they frozen in back and they just defrost a few when needed?
Lemon Bar, Cream Cheese Brownie. $2.79.
The other two bars were a lemon bar and cream cheese brownie, again, very sparsely populated.  Again, not very good looking.
Cinnamon Creme Cake. $2.19.
The coffee cake, er, cinnamon creme cake, is available whole or by the slice. It did not look very moist, and certainly did not have enough streusel for me.
Hand Pies: Blueberry, Twisted Lemon. $2.79.
The hand pies looked like fancy Pop-Tarts to me, and looked decent, probably the best looking offering.  I was sad that both involved lemon though (the blueberry one was topped with lemon glaze), and the "Twisted Lemon" clearly involved lemon ... somewhere.

Again, only 1-2 of each item was set out.  Still, I tried one.
Blueberry Hand Pie with Lemon Glaze. $2.79.
The "Hand Pie" was actually substantially larger than Pop-Tarts, which I realized when it was handed over to me, and the pastry bag weighed far more than I was expecting.  "Oooph!", I though.  It was easily the size, and weight, of 3-4 Pop-Tarts.  The 520 calories (!), 31 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of fat suddenly made more sense (compared to compared to 200 calories, 16 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fat in a frosted blueberry Pop-Tarts).

It was ... ok.  The pastry wasn't flaky though, it was kinda soft.  It wasn't layered.  Not really pie crust or what I expected.

The lemon glaze was substantial, very sweet, and lemon-y.

At room temperature, as served, the hand pie was just ok.  I brought my second half home and warmed it up in the toaster oven, pretending it was a Pop-Tarts after all, and that was much better.  It crisped up, and I liked the warm pastry.  Still, quality fresh pastry it was not.
Blueberry Hand Pie: Inside.
Here you can see a cross-section of the hand pie.

The filling is a blueberry compote, with little berries in it, and lots of goo.  It was very sweet.  It reminded me of the blueberry topping at IHOP - not a bad thing exactly, but not exactly high quality.

If I had my hand pie warm, with ice cream or whipped cream, the sweet filling would have worked.  But just with the pastry and also sweet glaze, it was too much sweet on sweet for me.  And I like sweets.  But more than two bites without something to cut it was too much.
Rugalach: Cinnamon Pecan and Apricot Walnut. $1.49.
Corner Bakery makes two varieties of rugalach, apricot walnut or cinnamon pecan.

These seem to be one of the most popular items, not only was there a pile of them in the display case, they are also the only item I read consistent good reviews for.

Even though I'm not a rugalach aficionado, it seemed like worth a try, even though the cheapest of all the baked goods, and thus, the lowest value for my freebie.
Cinnamon Pecan Rugalach. $1.49.
Given that I prefer pecans, and don't really care for apricot, it was an easy choice to go for the cinnamon pecan.

I did not like it.  On top was plenty of pearl sugar.  That was fine.  But the pastry itself was dried out and tasted stale.  The filling had a couple tiny bits of chopped pecan, and yes, some cinnamon, but barely any flavor, no moisture, and, ugh, currants (better than raisins, but expected, and not welcome).

I didn't even want a second bite of this two bite item.
Cinnamon Roll. $2.99.
Ok, I lied.  Actually, the best looking thing was the cinnamon rolls.  But they were not eligible for either the new member reward, nor the birthday reward.  The $2.99 price was $0.20 more than the others, so I guess that is why?

If I were actually *purchasing* an item, this is what I would have tried.
Corner Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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