Two words: Doberge cake.
Where the Lower Garden District meets the Warehouse District, a cute, old brown cottage with an interesting history sits in the shadow of the Crescent City Connection overpass. Once a neighborhood grocery, then an infamous punk bar, and eventually an Italian restaurant, it’s now home to the recently reopened Bakery Bar, an establishment featuring one of New Orleans’ most beloved decadent desserts – doberge cake – alongside craft cocktails and savory offerings from executive chef Joel White.
Chocolate and lemon doberge cakes have long been synonymous with birthdays and other special occasions in New Orleans. Made popular by local baker Beulah Levy Ledner in the mid-20thcentury, these towering treats feature nine layers of cake filled with custard or pudding, then a glaze of buttercream and a thin layer of fondant, which creates the cake’s smooth, almost shiny exterior.
Bringing the bakery to a bar
The star of Bakery Bar is the fresh takes on these cakes made by Debbie Does Doberge, founded by Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV and managed by Faith Simmons. What started as a doberge pop-up in 2010 has now evolved into a business with many layers of its own, including the Bakery Bar and now Debbie on the Levee, their sweet outpost in Kenner’s Rivertown.
The atmosphere at Bakery Bar is at once cozy and classy, making it a great spot for a variety of occasions, whether it’s a romantic date, a family dinner, or a small birthday or other celebration. Immediately to your left when you enter the building, a well-stocked bar boasts an array of classic cocktail ingredients, and a brightly-lit pastry case entices with a rainbow of brightly-colored doberge and Dobites – little individual squares of doberge cake great for those who want to try a variety of flavors – or those who maybe just want a small snack.
What we ate
During a recent visit to Bakery Bar, I tried a few of the Dobites, which pair perfectly with some dry bubbly, though they would also be great with a French 75, a hot cup of coffee, or milk for the kids (and kids at heart.) The classic lemon was bright and refreshing, and the triple chocolate was smooth and creamy. If you have a weakness for any cookies and cream flavored dessert, their Dobite is a fun variation. My favorite, however, was the fall seasonal special – Sweet Potato Spiced Latte – made with cinnamon cake, sweet potato pudding, and coffee-flavored icing.
Among their regularly-available flavors of full-sized slices of doberge, you’ll find of course the chocolate and lemon, an elegant-looking Fig White Chocolate Goat Cheese, boozy adults-only Bananas Foster, and their show-stopping rainbow doberge, which was originally created to celebrate the passing of the Marriage Equality act, so fittingly, is a New Orleans wedding cake flavor.
Doberge is not the only dessert on the menu. Their perfectly-flaky hand pies are available in a different seasonal flavor every week. (When I visited, it was an addictive spiced mango.) Their Churro Chonks are brightly-colored cake balls rolled in cinnamon and sugar and served with a dipping sauce. Gelato, cookies, and beignets round out the list, ensuring that there really is something for everybody.
I didn’t have time for lunch, but the savory menu is a comfort-food lover’s dream, short and sweet with fun spins on classic favorites like burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, empanadas, and “Smackaroni” – their house macaroni and cheese. You can get an order of “Trash Fries” for the table, or for a special occasion, class things up with a Cheese & Charcuterie selection.
The cafe-meets-bar has set COVID safety protocols in place and is also committed to a better working environment and pay for its staff post-pandemic. Managers Vincent Heitz and Faith Simmons tell me they have shifted their staff to full time, salary, with sick pay and other benefits, which they say is a reflection of a positive shift in the culture of the restaurant industry that they hope will become more commonplace.
As the seasons change, you can look forward to limited-edition special flavors. Both Vincent and Faith were excited to tell me about “Not Your Grandma’s Chocolate Orange” a boozy doberge cake for the holidays made with Grand Marinier, and a peppermint bark flavor for all ages. And their Kenner cafe has its own unique menu items, like daiquiris and flavored milks.
Currently, Bakery Bar is open Thursdays and Fridays 1 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.. They’re located at 1179 Annunciation St. You can also pre-order whole doberge cakes for pickup or dine-in.