There are those of us who dream of breakfast. Our tribe never forgets to have something to eat in the morning. And the weekends? It’s an excuse for long breakfasts, preferably multi-course brunches that will last through lunch. Even better, it’s great to find a relaxing and sunny spot where friends can drop in whenever by pulling in an extra table or chair, and because there are no hovering waiters, there’s no rush to leave.
Swissbakers in Allston offers this, along with an eye toward the environment and healthy dining.
Thomas and Helene Stohr opened up this Allston bakery a few months ago. Thomas grew up in a Swiss bakery, but went on to open hotels and restaurants all over the world, when he decided to step back from the fast track to be with family. He and his wife, Helene, started making bread for their two young sons, who, he said, had lost the taste for bread until their parents introduced them to crunchy Swiss breads and rolls. They first arrived in Canada 14 years ago, and were drawn to this area.
The family opened the Reading bakery four years ago, and became favorite fixtures at area farmers markets, as well as suppliers to area Whole Foods Markets. When they outgrew the Reading space, they opened in Allston February. Their sons, 19 and 21, also are put to work.
Lucerne, a red cow statue, sits atop a former car dealership. On the window outside lists “guest-hugging” hours. When you enter, there are several stations staffed by super-friendly workers willing to get you items placed at various counters, or you can go from counter to counter to collect your meal, for takeout or table service.
One noontime Sunday, the bakery bustled with customers seeking brunch. The space is open and sunny. Two clocks on the wall told American and Swiss time. The crew was friendly and welcomed questions, and Thomas sent messages via headset to his son and other “co-entrepreneurs” working the counters to keep the food stocked and pleasingly arranged. Service is efficient.
There are several stations, although if you order multiple items at one counter, the workers will navigate the other counters for you. Otherwise, you can just go from counter to counter. At the station to the left of the door is a specials counter, with typical egg and bacon items as well as a Swiss-style garden salad with items such as beets and celery root. During the week are specials such as roesti and salmon with sour cream, and a soup of the day, all vegetarian.
Next is the bread counter, with a wide variety of freshly baked bread. There’s a sandwich station, then a baked-goods counter with rolls, croissants and quiches. Here’s where you can also choose your beverage, including coffee roasted by local coffee connoisseur George Howell. Finish up with the last case, filled with cakes and cookies.
“You won’t get scones here,” said Thomas. “This is a Swiss bakery.”
When you finish ordering, you sit at high-tops or at long tables, which the owners hope you’ll share with friends you just haven’t met yet.
What’s special about this place, in addition to just how good everything is, is that everything is preservative-free, using local and organic ingredients when possible. The ingredients are whole foods, sometimes organic, with no preservatives or artificial anything. Ingredients like cage-free eggs, organic sugar and unsalted butter, sea salt, and of course, Swiss chocolate. The items that need reheating are done with fast ovens, not microwaves. They understand vegetarians, but don’t do gluten-free save for macaroons and salad.
They attempt to be as green as possible. If you use your Swissbakers shopping bag, you’ll get a free item of the day with each purchase of $9 or more. They recycle and buy local when they can. “Everything should be grandchild-sustainable,” he said.
The food is freshly made every day. “People have to get used to total freshness, which means we sell out of things,” said Thomas. “Everything is a couple of hours old. Everything with almonds go quickly.”
When asked what “guest-hugging” hours meant, Thomas explained it was more of a “mental” rather than physical hug. “We want to say Thank you, because we know you have a thousand options for food. We want you to feel great.”
That’s why he and Helene use as their role model Disney World and Las Vegas. “Anytime you spend money, you should be wowed.” He added, “We’re a simple business.” And it does wow, in a simple way. The food is consistently great.
Said one customer to Thomas, “I am in love with this place.” He said he discovered the baked goods at a farmer’s market in Lexington.
The Disney aspect may come in the future. Since the bakery opened about a month ago, business at SwissBakers has quadrupled. As they expand their wholesale and catering side of the business, their plans include a hanging fireplace in the eating area by winter for cozy gatherings; tours of the bakery, as soon as local licensing laws can be met; a playground and patio outdoors; and smaller Swissbakeries in other neighborhoods.
168 Western Ave. Allston, MA
32 Lincoln St., Reading