Greg Baxtrom, the chef-owner of Olmsted and Maison Yaki, two of the most popular and highly regarded restaurants in his home turf of Prospect Heights, has no intention of resting on his laurels. Right before Covid hit, Baxtrom signed a lease on the space that had held The Vanderbilt for about a decade, a couple of blocks down from his other places, with plans for a quick turnaround on a since-discarded concept (a seafood spot, à la Joe’s Stone Crab).
The two-years-and-running pandemic changed everything, of course, and Baxtrom got his pastry chef Alex Grunert involved in the venture as a partner. And so, two weeks ago Prospect Heights got Evi’s Bäckerei, a charming little bakery and take-out-only cafe that features an impressively varied menu of breads and pastries, savory and sweet, as well as the sorts of provisions Baxtrom sold during those early Covid days when Olmsted functioned as a grocery store called the “Trading Post.” No surprise, the place is an instant neighborhood hit.
Evi’s Bäkerei is named after Grunert’s mother Evelyn, and takes up the back of the long space with a separate entrance on Bergen Street. There’s a patterned tile floor, a surprising amount of greenery, a sturdy wooden Shaker table in the middle of things, a couple of rustic touches, a refrigerated unit, windows on one side and a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit on the other, the latter designed and built by Baxtrom’s father Mike. The much larger front dining room and bar will soon(ish) be Patti Ann’s, a “family-friendly” restaurant named after Baxtrom’s mom.
As you enter Evi’s (after presumably waiting on line outside), you can grab one of Grunert’s excellent baguettes from the baskets by the door, or shop the shelves for pre-packed cookies, brownies, loaves of bread, and Baxtrom’s personally curated selection of essentials like olive oil, salt, snacks, and spreads. The day’s lineup of pastries is on display up by the register, and it will change often, both to keep the kitchen crew engaged and because it’s more fun that way.
Cookies and a maple cruller (Scott Lynch)
Everything is very good, so order with confidence whatever catches your eye. Personal favorites among the sweeter options would include the sticky pear butterscotch pistachio tart, the moist and tangy lemon bundt cake with cranberry glaze, and the decadent chocolate pecan pastry bake. The cookies and bars were great, too, with one standout being the peanut butter blondie.
Sweet treats, starring a lemon bundt cake with cranberry glaze (Scott Lynch)T
There were plenty of winners on the savory side of things, too. The sesame-studded bacon bun houses a smoky, porky stuffing.
Bacon bun (Scott Lynch)
The everything cruller proved to be an excellent vehicle for the house-cured gravlax, and the vegan “turkey and cheese” hand pie had a nice vinegary bite to it.
Everything cruller with gravlax (Scott Lynch)
Best of all, though, was the flaky, multi-layered en croute of duck sausage, sharp cheese, and buttery eggs. Most everything is priced from around $4 to $7.
Duck sausage, cheese, and egg en croute (Scott Lynch)
Evi’s offers a full coffee program, with beans and cold brew from Parlor. The only seating for now are a pair of benches outside the front door, though the line effectively blocks off comfortable access to one of these. It’ll be great when Vanderbilt Open Streets starts up again next spring.
Evi’s Bäckerei is located at 635 Bergen Street, just west of Vanderbilt Avenue, and is currently open Thursday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.