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Smith’s-tastic

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I remember being in Smith’s Bakery a long time ago; it was a cluttered, crowded storefront with a jumbled assortment of cake decorations and other baking supplies for sale, and everywhere was the intoxicating smell of fresh bread. The baking bread smells wafted out onto the street and drew you in to find an amazing assortment of loaves, cookies and squares.

Well, the mouth-watering aroma of fresh bread still assails the olfactories upon entering Smith’s, but a lot has changed. They went out of the baking supplies business a while ago, and now the venerable bakery (it’s been around since 1932) is undergoing a metamorphosis into a neigh- bourhood cafe.

The old store area has been turned into a small cafe with seating for about 20. The menu is written on a chalkboard, with oversize bread paddles displaying the lists of daily specials. There is a wide variety of food available. Lots of sandwiches (all made on Smith’s bread, of course), breakfast goodies like French toast, soups and home-style fare like pot pies and baked beans make up the bulk of the offerings, and all of the menu items can be packed to go. We place our orders at the counter and sit at the window “snack bar” seating, watching the passers-by on Agricola.

I’m already thinking ahead to dessert, but I forget about sweets once our lunches are ready. Seafood chowder (small, $5.25) is the best I have had in the city—plenty of lobster and shrimp bits, haddock and a touch of tarragon in a light cream base, served with a flaky tea biscuit, combine to have me unabashedly licking out the cup in which it was served.

The Reuben sandwich ($5.95) is grilled on a pannini press, a touch that helps keep the smoked meat, cheese and sauerkraut from falling out—which is a good thing, because you don’t want to miss a bite of this excellent sandwich. Crisp potato chips and a sour pickle garnish the plate. A beef pot pie with a garden salad and a roll ($5.50) is also filling and delicious.

There is no haute cuisine here, just good, honest stick-to-your-ribs food that satisfies without overwhelming (the portions are small but certainly ample).

The dessert showcase is full of the kind of stuff your grandmother would bake. Delightfully old-fashioned lemon “commodores” (a Smith’s original recipe, the sign says) share space with other traditional squares like date squares and cinnamon rolls; chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies continue the theme. On the wall, shelves of Smith’s bread sit lined up and ready to be snatched away as quickly as they’re put out—big, high loaves of light bread (only $1.75/loaf if you go for the day-old bread, which is just as good as the fresh bread, especially toasted).

I like that Smith’s Bakery has been around so long; it’s good to see a local business do well. And I especially like that while they’ve changed with the times and gone through these transformations (and there are signs indicating they’re not done yet), they stick with what they do best, which is, not surprisingly, bake.

Although they’re evolving into a modern-looking cafe, with new menu items, wireless internet access and all, they still carry their signature breads and baked goods, which can take you back to the “good old days”—whether you remember them or not.

Smith’s Bakery 2525 Agricola Street 429-1393 Mon-Fri 6:30am-7pm Sat 10am-4pmSun Closed

Feel like reminiscing about those tasty good old days? find Liz Feltham online at: www.foodcritic.ca

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