There’s something lovely about a vacant historic building being brought back to life. It’s even better when the building was originally a bakery and it finds life as a bakery again. Such is the case with Chaska’s Red Bench Bakery, which opened in late 2017 at the site of the former Chaska Bakery, which had been in business from 1884 to 2009. Quite the pedigree. And the space itself is a nice mix of old (fireplace, eponymous red bench) and contemporary (clean white lines, granite).
Still better, it’s an entirely successful culinary reinvention. Chef and owner Andy Mooney has spent more than 20 years running kitchens and baking. This includes time training at the art de la patisserie program at the French Pastry School in Chicago. His skills were displayed in their full glory during our recent visit. A Chocolate Croissant ($3.50) was delicate and flaky, with the good-quality chocolate not overwhelming the buttery pastry. The filled brioche ($3.50), which changes daily, had a light almond filling ensconced in a tender shell.
The Meringue ($3) was crispy and light, not terribly flavorful — but then a plain meringue wouldn’t be. Its primary attraction was its gonzo size, and that when we broke into it, it was full of almonds rather than just having a sprinkling on top.
The stars of the show included the Ham and Cheese Croissant ($6), which had a robust amount of chewy, smoky, salty ham, giving it a weightiness that belied its light croissant exterior. Perhaps our favorite sweet pastry was the Swedish ($3.50, above), not just because of its lovely shape, but because of its cardamom flavor and gentle almond-paste filling. Neither overly sweet nor lacking in flavor, this could easily be a delightful dessert or a welcome start to a morning (with coffee, of course).
We also tried the Baguette ($3) and found it to be an exemplary representation of the category, with a deeply browned exterior that gave a satisfyingly groaning crunch when we tore into it. Inside, the baguette was full of holes, with the crumb somehow both light and chewy. It was delicious on its own and would pair well with any number of fillings.
At lunchtime, the bakery also offers sandwiches on its own stellar breads and soups.
So welcome back, bakery in Chaska. May you continue filling baked needs in the southwest suburbs for another 125 years.
Red Bench Bakery, 500 N Chestnut St, Chaska, MN 55318; 952.361.5509