I am continually amazed at the quality of food offerings that Downtown Des Moines offers. My most recent ‘moment of amazement’ was at the Scenic Route Bakery; equal parts bakery, coffee shop and café.
In nine months’ time, the Scenic Route Bakery has done what many restaurants take years to establish: a loyal following built around hand crafted products. My visit took place during lunch service on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Patrons are first greeted by a massive glass case filled with choice upon choice of pastries, croissants, breads and other satisfying sweet treats. Overhead, a clean cut menu lists the coffee, espresso and food offerings available to order.
Instantly my eyes, mouth and stomach began a conversation on what to choose. The debate was not so much on what looked appetizing, because it all looks spectacular, but on how much my stomach could hold.
Since it was the afternoon, I bypassed the coffee and espresso selection and honed in on the lunch offerings. Hand crafted hot and cold sandwiches, refreshing salads and soups are all listed with full description.
The sandwiches read like an experienced travel blog, with selections ranging from French Onion, to Hawaiian Ham, all the way to the unique Flower Child and Hot Piglet. Each entry was tempting and attractive in their own way, but I finally settled on the Hot Piglet.
To accompany the sandwich, I chose the B.L.T salad as well as a chocolate croissant and chocolate chip cookie from the pastry case. With my order placed, I found a table and took in the calming décor as my sandwich and salad were prepared.
The interior of Scenic Route Bakery definitely holds up to the name. An eclectic mix of vintage cooking utensils, farm equipment and other antiquities take your eyes on a scenic journey through rural Iowa. One wall even hosts the entire top of a retired steel windmill.
I started on my pastries as I took in the surroundings. The cookie was packed with chocolate chips and a moist inside that every cookie should have, very good indeed. An experienced croissant sampler, the chocolate croissant was one of the best I have ever had. Layer upon layer of buttery, flakey and chocolatey goodness almost melted in my mouth. Again, what every croissant should have.
Half way through the pastries, my lunch arrived. The Hot Piglet was phenomenal. Black forest ham, bacon and cheddar cheese are toasted between white bread and served with choice of kettle chips or sweet potato tortillas.
The bread was buttery and crisp, thanks to a panini press style toasting, which allowed the contents to meld into a savory union of creamy cheese and salty pork. A real winner.
Salads are not usually a major player on the food table, but with creativity and craftsmanship, they can shine bright. The B.L.T salad did just that, shone bright with a mix of romaine lettuce, bacon, sliced cherry tomatoes, wheat croutons and a green onion ranch dressing.
Each ingredient was a star player in a fantastically refreshing dish. The fresh lettuce and tomatoes opened the taste buds to a summertime level, while the bacon pieces brought their meaty and salty vibe. The house made wheat croutons were superb. Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, they carried a hint of honey with them, which gave a sweet spark to each bite, complementing the tasty green onion ranch dressing.
I finished the salad and sandwich, leaving just enough room for the remaining portions of croissant and cookie, bringing an end to the conversation my eyes, mouth and stomach had started.
Scenic Route Bakery
350 East Locust St. #104
Mon. – Sat.: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Lunch served daily
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.