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Toast of the Town: Dan The Baker/Toast Bar

Dan The Baker breads are a familiar (and eye-pleasing) sight
at many local area farmers markets
My recent re-visit of the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco (my post on this popular and unique attraction can be found here) brought back many tasty memories as I passed from one vendor space to another. Some of the most fond memories were brought on by the baked goods of the Acme Bread Company - their basic bread loaves and baguettes are yeasted glory, sporting that sublime combination of exterior crunch, big bubbles in the crumb, and interior chew that only the best breads get. Their Cinnamon Currant Bread, a pull-apart, just sweet and sticky enough creation that sported a divine combination of zante currants and cinnamon. remains in the top ten of items I miss the most from the San Francisco area.

I simply figured the Columbus metro wouldn't have anything within shouting distance of their bread or any other Bay Area artisan baker's products. That is until I and my spouse came across the creations of one Dan Riesenberger, aka Dan The Baker. Starting off in 2008 via modest means (baking his breads from his backyard with a brick oven fashioned with help from his father), Riesenberger and his breads were well-established in both select Columbus restaurants and farmers market booths by the time we came across them. As we sampled his different breads and pastries, I found his creations more than held their own with the renowned Bay Area-based artisinal bread purveyors.

He eventually opened up a combination small retail cafe/production facility in the Grandview area of town in late 2013. While we still bought most of his breads from local farmers markets, we would occasionally drop by the cafe to hangout or grab a quick bite if our business took us into that part of town or we were headed into Western Ohio for the day. His branching out was not restricted to his cafe: we got a gander of his pizza-making prowess at a pop-up restaurant within Cafe Brioso during the monthly Moonlight Market on Gay Street in June 2014.

And when you think it couldn't get any better, Riesenberger announced that Columbus now has a shrine to toast to call their own, with the opening of Toast Bar two months ago.

Wait, what? Toast? Really, you can't be serious...toast?

Toast? Why, heck yeah, toast! Malaysia showed me the way
Yes, sometimes toast is what you want. During a work stint in Malaysia, I came across the Toast Box, an chain of Asian establishments started initially in Singapore. These restaurants are, to borrow their words, their "reflection of the coffee shops from the 60s and 70s, where the common practice for breakfast was a fragrant cup of Nanyang Coffee accompanied by freshly toasted bread." This quickly became a favorite place for me for either a light breakfast or an afternoon snack: the coffee (or tea) was a must along with two slices of toast, typically one with butter and kaya (coconut jam) and one with peanut butter.

As far as the States, artisinal toast is something of a new fad. starting off in San Francisco with The Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club (and in a tangential way, Ohio; the restaurant's owner grew up in the Cleveland area, as detailed in this story by Pacific Standard Magazine.) The fad eventually spread to neighboring restaurants and then to other parts of the country, as detailed in this Eater.com article.

The newly created Toast Bar adds some twists to the formerly existing space
The Toast Bar's offers a slightly re-designed space from the original cafe within their Ridge Street location, allowing for slightly more seating and a little better traffic flow. On this visit, we were both looking for a light breakfast, and all the new items offered that opportunity. Of course, you wouldn't call yourself Toast Bar without having that on the menu, and the flight of toast is pretty straightforward - three slices from the breads on hand along with three toppings. Another related new item is their Smørrebrød open-faced sandwiches, a blend of avocado, cucumber and dill on Danish Rye bread (their current offerings now offer one version that substitutes salmon for the avocado as well as a bacon, blue cheese and apple option.)

Left: the Avocado Smørrebrød; Right: the Toast Flight
Both these Toast Bar offerings hit the spot. The Smørrebrød was a nicely tangy, creamy and crisp combo which went nicely with the rye bread; my spouse loved how the dill made the flavors pop. As for me and my toast flight, the toppings were a nice way to figure out what went well with the various toasted breads I ordered without having to whip up my own homemade hazelnut spread or lemon curd, as well as experimenting how the toppings themselves blended in tandem or as a threesome. All three of the toppings I chose were quite good, with the cloverton and lemon curd being edging out the others as my fave.

The Smørrebrød (at the time of our visit, it was $4 for a single/$7 for two; the current menu states $6) and the flight (was and still is $5.50) could be considered by many to be on the spendy side; indeed, the Eater article referred to earlier in this post states this as a common criticism of these toast-centric establishments. However, based on that same article, Toast Bar's prices seem to be on the lower end of the expense scale compared with its brethren across the country.

Visitors who aren't all that into the toast concept need not fret; Dan The Baker still has its myriad of pastries, along with a selection of cookies, soup, and of course, the bread in whole-loaf form. Toast Bar also keeps the coffee drinks from its previous iteration on the menu, using beans from two excellent roasters (Intelligentsia and locally-based Cafe Brioso) as well as hot chocolate and tea.

Dan The Baker/Toast Bar
1028 Ridge Street (Grandview Heights)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 928-9035
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