Updated: Mar 28, 2019
In a tiny, yet quaint, building on Scott street -- where Ocean Rolls and croissant breakfast sandwiches are the most sought-after menu items -- sits the original Sparrow Bakery and Restaurant.
Even in frigid temperatures, you'll find scores of people forming a line outside as early as 7 a.m. After placing your order at the counter, you'll head outside where couples and families are bundled up and gathered around the fire pit. The bakery sits in the center of the Old Iron Works Art District; on weekends you'll notice a flow of patrons checking out locally-made merchandise at places like The Workhouse, located adjacent to the bakery.
A prominent corner on NW Crossings drive is home to the second bakery location. As I arrive early afternoon on a Wednesday, the bakery is still bustling. Walking into Sparrow, I'm met with a line of high school kids looking to get their fill of iced mochas and fresh pastries. There's a short pang of regret as I scan the room for open seating, seeing only a sea of faces buried in their phones. With four or-so parties in line ahead of me, I begin to map out my route to a corner table. As I scan the menu, I notice a handful of high school boys seated at a large table to my left. I'm pleasantly surprised at their playful and engaged interactions with one another. One of the boys splits up his Ocean Roll, passing out pieces to his friends. They appear to be pondering over which flavors make the ocean roll such an iconic staple at Sparrow.
I'm greeted by a cheerful young woman who has just explained to the patron ahead of me that their C.O.C.C. cookie (cleverly named after the Community College) is laden with chocolate chips, oats, coconut flakes and cranberries.
I decide to start with a cardamom latté a pair it with their lemon meringue tart. I haven't always been a fan of cardamom; I was accustomed to the sweetness of a vanilla-flavored coffee and questioned if I could acclimate to a more savory beverage. It only took one trip to their Northwest Crossing bakery last winter and I was hooked on the Turkish-coffee-like espresso.
There are a couple of lunch items that I habitually choose. Yoly's Torta ($9.25), a spicy pulled pork sandwich topped with avocado and pickled onion upon a brioche bun, is an the front-runner. The "No-Bacon" Breakfast Sandwich ($9.35) comes in close second. A poached egg sits atop a fresh, housemade croissant that's layered with avocado, havarti and an arugula pesto. Still missing that meaty and smoky goodness? The sandwich is also offered sans havarti, sub bacon.
I've decided to branch out and order the Croque Monsieur ($9.25). I'm craving something heavy and comforting, like a ham sandwich smothered in french gravy and cheese. As I head towards my corner table, I remember how open and airy the space is with its copious natural lighting. I settle in with my spiced latté, camera and laptop; surely it's evident I'm one of "those" Instagramming food bloggers . Even though the bakery is packed, with no other vacant tables in sight, my sandwich comes out in ten or-so short minutes.
The presentation does not disappoint. Their brioche bread is filled with thick-cut ham and perfectly acidic stone ground mustard. It's topped with a house-made bechamel and coated in a layer of browned and bubbly gruyere cheese. A garnish of fresh watercress dresses the sandwich and offers a bit of brightness.
Something that makes their classic bakery items so special is their practice of hand-folding all of their croissant dough. This started 13 years ago when Sparrow was opening their first location and lacked the resources, and the space, for a mechanical dough sheeter. In turn, each croissant is baked leaving an appealing imperfection and rustic quality.
Wondering if I have the capacity to now eat my lemon meringue tart, I decide to take another coffee break. I can smell the fresh lemon curd and the meringue is glistening-- distracting me from my work. I decide to go for it.
I'm not exaggerating when I say: this is the smoothest, fluffiest, softest cloud of meringue that I have ever tasted. The fresh lemon curd is equally tart and sweet; it's refreshing after scarfing down a heavy, savory sandwich. I muster up just enough self-control to bring half of the tart home, unsure if it will be a regrettable decision to share with my family.
On my way out, I peruse the pastry case once more. You'll not only find seasonal and custom desserts, but french classics alike. Chocolate bouchons, cannalés, éclairs, almond croissants, macarons and profiteroles line theirs shelves of goodies. Their Ocean Roll, which has undoubtedly created a cult following, also comes in bread-pudding form which I highly recommend trying at least once. Pair your treats with a french press coffee or their new "Iron Worker", a take on the popular "Bulletproof" coffee. Checkout their Instagram for daily specials -- and for tempting reasons to make the trip to either of their locations.
Sparrow Bakery, 2748 NW Crossing dr. 7am-3pm Sat/Sun; 7am-5pm M-F; 50 SE Scott st. 7am-2pm seven days/week