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I once heard Eva's Bakery owner/chef Charlie Perry explain that his vision for the boulangerie a French term for a bakery that specializes in breads was to bring Paris back to Utah.
It was a lifelong dream of Perry's to open the cafe in honor of his great-grandmother Eva Coombs, who trained him to respect the ingredients he worked with and instilled a passion for French cooking.
Just two blocks from Eva, his original restaurant, Perry opened Eva's Bakery, which has won followers up and down Main Street and beyond.
When a northern Utah bakery stopped supplying fresh bread to stores along the Wasatch Front, the talented bread bakers at Eva's Bakery filled the void, and their distinctive blue and white bags holding worship-worthy baguettes (made with special flour from bakery partner Central Milling) are available at many specialty stores.
But part of the magic of Eva's Bakery is lost if you haven't been to the small downtown location, easily identifiable by its bright blue exterior. Shelves filled with fresh loaves of bread line the wall at the front of the bakery. White subway tiles wrap around café tables and sunlight streams in from the skylight near the kitchen in the back.
Having just returned from a trip to Paris, where we rented an apartment above a French boulangerie, I've fallen more in love with this café/bakery because of its authenticity to the European dining culture.
The shiitake mushroom croque ($9.50) will forever remind me of France. It begins with a thick slice of Eva's housemade bread topped with a generous portion of earthy shiitake mushrooms mingling with sundried tomatoes. Covered with béchamel sauce and Gruyere cheese and baked until hot and melted, it's rich and delightful and nicely counterbalanced by a plate of pickled vegetables.
Eva's Bakery has been open for breakfast and lunch, but recently, it started serving dinner Thursday through Saturday. It's a small menu with just four entrées including a surprising standout in the baked sundried tomato-stuffed shells ($14) with a fresh tomato sauce. The roast grass-fed beef short rib ($15) and wild salmon en papillote ($16) featured overly dry proteins, but the seared polenta underneath the salmon hinted at the culinary gems that might come out of the kitchen in the evenings with more care and practice. A few starters and whatever desserts might be left in the dessert case at the end of the day round out the evening menu.
One night we were enticed by the whiskey caramel chocolate cake but sadly found it lacking in any hint of whiskey flavor and overwhelmed by caramel buttercream frosting. A never-miss favorite is the moist cannele ($2.25).
I frequent Eva's Bakery most of the time for lunch and a baguette pick-up. Now that the savory bread pudding ($9) with tomato, Gruyere, spinach and leeks is no longer on the menu, the aforementioned mushroom croque is my go-to order.
I had high hopes for the burrata bread salad ($9.50) but the garum vinaigrette overpowered everything else on the plate from the crunchy, stale-bread-turned-croutons to the perfectly roasted vegetables. The oval ball of burrata cheese placed on top wasn't as creamy as desired and might have punched down the tang of the vinaigrette more had it been wetter.
Better are the tuna niçoise ($10) salad loaded with potato, eggs, tomato, olives and roasted peppers or the shaved Brussels sprouts with crunchy pecans and pecorino tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette.
For heartier options, give the tri-tip steak sandwich ($9.50) served on Eva's unforgettable baguette a try, or perhaps the carbonara mac and cheese ($10) with pancetta and peas along with béchamel and Gruyere.
Flatbreads are available with various toppings at the front counter on a daily basis and the margarita flatbread ($9.50) found on the sit-down menu is a solid presentation of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
For breakfast, a rich brunch pie ($9) is just that, filled with ham, Gruyere, easy eggs, béchamel sauce and arugula topped with an egg. There's also stuffed French toast ($8) with lemon cream cheese filling and a blueberry compote. A classic quiche Lorraine ($9) is always tempting with ham and Gruyere. Those looking for healthy bites can opt for the housemade granola ($6) made with local honey while trendier diners can enjoy the tomato and avocado toast ($8).
Service at Eva's Bakery varies based upon how you choose to dine. You can order at the counter from the pastry case and take away your breakfast and lunch items or dine in from the menus with table service at the back of the establishment. Tables fill quickly during the day, but the staff is efficient and responsive.
Dinner service feels like it's an afterthought here and, at least for the time being, diners would be well advised to visit Eva down the street instead if they seek a full and satisfying meal.
One thing about Eva's Bakery that is slightly irksome (but could be classified as European in its charm) is the fact that you just never know what will actually be available there. I love this in the French-style bakery sensewhen the breads and pastries are fresh at the beginning of the day, they are scooped up by whoever comes in the door first and when they are gone they are gone. This is especially true with my favorite bread, the kalamata loaf, which takes 36 hours to make from start to finish. I can't get my hands on it very often, but this just means that it's all the more special when I do. Same goes for pastries, which one day had been cleaned out by Martha Stewart and her team after an appearance at Macy's. But this same quirk becomes downright ridiculous when more than half the wines on the wine list at dinner are unavailable.
With just a few kinks in the operation from time to time, Eva's Bakery is a destination establishmentwhether for breads, pastries or a full mealwhere you'll generally delight in the quality of food prepared by Perry and his staff. And don't forget a baguette on your way out.
Heather L. King also writes for http://www.theutahreview.com and can be found on Twitter @slclunches.
Food • HHhj
Mood • HHH
Service • HH
Noise • bb
A French-style bakery and cafe that specializes in breads recently started serving dinner.
Location • 155 S. Main, Salt Lake City; 801-355-3942
Online • evasbakeryslc.com
Hours • Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $-$$
Liquor • Beer and wine
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • No
Credit cards • All major