How many truly legitimate bakeries do the Twin Cities have? That’s a difficult question to answer: For every place with real bakers infusing creativity, joy, and talent into their pies, cakes, doughnuts, and savory delights, there surely must be two or three that are essentially assembly lines that end in a bakery case. South Minneapolis has been the grateful receiver of a few bright new lights on the baking scene over the past few years. The star that is Patisserie 46, of course, the creative doughnuts of Bogart’s, and the cleverly mid-American, mid-century-inspired Mon Petit Chéri leap immediately to mind. Add to the mix the newly opened Savory Bake House in Longfellow.
Owners Sandra Sherva and Max Okray have experience at the Birchwood Cafe and Merlin’s Rest that has helped ground them in the rhythms of the neighborhood, and this background comes through in the baking. The goods on offer aren’t the high-flying and impeccably styled Euro-theatrics of Patisserie 46, but neither are they the grubby daily churn of a run-of-the-mill neighborhood bakery — Savory’s stock-in-trade is simple, clever ideas, executed well.
Take, for example, the butternut squash, bacon, spinach, and blue cheese savory tart ($4). This could easily have been a snoozer of a dish, overwhelmed by underseasoned squash or spoiled by watery spinach or spiked by overly sharp cheese. Instead, caramelized onions gave it a mellow warmth. Its pastry was strong but not overly chewy or thick, and the bacon’s salty depth was a splendid counterpoint to the gentle tang of the blue cheese. And the squash? Sweet and present without being insistent.
Even better was the Chicken Shepherd’s Pie ($5), a hand pie filled with a mix of potatoes, peas, and chicken and crowned with a tender, delicate crust that still miraculously held its shape. The flavor of this dish was warm and intoxicatingly soothing, and the salt level — the key to food like this — was perfect.
A chicken corn chowder pie ($5) that we tried was similarly brilliant. Intense flavors of carrot, chicken, and corn all shone through. This was no muddled or oversalted mess. Like its cousin, it was seasoned with a deft hand.
We were similarly delighted by the bakery’s Chai Bread Slice ($2), a thick piece of sweetly spiced bread that was neither too sweet nor too harshly spiced. Moist without being wet, it would make a perfect companion to coffee or tea.
Even the sweeter dishes at Savory offer balance and a grounding in natural tastes — a refreshing change of pace from the American baked good aesthetic of sugar bombs and artificial flavors. We found the Cherry Cheese Pie ($4) to be a surprisingly subtle and savory take on dessert, offering a gentle cream cheese tang and a natural cherry flavor that was most welcome in an ocean of lame, sugar-treated cherries not worthy of the name.
And we dug the Bake House’s Raspberry Lemon Poppyseed Cake ($4), a cleverly wrought little concoction that uses lemon curd to give the impression of an egg yolk resting atop a poppy-seed-crusted crown of light cake. The predominant notes are natural lemon and raspberry.
Savory’s dishes are humble and unpretentious. But as long as the bakery’s owners continue to execute them with such thoughtful care, they’re going to blaze a trail of glory across the city.
Savory Bake House
Bakery in Longfellow
3008 36th Ave S
BAKERS / OWNERS: Sandra Sherva and Max Okray
ENTREE RANGE: $5-$9
Tue-Sun: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No