Batter Bowl Bakery at 403 H Street NE opened for business on Friday. They offer a good assortment of breads, puff pastries, bagels, macarons (the almond paste cookies, not their extra-o’ed coconut cousins in the cookie family). This week, they are also introducing heavier breakfast fare, like pancakes and breakfast sandwiches. They also serve Illy-brand coffee, both the regular drip and the espresso so you can sit down and read “War and Peace” whilst drinking cappuccino after cappuccino (Russian literature goes best with the foamier espresso drinks). The establishment seats about 20-25, so plan accordingly. They accept credit cards as well as cash. (because, really, who says no to cash?) The place has a nice, modern feel, with plenty of cool northern light streaming through its windows. If you nab a window seat, you can enjoy your snack while looking at how much H Street has changed.
This is what you need to know:
1. In the now three occasions I have stopped by, the place has been a whirlwind of activity. Strollers popped in and out of the place seemingly nonstop, especially during the weekend. While I would not recommend taking your stroller unless it is absolutely necessary, I would like to point out that a DOUBLE stroller made it inside no problem. Were there stomped-upon feet? Absolutely, but that is not the point. We joked with a patron about the absolute necessity of having a stroller valet business set up somewhere along H Street in the very near future: that is how much wheeled activity there was at this place.
2. If you are craving pastries but have your dog along with you, I would recommend taking your stuff to-go. You can tie your dog up temporarily on the bike racks outside if you must, and the big windows should allow you to keep an eye on Fido. Maybe it would be really great if there eventually were outdoor seating here.
3. RUN THERE.
Why run? Because you will probably want to consume your entire body weight in pastries once you’re there, and you’re going to need to burn off those calories. The Illy coffee is absolutely delicious on its own: the blend they use is nutty and balanced, and not overly robust or toasted, so it goes perfect with the 4 croissants and one pain au chocolat you’re totally going to be eating. Or perhaps you will eat a bagel with ten macarons: the little infamous cookies are dreamlike here, with perfectly gooey centers and a satisfyingly crackly cookie that is redolent of almonds. They have raspberry, vanilla, chocolate and coffee: try them all. They were such a popular item during the opening weekend, the woman ahead of me in line bravely fought the urge to buy up the six remaining cookies on the platter. I thank her deeply, wherever she is: I don’t know that I could have shown that much self-restraint.
The bagels, while I am sure not up to the standards of New York City fanboys and -girls, are pretty first-rate: they are fresh so they don’t require toasting, and they are large and glossy and have that outer firm rind that yields to a softer, flavorful inside. You do have to do your own cutting and toasting if you so desire, which I thought was a little annoying, but there is a self-serve station by the door complete with bagel guillotine.
The puff pastries, though, are the real reason you’re here. The croissants, pains au chocolat, apple turnovers and Danish rolls are all excellent: flaky and crunchy where you need them, and soft and buttery where they ought to be. Considering that Batter Bowl has been open for such a short period of time, their product is highly consistent and good: there was only one batch of chocolate croissants that seemed like it spent a few seconds too many in the oven and was overly crispy on the outside (but still chocolatey and gooey within). The only thing I have yet to try is the bread, but I have faith in that oversight being corrected before the end of the week.
As you’re coming out, or if you are lucky enough to nab a window seat, do take a moment to contemplate the old and the new. The old façades are still there, but the street looks busier than ever, especially with all the new construction, and hopefully this little lovely bakery is a harbinger of more businesses to come: businesses that are available to everyone, and where anyone can walk in and enjoy excellent pastries for not a lot of money.
You weren’t really going to keep that New Year’s Resolution of losing five or ten or fifteen pounds, were you?