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Floriole Cafe & Bakery

Superfans, calm down-these may be the same pastries, but the experience is different.

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Photograph: Martha Williams
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Photograph: Martha Williams

 

 

The first time I visited Floriole, I did so with one of its superfans. He had some difficulty containing his excitement.

“Isn’t this perfect?” he gushed. (He had already been inside the bakery a number of times.) “Isn’t this just exactly what you want in a bakery?”

 

The first time I visited Floriole, I did so with one of its superfans. He had some difficulty containing his excitement.

“Isn’t this perfect?” he gushed. (He had already been inside the bakery a number of times.) “Isn’t this just exactly what you want in a bakery?”

It’s true that I ate the single best ham-and-cheese croissant this city has to offer that day. And a cream puff filled with mocha cream so luscious I wished I could bottle it and use it as lotion. Also: a slice of lemon-lavender pound cake that was brushed with a decadent amount of syrup, lending it a sticky, sugary crust. It’s also true that on later visits I forked a lovely lemon-raspberry cake (freed from the constraints of Green City Market, where the bakery got its start, chef Sandra Holl and her team are branching out into ingredients that aren’t necessarily local), as well as some sandwiches: one filled with cheddar, butter, ham and mustard, another with ramps, goat cheese, pesto and asparagus. Those sandwiches were crusty, potent, both sophisticated and rustic—in other words, pretty much perfect.

But I’m not a superfan yet. As impeccable as Floriole’s food is—and as high as it is raising the bar for bakeries in this town—the transition from market stall to permanent bakery has revealed some of the operation’s flaws. The giant, bi-level space is filled with natural light, but its barren walls and stark metal chairs render it emotionally cold. The service isn’t too warm, either—after repeated visits I found it consistently dismissive, sometimes a little haughty and—once—literally unwelcoming.

Are the pastries worth it? No question. But perhaps not until the fall. Floriole’s followers have waited years for Holl to open this place. We waited because we were starved for properly made pastries, and it seemed like a cruel joke that we’d have access to these incomparable brownies, dark loaves of yeasted corn bread and impossibly delicious sticky buns only once a week. But with the farmers’ markets now open, we can get our fix there, where historically the people handing over the goods have smiled, and we could gorge ourselves while sitting in the sun. I know this runs counter to the superfan’s instincts—if you can eat this stuff every day, why wouldn’t you? But they’ll just have to trust me that, compared to the alternative, waiting for the market won’t feel so cruel.

1220 W Webster Ave (773-883-1313). El: Red to Fullerton; Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Armitage. Bus: 73, 74. Tue–Fri 7am–3pm; Sat, Sun 8am–4pm (closed Mon). Average baked good: $4.

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