Columbia City Bakery’s bread is known all around town. But what if you turn it into a grilled-cheese sandwich? Or if the same bakery made hand pies? Turns out it’s as great as it sounds.
If you love bread and live anywhere in the Seattle area, chances are you’ve already visited Columbia City Bakery; or if you’re new in town, it’s on your list to visit next. It should be, at least — especially now.
Owner Evan Andres has been a semifinalist for a James Beard award three times (so far), and his baguette won a local contest sponsored by the French Consulate, a group presumably familiar with the matter of baguette-excellence; the French only care about the traditional one, but the chewier sourdough version might be even better for fans of New World-via-West Coast bread. Before opening his own place in 2005, he was lead baker for Tom Douglas; before that, he was with Tall Grass Bakery and Macrina. Perhaps needless to say, you now find his bread and rolls name-checked on menus all over town (Columbia City Bakery also has several farmers-market booths).
The bakery closed early one day in August, announcing the installation of new menu boards, and they’ve been slowly rolling out new items since, most of which take that exceptional bread and make it even better.
Columbia City Bakery
4865 Rainier Ave. S. (Columbia City), Seattle; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Monday; 206-723-6023, columbiacitybakery.com
The menu: The bakery is known for its use of seasonal produce, so it’s no surprise that the new hand pies will also change seasonally (currently there’s a sharp, almost tangy, broccolini-cheddar and an appealingly earthy mushroom-kale). Their portability is satisfying from a shop so near the Link light rail station, but leave some time: They need five minutes to finish baking, either in their oven or your own. Toast is available only on excellent sunflower multigrain, with your choice of house-made jam, walnut butter or a minimally sweet cinnamon sugar with orange zest. Pressed sandwiches (one on sourdough, the other on pain de Campagne) have hearty vegetarian fillings with optional ham or turkey — flavor-wise, the meat is unnecessary. Hot pretzels (full-sized and a smaller knot), pretzel dogs (using franks from neighboring butcher Bob’s Quality Meats) and a daily grilled cheese round off the new items.
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Don’t miss: The spinach-artichoke sandwich is well worth the 15-minute wait. Its fresh spinach counters gooey havarti cheese, and a just-right bit of lemon lightens the otherwise rich artichoke filling. It’s not new, but the peanut butter cookie achieves some sort of magical wizard-assisted perfection — thick and chewy in the middle, crisp edges and crisscrosses on top, the whole thing flavored with plenty of salt and brown sugar.
When to go: For now, the toast is available only on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and the pressed sandwiches weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Given the Saturday lines, this is only sensible. The hand pies and hot pretzels don’t have time ranges, but the bakery does run out of many items by the end of each day.
Prices: Cinnamon toast and toast with jam ($3.50 each), iced latte ($4) and chai ($4.25), was breakfast for two for 15.25, plus tax and tip. Two savory hand pies ($5.75) made a bake-at-home dinner for two for $11.50, plus tax and tip. The spinach-artichoke sandwich ($8) and lemonade ($3.50) added up to $11.50, plus tax and tip, for a solo lunch.