The neighborhood bakery is like the traditional hardware store: There aren't enough of them around. But when you find one, it's guaranteed to have personality way beyond what a chain store can offer. In the past few years, independent bakeries have been springing up all over town. Think of North Hill Bakery on Capitol Hill, Cafe Besalu in Ballard or Two Tartes, which opened in Georgetown last December.
The spelling of Two "Tartes" is French, but the two women who own the place are not, and neither is their American lineup of pastries. There are sandwiches on Grand Central bread and a variety of cookies, muffins, cakes, scones and tarts that aren't too different from what you'd make at home, if you had time.
In addition to sandwiches ($5.25) such as the tuna nicoise and the herb wrap with olives and hummus, there's a salad of the day ($3 small, $4.50 large) and soup. A half sandwich with soup or salad is five bucks.
On Saturday, brunch is served. Sadly, I arrived too early for the French toast souffle, but a scone ($1.75) studded with candied almonds, apricots and white chocolate was moist and still warm from the oven.
Not all of the pastries are great, but a homey blackberry tart ($1.85) was perfectly fruity, and those nut-studded sticky buns ($1.75) were iconic.
The truffle brownie ($1.25), on the other hand, was intensely chocolaty but also grainy.
Despite Georgetown's hip image, this is a tough location, just north of Boeing Field. Sometimes you can walk out the door and feel like a plane is going to land on your head. But at lunchtime, the handful of tables are more likely than not to be filled with people who have driven in from near and far. They can count on friendly counter service and an ever-changing lineup of desserts.
So in this world of Starbucks strudel and Costco croissants, don't mourn for the indie bakery just yet. Two Tartes is keeping the tradition alive.
Now all I need is a good hardware store.
Lunch special (half curried-chicken sandwich with cup of beef chili): Shredded chicken is tossed with celery, apples and raisins, and bound with a curried mayonnaise. I'm not much of a chicken-salad fan, but I liked this, so I'm betting it's an especially good chicken salad. The chili was more like beef-tomato soup with beans — fine for what it is, but guaranteed to annoy a chili purist.
Bacon-cheddar quiche: The crust got a bit soggy, but the ring around the top edge remained crisp and buttery, and come on — bacon, cheese, eggs? It's hard to go wrong here.
Mushroom-barley soup: Summer is over, and therefore it's mushroom-barley season. This one is a great way to kick off the season, with loads of mushrooms, celery and carrots in a flavorful broth.
Butterscotch-pecan surprise bar: I'm not sure what the surprise was, exactly, but this is a good, caramel-rich cookie that also features shredded coconut.
Chocolate-cherry cheesecake bar: Start with a graham-cracker crust, add a layer of chocolate, cherries and cheesecake, and smooth another layer of chocolate over the top. The cheesecake had excellent texture, but the chocolate inside the cake overpowered the cherry flavor. The top layer of chocolate would have been sufficient.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Lunch special (half curried-chicken sandwich with cup of beef chili) $5.00
Bacon-cheddar quiche $2.50
Mushroom-barley soup (bowl) $4.00
Butterscotch-pecan surprise bar $1.25
Chocolate-cherry cheesecake bar $2.50
Matthew Amster-Burton: firstname.lastname@example.org