I’ve got a soft spot for scrappy little sisters.
And how else can you think of Proof Bakeshop? Her elder sib, after all, is Cakes & Ale, which sits on the choicest corner in downtown Decatur. Its cuisine is elegant and pure, yet approachable. Its décor is all naturals and neutrals, with just the right hint of wit.
Proof Bakeshop lives next to the railroad tracks in Inman Park. The dining room is a funky mishmash of tangerine chairs, vintage theater seats and communal butcher-block tables. There’s cheeky signage around, including one poster that says, “Pie Fixes Everything.”
Amid all this cuteness, there are fixes that need to be made, mostly on the slim breakfast and lunch menus.
I had high hopes, for instance, for the smoked salmon bagel, piled with soft-boiled egg, pickled onion, bitter greens, capers and crème fraiche. The components were delicious, aside from the egg, which was very chilled. But it was hard to enjoy them as a sandwichy package because the bagel was overly compressed — so cool and toothsome it took considerable gnawing to break through it.
The ham and gruyere melt, too, has some quirks. On a recent morning, my breakfast sammy of rosemary ham, cheese, baked egg and green onion on an English muffin was served piping hot — gooey and nicely melded. My husband’s, ordered within five minutes of mine, was a sulk on a tin plate, cold and rubbery. (On both sandwiches, the perfectly square molded omelet was off-putting. I’m assuming this was a play on the puck you get in an Egg McMuffin. Playful? Yes. Delicious? No.)
Over on the lunch menu, our monte cristo had a crumbly consistency. It got its luxury not from eggy fried bread but from a side of very good raspberry jam. Without frequent dunks into those sweet, juicy preserves, the sandwich was a dry dud.
The soppressata was confusing, if deliciously so. We expected our sandwich to come with chard and a schmear of (much anticipated) preserved lemon ricotta. That’s what it said on the menu board. What we got was laced with roasted eggplant and red peppers. But it was so tasty — all oily grilled bread and sweet, tangy veg — that we were halfway through the dish before I got around to inquiring about the missing chard. Turns out, they made a last minute change and forgot to alter the menu.
And isn’t that just like a little sister? She can be inconsistent. She can be pokey. She can charge you 9 bucks for a diminutive sandwich that swims in the middle of its ungarnished plate. But she does it so adorably, you can’t get annoyed.
Or maybe you do, just a little bit. When that happens, remember — the sign doesn’t lie. Pie really does fix everything. Well, pie and layer cake and croissants and sea-salt sprinkled chocolate cookies glued together with housemade hazelnut spread.
Once you get a taste of this shop’s baked goods, you know why you’re really here — for the sweetly shattering layers of the kouign-amann, a nest of buttery croissant dough on a base of crispy-chewy burnt sugar.
For lemon buttercream so light it feels like your cake’s been iced with sweetened silk.
For quiche as fine and smooth as butter, balanced by a hearty country crust.
For the well-tempered tang of the country sourdough bread and the heady, cheesy aroma of the moist and salty gougeres.
Even the lumpish English muffins are a revelation. (You’ll find them for $1.65 each in the back of the bakery case, usually tucked behind the sexier scones, Danish and coffee cake.) I took one home, thinking I’d toast it crisp and have it with salted butter. It never made it to the oven. I ate it at room temperature, perfectly plain, and it was the best English muffin I ever tasted — shot through with sweet, yeasty craters and leaving a luxurious sheen of butter on my fingers.
Want proof of this bake shop’s sublime heritage? It’s in transcendent elements like these.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.