Never judge a cafe by its strip mall

La Petit Croissant

La Petit Croissant

From what I’ve heard, the owners or bakers or cooks or someone involved in the new bakery where Midvale Boulevard, Verona Road and the Beltline collide came from La Baguette. La Petit Croissant is probably the best hidden secret I’ve ever found. I went with my friend Nicole and her daughter for lunch, and I got there a couple minutes early…which was good because I snagged the last table just before a bunch of people walked in. The small shop is in a rundown strip mall between a Tae Kwon Do school and a random Mexican restaurant with Dorn Hardware at the end. Based on La Petit Croissan’ts location I had no expectations, but that was a mistake.

La Petit Croissant bakery case

La Petit Croissant bakery case

As soon as I walked in and almost all the tables were full and saw a very promising cinnamon roll in the bakery case I knew I had found something special. The girl at the counter was super nice, and between her and another guy they kept the place running smoothly with smiles on their faces. Their bakery case and menu are small, but based on my first visit it’s because they focus on quality over quantity.

La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll

La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll

I’m a big fan of cinnamon rolls and this one did not disappoint. It was just big enough to share, and was obviously made that morning. The dough was light and flaky, and the cinnamon swirl was a good balance of cinnamon and sugar. The frosting was cream cheese, which is the ONLY appropriate topping for a cinnamon roll. The La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll definitely gives La Baguette’s a run for its money.

La Petit Croissant spicy turkey sandwich

La Petit Croissant spicy turkey sandwich

LPC spicy turkeyI got the spicy turkey sandwich. The sandwich came with a very fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette, and the sandwich itself was just as surprising as the cinnamon roll. The bread, jalapeno cheddar ciabatta, was crusty but not too thick. The turkey was lean and there was a lot of it. The rest of the toppings really made the sandwich — chipotle mayo, avocado, lettuce, onions and pepper jack cheese. The sandwich isn’t super fancy, but it was so good because of the quality ingredients.

La Petit Croissant molasses cookie

La Petit Croissant molasses cookie

I also got a molasses cookie for “later,” but “later” ended up only being a couple hours after lunch! Their molasses cookie had the two qualities that make a good molasses cookie — crispy edges and a soft middle, and the molasses is balanced out by a good sweetness. It also had that great sprinkle of sugar on top!

FOOD NOTES: I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this place because I don’t want to give up my new secret spot, but I really want this place to succeed! The cinnamon roll was the best I’ve had in a while (cream cheese frosting really does make a difference!). The spicy turkey sandwich is extremely impressive – everything worked so well together. The turkey and bacon were amped up with avocado and chipotle mayo, and the bread was great. This place is a diamond in the rough.

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Bakery’s lunch just as impressive as sweet treats

Rolling Pin Bake Shop, Fitchburg

Rolling Pin Bake Shop, Fitchburg

Bakeries are great, but bakeries that also serve food are even better. I’ve never eaten lunch at my favorite bakery, Scott’s, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but Rolling Pin Bake Shop‘s lunch impressed me. Based on my first visit with a friend and her daughter, I would totally recommend this place for a casual lunch or some fun baked goodies.

cake and cupcake case

cake and cupcake case

decorated cookie case

decorated cookie case

cookie case

cookie case

The day we went they had three full bakery cases plus a rack of bread and a spinning case full of treats. They had four different types of quiche on special, plus a homemade soup on top of their regular menu. One case was full of different types of cookies, another one had cakes and cupcakes, and a third had decorated sugar cookies. The spinning case was filled with chocolate-dipped treats and other specialty items.

apple puff

apple pastry

It took me about 15 minutes to settle on the apple pastry and a molasses cookie. The apple pastry smelled so good I definitely didn’t wait until after my sandwich was even delivered to devour it. The flaky pastry crust was super buttery, and the filling was your basic apple pie filling. I liked that the filling wasn’t too sweet and had a good cinnamon flavor. Since I ate the pastry there, I would have liked it warmed up but I forgot to ask before I finished it off. The molasses cookie (sorry…I ate it before remembering to take a picture) was perfect, but only if you like your molasses cookies soft. Some people like them crispy, but I like them chewy in the middle and just slightly crispy on the edges. Rolling Pin’s version was just that, plus it was topped with granulated sugar that helped cut the slight bitterness of the molasses. It was definitely one of the best (still not better than grandma’s though!) molasses cookies I’ve had.

turkey club

turkey club

For lunch I went with what I thought was going to be a simple turkey club sandwich, but the sourdough bread, applewood smoked bacon and other fresh ingredients elevated the sandwich above what I was expecting. The sandwich was also surprisingly large for the price ($8).

FOOD NOTES: Don’t let the strip mall or facade of a bakery fool you — the lunch at Rolling Pin Bake Shop is super good. Don’t get me wrong — they’re baked goods were great (I will totally be back for a molasses cookie), but their lunch is what stood out as surprisingly tasty for a great price. Everyone working and eating there (including a pair of cops on their lunch break — I love it when you can tell they’re regulars!) were super nice. There aren’t a ton of good restaurant options in Fitchburg (there are a decent amount of chains, but not a lot of local places)…so if you’re in Fitchburg and in need a good lunch spot, I recommend Rolling Pin.

Go with baked goods over lunch at Hazelnut Cafe

Hazelnut Cafe

Hazelnut Cafe

There are dozens of cafes with great food littered around Madison, and I’ve been to and love many of them. But sometimes these little cafes think they are one-of-a-kind and better than all of the other neighborhood, organic, local, or artisan (or any other one-word description that particular cafe wants to use) cafes. Some of these little cafes are unique, but most of them are exactly the same. That doesn’t mean their food isn’t quality, but it does mean I probably won’t be back. One of these not-so-one-of-a-kind cafes I recently tried is way out in Blue Mounds. It’s the Hazelnut Cafe where the croissant is supposedly as good as ones from France, and they claim they can’t make enough molasses cookies and are pioneers in using sourdough crusts on their pizzas (hmmm…those are some lofty statements).

Hazelnut Cafe counter

Hazelnut Cafe counter

I don’t know much about Blue Mounds, but from what I saw on my visit there’s not much out there. The Hazelnut Cafe seems to be right in their “downtown,” and is just a tiny little building with a half dozen tables. They use a wood-burning oven to bake all of their bread and pastries, and to make pizzas, which smells great when you walk in.

Hazelnut Cafe sesame loaf

Hazelnut Cafe sesame loaf

sesame loaf, tomato marmalade

sesame loaf, tomato marmalade

Hazelnut Cafe bread, tomato marmalade

Hazelnut Cafe bread, tomato marmalade

We got to try a loaf of the sesame bread with some housemade tomato marmalade. The bread was super fresh with a good, not too hard, not too soft crust and a fluffy center. The tomato marmalade was not my cup of tea. It was chunks of tomato in a sweet jelly that had some sort of warm spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, in it. I was not a fan of the odd combination of the savory tomatoes and the sweet jelly with a little bit of that spice.

Hazelnut Cafe Bianca pizza

Hazelnut Cafe Bianca pizza

They serve sandwiches and salads, but they said their specialty is their pizzas made with sourdough crusts. We opted for the Bianca pizza that comes with mozzarella, parmesan, garlic and grape see oil on one of their sourdough crusts and cooked in their wood-burning oven. It was super simple, and had the potential to be extremely good, but had some problems. I thought it was, I can’t believe I’m saying this, too garlicky. I love garlic, but the huge slices weren’t spread out enough so I’d get one big bit of garlic and then three bites without any garlic. It would benefit the pizza a great deal if they minced the garlic and spread it around the pizza. I also thought it was a bit dry. With that type of pizza not being served with any sauce, it could have used a little more of the grape seed oil to cut through the cheese and crust. And I really couldn’t tell that the crust was sourdough, so that’s not a selling point for me.

Hazelnut Cafe molasses cookie

Hazelnut Cafe molasses cookie

We also got to try one of their molasses cookies, which they said sell almost as fast as they can make them. Molasses cookies are my favorite, so I might be biased but that cookie was the best part of our meal at Hazelnut. It was the perfect combination of crusty and soft, and had the right amount of sweetness combined with a strong molasses flavor. And it was big enough to share or to munch on for a couple hours. I absolutely loved it.

Hazelnut Cafe pastries

Hazelnut Cafe pastries

Throughout our lunchtime visit, their pastries had been in view the entire time so as we were leaving I had to buy one of their almond croissants. I love almond croissants. They are usually crusty, sweet and nutty with powdered sugar on top, and this one did not disappoint. It was not too sweet and was baked to a perfect crusty crunch. My most common complaint about croissants is that they are too dry, but this one was extra buttery and seemed to have more of the sweet almond filling than others I’ve had.

Hazelnut Cafe almond croissant

Hazelnut Cafe almond croissant

FOOD NOTES: We got a tour of the kitchen to see the wood-burning oven and look at the fresh baked bread and cookies. So I have a different perspective than other diners, but my biggest concern about the Hazelnut Cafe is the cleanliness of the prep and cooking area. When we were there, flies were landing on loaves of bread left and right, and there didn’t seem to be proper methods for food storage, hand washing or prep surface cleaning. Now despite knowing all of this, I would go back for a cookie or croissant. I wouldn’t bother with the bread, because it wasn’t anything unique and the pizza needs some adjustments. Also, after looking at their sandwich and salad options I would say they probably aren’t worth the trek out to Blue Mounds or the price.