The ambiance of home, the flavor of New Orleans: Arlington, VA's Bayou Bakery
Sure, New Orleans native Chef David Gaus has won accolades from The Today Show, the Travel Channel, Food and Wine, Southern Living, Saveur and Bon Appetit. At Bayou Bakery, he brings the authentic flavors of the Crescent City to the suburbs of D.C./Northern Virginia both through his interpretations of classic favorite treats, but also some of prized brands from the area: Zapp's, Abita and more. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!
What sets the bakery apart is its conscious encouragement of patrons to get comfy, cozy and congregate. The layout of the restaurant has you ordering at a counter, then funneled to the nucleus of what you wished cafes would be. There are colorful Southern and New Orleans touches to the decor, but it doesn't glide into kitchy. Sofas and smaller tables make mingling and socializing easier.
Start off with a drink. Perhaps you need to rev up? New Orleans was a port destination for coffee -- and famously blended with chicory -- for centuries. Bayou Bakery has some unique and natural coffee infusion drinks, incorporating unexpected flavors like basil, honey and ginger root. Or, maybe it's time to go in the other direction! Classic cocktails -- did you know cocktails were invented in New Orleans? -- such as Milk Punch are on the menu. Their Bloody Mary takes a fresh twist with pickled veggies as garnish. It won't sear your tongue for your meal. Rather, it has a tangy drinkability.
You'll probably want some little munchie things to go with your drinks. Different seasoned and candied nuts, deviled eggs and a sizeable selection of house made biscuits will get things going. The South just wouldn't be the same without BBQ -- or "'cue," as they're wont to say -- and here, you can get their chopped pork BBQ, lightly dressed with slightly sweet sauce on their famous biscuits.
Bayou Bakery pays solid homage to Virginia, too: world-famous peanuts, cornmeal from George Washington's grist mill down the road bring a sense of local pride to the menu.
What is the one thing you can't leave New Orleans without trying? Beignets! Bayou Bakery's have heartiness, yet (of course!) the crazy, silly sweetness from tons of powdered sugar. Just smile and wear casual clothes!
Bayou Bakery is open from breakfast through Happy Hour.