Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar in Downtown Minneapolis

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Like a mirage in a pastry desert, Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar opened softly on April 30, beckoning to workaday downtowners desperate for a morning doughnut or midday guilty pleasure just steps from Nicollet Mall and their office doors. Co-owner Cynthia Gerdes calls Angel Food Bakery a natural extension of Hell’s Kitchen, the 10-year-old downtown breakfast mainstay and music venue she owns with her husband Mitch Omer.

According to Gerdes, Hell’s Kitchen has always turned out its own scratch baked goods, led by pastry chef Katherine Gerdes. And “little by little,” she says, “word-of-mouth spread about her desserts, which was great, but we then ran out of space in the tiny baking corner of the kitchen.” Until Angel Food was born and installed just above Hell’s basement lair.

When speaking of bakeries, downtown Minneapolis is parched. Unlike South Minneapolis with its Patisserie 46 and Sun Street Breads, there’s little in the way of accessible specialty baked goods for pedestrians and people stuck in meetings or bound by half-hour lunch breaks. Angel Food seems like an excellent solution, filling the retail gaps left by Cocoa & Fig and Wuollet, and offering delicious Peace Coffee as a substitute for the nearest Starbucks.

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

There are other cool things about the bakery. For one thing, it echoes that smirking and flashy Hell’s Kitchen aesthetic, but in a lighter, fluffier way. White and tinsel frame the bakery’s open kitchen, where you can sit at the bar and watch the bakers knead dough or torch meringue. The bakery also offers bread (created by Craig Nelson, a New French Bakery alum), catering, delivery, wedding cakes, and basically any special service you can imagine.

And yet.

The bakery’s most important aspect — its execution of pastry classics — is poor, and on the whole, the product does not reflect the kind of years-deep experience and pastry finesse the Hell’s Kitchen team claims to have.

Let’s start with something iconic: the golden, coveted croissant ($2). Though beautiful, the one at Angel Food is salty and supple, without the delicate outer crunch and stretchy, swelling inner layers of an expert croissant, and its buttery flavor is more schmaltzy than sweet and authentic. Take a look at our story on the many examples of a righteous croissant in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Angel Food’s doesn’t hold a dripping candle to them.

The raised glazed doughnut ($1.50) was a bit of a disaster. On one occasion it had a moist, underfried inside, and on another day it was chewy and dense instead of bouncy and light. This fluffy-looking yeasted treat is as deceptive as a rosy, grinning baby with indigestion. A blueberry lemon scone ($2.50) was similarly disappointing. There were none of the flaky layers essential to scones. It was soft, moist, cakey. Calling it a muffin would have made more sense.

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

A carrot cake cupcake ($3), on the other hand, was a standard specimen made delightful by the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. It was light and just barely cheesy without being gooey, dense, or wearisome. The cupcakes in general cater to decadence and greed, with whimsical colors and plentiful frosting. The Anti-depressant Cupcake ($3) was a decent combination of chocolate cake and delicate chocolate whipped cream, but the dollop of caramelized chocolate on top would have done more exciting things as a filling.

Angel Food also makes muffins, tarts, cookies, and brownies the size of a saucer. Like the cupcakes, the brownies call to the id with words like “turtle,” “rocky road,” and “Butterfinger.” But again, they fall short. Though large and heavy, the chocolatey bases of both the Rocky Road and Butterfinger ($3.50) were bland, with a scant supply of their namesake flavors and just a tiny well of ganache in the center. Decadence they are not.

There are also baguettes and several sorts of large, golden loaves of bread for sale at Angel Food, and their sourdough’s ($4.25) thick crust hides a tight, slightly sweet crumb that makes for a sturdy slice of toast. In fact, the bread basket may be where Angel Food’s biggest asset lies. Being able to grab a loaf of decent, homemade bread before heading home from work, and in the same breath find a great cup of coffee, second-rate sweets, and an option for catered office meetings is an anomaly in downtown Minneapolis. And that’s just it — Angel Food Bakery is a great idea. But the food could be a lot greater.

Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar

★☆☆☆ (Notable)

Full-service bakery in downtown Minneapolis
86 S 9th Street (above Hell’s Kitchen)
Minneapolis, MN 55402
612.238.1435
OWNER / CHEF: Cynthia Gerdes and Mitch Omer /  Katherine Gerdes and Craig Nelson
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 6:30am-6:30pm
Sat 7:30am-6:30pm
Sun 7:30am-3pm
BAR: Espresso
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: None
GLUTEN FREE / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: Under $6

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About the Author

Emily Schnobrich

Emily comes from a family notorious for dunking whole pieces of cake into cold glasses of milk. It’s no surprise she inherited their angry sweet tooth and a devotion to pudding. Between a string of restaurant industry gigs, she has tutored writing, biked across Quebec, studied cheese, and baked cakes professionally. A perennial Minnesotan, Emily is at home in South Minneapolis where parking is prolific and the livin' is easy.

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20 Comments

  1. It’s a great space and I really hope they get the kinks worked out. I had a croissant on 4/29 and it was pretty bad – way too dense in the middle and crusty on the ends. But I think it was literally one of the first days they had been open so I will definitely go back in a month or so to see how they’ve improved.

  2. I think it’s a little rough to give a place your “In Depth” treatment when they are still in a soft open, especially with such a negative treatment of their signature products. I think it would be fine to post on the notable-ness of this place opening downtown (and it is notable, especially with the lack of good coffeee downtown and the closing of Turtle Bread last year), but putting one star at the bottom of your review is to me a declaration that your word is final, and I think that is unfair when they have clearly stated that they haven’t really opened yet.

    As a downtown worker I have high hopes for this place, and I think it will turn out to be a great spot to grab a pastry and some excellent coffee on a weekday morning. Hopefully they are able to work out some of the consistency issues and turn out the high quality product I expect from a Hell’s Kitchen venture.

  3. Rich Erickson05/12/2012Reply

    The line out the door and the huge smile on my wife’s face as she scarfed down what she called one of the best cupcakes (curry lime coconut) she had ever eaten makes me wonder about this review. I hope the reviewer would give it another shot in a couple months. Remember….everyone’s got different taste buds !

  4. Cynthia Gerdes05/13/2012Reply

    Cyn here from AngelFood. Nick and Rich, thanks for the sweet notes. Yes, we were surprised to be “reviewed,” especially since we had several signs up saying our quiet opening was specifically for customer feedback and systems testing. Nevertheless, the rave comments (especially on our Facebook page –AngelFoodMN) have been fabulous, so we hope we’re on the right track. And no worries about the HeavyTable “review”…they (as well as Mahern) might have missed the signs. We just appreciate that they took time to visit as well as note the dearth of downtown bakery and independent coffee options. GREAT opening weekend comments too ~

  5. OK, a little odd – but there is (happened on two visits) a horrible chemical/antiseptic smell emanating from the general vicinity of the shop. What is that? Makes the whole experience dreadful. Any thoughts?

  6. @PhilEsl: I’ve been there twice as well, and haven’t noticed any odd or off-putting smells. Just bakery smells, which are always pretty great. Never heard anybody else inside the bakery mention anything like that either. Not sure what you’ve been smelling.

    @HeavyTable: I agree with others here – A review of a bakery that wasn’t even fully open seems really presumptuous, especially when it’s mostly negative. You wouldn’t base a student’s final grade off the rough draft of a paper, would you? I understand that the bakery has been testing recipes and asking for customer feedback, so perhaps it would’ve been more appropriate to keep your article just on the info about the bakery, sent your feedback to the bakery personally, and come back for a follow up a little bit later, when they’ve had time to address the criticism they’ve been requesting. Even a simple note about how this was before the official opening, and a “rating withheld/pending” rather than a “1 star” would be more fair than an official review of a business that was still in the testing stages.

  7. I probably need to inscribe this in stone somewhere on the site, but if you’re open for business and charging people for food, you’re subject to comment and review. If you’re not sure of your food, don’t charge for it.

    There’s always a hue-and-cry when we offer mixed reviews for places relatively early on in their lifecycles, but that misses two points: we’ve seen many places open strong with excellent and consistent food right out of the gate, and there’s no guarantee that lackluster food will get better with time – it sometimes gets worse, in fact.

  8. 1) when you approach the HK / AFB spaces from the inside of the building, starting around the hair salon / shoe repair area, there’s always been an odd smell. I can best describe it as bloody mary and part chemical disinfectant. I would guess it has something to do with Bombay Bistro, but who knows?

    2) I wonder if Norton is secretly hoping for this sort of response from the folks @ AFB: http://www.rakemag.com/2007/12/ode-sycophant/

  9. morchella05/16/2012Reply

    I stopped Sat to grab a gluten-free brownie for a friend’s young daughter who has Celiac’s disease – and one for myself to try. Definitely one of the best gluten free baked treats in town! Would think this could be a great niche for AFB to explore….

  10. Shogunmoon05/18/2012Reply

    This website would be a lot better if its “authors” knew what they were talking about.

  11. shogunmoon05/18/2012Reply

    Perhaps I was a bit harsh. These Heavy Table amateur food writers are very good about rounding up links from other amateur food writers so that those of us that actually “work” in the industry can see the trite utterances committed to “ink” by random twits that think they are the next Ruth Reichl.

    James- Us actual restaurant workers have no problem with you “reviewing” a restaurants that has just opened. What we have a problem with is your inane amateur food knowledge and super precious editorial voice. Basically, it is your “reviews” that are banal.

    Not every “blogger” should try to write like Dara. (Indeed, most bloggers shouldn’t blog, period.) Dara herself can get a bit insufferable, but she does have a history of taking the time to actually know what she is talking about now and again. Basically, she doesn’t self publish on some Blog, and has traditionally been published by actual publications. You know, professional.

    If you people actually make a living off of this website, wow. I wish I could make a living by not actually doing any work and slandering new businesses, but I have too much pride for that.

    Re Dara: Now if only we could get her to tip properly. (She has been known to leave really shitty tips even at places she writes up well.)

    PS I think the fellow that does the comic reviews is pretty much all you have.

    Destroy.

  12. Cynthia Gerdes05/21/2012Reply

    Holy Cow! And Help?
    While we so very much appreciate the thoughtful comments of support for our brand new bakery, we really don’t want to be in the middle of this interesting debate. We’d just prefer to bake our hearts out, keep decorating cupcakes while you watch us in action, and let our customers be the judge. So thank you to all who have rallied on our behalf, thank you to all who have showered us with good reviews on Facebook and elsewhere, thank you to James Norton for writing about us in the first place and then fielding some interesting comments, and HUGE thanks if this ages-old debate can be continued elsewhere… otherwise, Mr. Norton will think our Moms have been behind this ;) Cynthia Gerdes

  13. Emily Schnobrich05/21/2012Reply

    I wrote the story, not James.

    I’ve been working in restaurants and bakeries for years, both front AND back of the house.

    I appreciate your comments. Loyalty is great.

    But I appreciate Cynthia Gerdes’s comments the most. She is clearly a smart, gracious restauranteur who doesn’t fly off the handle when criticized. Probably one of the reasons Hell’s Kitchen remains a most beloved Twin Cities spot. Best of luck!

  14. Hell's Kitchen Fan07/03/2012Reply

    O.k, it’s been a month now. Mitch Omer is an insane genius and all, but Angel Food still isn’t living up to its potential. I want to love the place, and the staff is very friendly. However, I’ve been there several times now, and I have to say that Angel Food is running out of chances for me. Dense croissants and doughuts as well as weird combinations of ingredients (a maple long-john topped with a strip of bacon jumps unpleasantly to mind) do not an outstanding bakery make. All in all, I’d rather go to Panera. I’m all for creativity, but when the execution completely ignores the basics of pastry quality, it’s hard to reconcile. It’s still early, I guess, but I predict that unless they turn things around soon, there won’t be enough of a following to keep the place open for long, especially given that the ground floor location isn’t exactly a plus for a downtown operation.

  15. I came upon Angel Food this morning and was drawn in by the cute decor, the lovely cake samples lining the ledge by the windows, and of course, the display case. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the choices and decided to purchase a small sampling. I chose a cheddar and chive scone, a carrot cake scone, 2 cupcakes and 2 Mexican Wedding Cakes. I rushed back to my office, made a cup of tea and sat down to sample my goodies.

    And now the story goes terrible wrong. The cheddar and chive scone tasted like it was made with a cheap, store bought, backing mix—the only cheddar taste was when I bit into the few small spots of cheese in the scone, and, it had absolutely no hint of chive. The carrot cake scone was a heavy, dense, dry mess that in no way represented a carrot cake. By far, the worst scones I have ever had! Both of the cupcakes had the same mouth feel that was in no way a cake—I don’t event know how to describe it other than dry. The banana one did have the flavor of bananas, however, the darkened banana slice on top was unattractive and the “cookie” decoration was soggy. The other cup “cake” had no flavor except for a piece of fruit that was not discernable as to it’s origin.

    There were 2 good points that I must mention—I could eat the frosting that was on the cupcakes and the carrot cake scone, by the pound. It was delicious and creamy, had a GREAT mouth feel, flavor and no oily after taste of so many other frostings. The other good point was the Mexican Wedding Cakes—they were FANTASTIC!!!!! They had a great flavor, the perfect amount of nuts and ended an otherwise horrible experience on an up note.

    Would I recommend Angel Food—probably not. Would I go back—for the Mexican Wedding Cakes, HECK YA!!!! For anything else, SADLY, NO!!!!!

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