FOOD: Baguette Republic Has Great Bread, Few Customers

jimmy-thumbNothing satisfies the soul like a crusty piece of rustic bread. And few places in the area boast as good a loaf as the aptly named Baguette Republic.

Entering its fifth year in the same spot on West Broad Street, [click here for map] the small storefront offers up made from scratch breads and pastries worthy of a weekly visit from anyone itching for a carb fix.

When you walk in the store, though, you may notice something strange. There’s no smell. No wafting aromas of rising bread and cinnamon rolls. No heavenly perfumes of yeast and fresh-cooked dough. Since 2007 all the goodies (except for made-to-order cakes and sandwiches) have come in on daily deliveries from the shop’s wholesale production facility in Chantilly. Thankfully, the quality has remained the same. The products still have that unmistakably made-from-actual-ingredients taste. It’s no wonder so many area restaurants, retailers, and coffee shops get their daily supply from Baguette Republic.

bread

(Falls Church Times photos by Jimmy Scarano)

The baguette, by the way, is everything a good baguette should be. Pleasantly chewy and yeasty, it improves anything it comes into contact with. The sourdough, both tangy and toothsome, is no slouch either. Beyond those there are a number of tempting options, from sandwich style loaves to richer, egg-based breads like brioche.

A pleasant surprise is that the pastries are nearly as good as the breads — a rare feat for a bakery offering both. I have yet to be disappointed by any that I’ve sampled. The Danishes, muffins, and cinnamon rolls are all good, and on a recent binge a buttery, marzipan-filled almond croissant was a particular standout.

The prices are also shockingly reasonable. You can pick up a few baguettes, a few pastries, and a drink for less than ten bucks. That’s maybe a fraction more than what you would pay for considerably lower quality breads at a chain or supermarket.

And yet, there are no lines in the early morning.

In fact, there are very few people coming at all, throughout the entire day. That’s what Serbian-born owner Mirjana Varga told me the other day as our conversation about the business of running a bakery quickly turned into a discussion of how slow things have gotten.  Blame the location. Blame the economy. Blame the proliferation of Panera and Starbucks franchises and the advent of supermarket “bakeries.” Whatever the cause, Varga is not seeing as many customers as she used to.

Ovens are empty on Broad Street; delicious aroma stays in Chantilly. . .

Ovens are empty on Broad Street; delicious aroma stays in Chantilly. . .

While the company continues to have clients for wholesale distribution and does a brisk business on Saturdays at the City’s Farmers Market, the day to day traffic is abysmally low. She is making half what she made last year.

“I’d love to keep doing what I’m doing, but it’s tough on me,” Varga said.

Somehow we’ve managed to attract an excellent bakery to the City and neglect it. This is disheartening. Right now almost all of Varga’s customers are fiercely loyal regulars. All she needs is some new blood. After you’ve been once it will be hard not to come back. The personal interactions that come with visiting a specialty store with a good product and a friendly owner are simply too comforting and rewarding to pass up.

Take last week, for instance, when I came in during the late afternoon and reached for a baguette to take home. Varga stopped me before I could touch it and said there was one in the back that was less dried out. The next day she steered me away from a cinnamon scone that she deemed too dry and towards a raspberry walnut variation, which turned out to be delicious. That’s the type of person I want to buy my bread from.

Baguette Republic, 1109 W. Broad St., Falls Church. Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone: 703-237-3717.

By
August 14, 2009 

Comments

2 Responses to “FOOD: Baguette Republic Has Great Bread, Few Customers”

  1. Michelle on August 15th, 2009 8:43 am

    Thanks for this article and the reminder… I’m a big fan of Baguette Republic, but have not been to the store as much as I’d like. I’m going to make a point of going there more often for both the bread and delicious coffee!

  2. Marybeth Connelly on August 19th, 2009 9:55 pm

    My family loves the baguettes from Baguette Republic. They are so much better than any other supermarket or bread bakery. Crispy crust, and perfect center every time. We’ll happily double our weekly supply!

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