DCP’s top picks for the best bakeries around the Miami Valley
By Brian P. Sharp
I’ve never met a baked good I didn’t like. It took lots of research and reminiscing, one too many sugar rushes, maybe a few pounds around my waistline after hours in the car on the ultimate quest for the best bakeries … and here it is. My list of all the Miami Valley has to offer when it comes to bakeries. These are simply the best.
Some of us remember the days when grocery shopping didn’t include the option of mega stores. You went to the grocer for groceries, the meat market for meat and the bakery for baked goods. Even department stores had amazing bakeries. I remember the bakery outpost in the parking garage at Rike’s. A trip downtown wasn’t complete without stopping for butter crunch cookies or a chocolate fudge cake to take home. Of course even then some bakeries had specialties; there was Doebler’s on Xenia Avenue that made the most amazing potato rolls – no fine dinner was complete without them. Then there was their strawberry cake made with fresh strawberries. Well Rike’s and Doebler’s are things of the past, but amazing baked goods definitely are not.
When asked today about the best bakeries in the Miami Valley area, you can’t name just one. There are many places with many specialties that must be considered and they aren’t located in the mega stores. These fine bakeries are tucked around the Miami Valley. Some in strip centers, some in stand-alone locations … and yes even a couple fine baked goods were found in a grocery store.
It is summer and no summer meal is complete without pie. There are many places that make great pies in town. One in particular, Mehaffies’s Pies — located at the corner of Linden Avenue and Smithville Rd — offers quite a selection. It’s almost hard to choose. The strawberry is always a favorite. These pies can be seen in stores all over the Miami Valley, but there is nothing like going to the pie shop to make your selection. Certainly, Mehaffie’s has changed over the years since the Mehaffie family is no longer involved, but there are still great options available. When you get the invitation to the next picnic … don’t bake, run to Mehaffie’s.
While that option is close to Dayton, there is another just 40 minutes north of Dayton in Sidney: The Spot for Good Eats. Now this is a down home diner. The Spot, as it’s referred to, makes a sugar cream pie that nearly makes your teeth hurt., but there is truly nothing like it! Located in downtown Sidney right on the square, it’s just minutes from I-75 and definitely worth the trip. While sugar cream pie may not be your favorite there are many other options, but take my word for it and at least try the sugar cream. There is really nothing like a hot cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Take a drive to Sidney and experience the Spot.
But it can’t just be about pie … what about cake? Well, with the hype of reality TV we see cake decorating shows every week, but where can you find great cakes in the Miami Valley?
I’m sure many of you can remember the amazing butter cream icing that could be found on the cakes at Woody’s in West Carrollton or even the triple layer chocolate fudge cake at Rike’s. Who among us can remember the chocolate cake with caramel icing, which of late can be found at Culp’s Café inside the Carillon Historical Park? Then there are the beautiful cakes from Rinaldo’s on Fairview Avenue, a Dayton tradition. Or even the cakes at Evan’s Bakery on Troy Street in Old North Dayton. The cake business is very competitive, but for me, it’s all about the taste. There are two bakeries that stand out above the rest for their cakes. First, The Cakery, located at 140 Woodman Dr. in Dayton just minutes from downtown. The Cakery has mastered the art of flavor, decoration, icing and looks. You won’t be disappointed when ordering a cake from the Cakery.
However, in my opinion there is one better: elé Cake Company, located at 810 East Dixie Dr. in West Carrollton in the old Woody’s location, definitely takes the cake. This bakery is about more than just baked goods; there are pastries, cupcakes, cards and gifts. They do a fantastic job of providing amazing cakes with fabulous icing, full of great flavor and they deliver all of this with an outstanding level of service and detail. You cannot go wrong with a cake from elé Cake Company.
So, what about the cupcake craze? These aren’t the cupcakes our mothers made; these are heavily iced works of art. Not just white or chocolate anymore either. The cupcake craze has taken off and there is no stopping it. You can go into stores and find cupcake trees, carriers and even books filled with cupcake recipes. Dayton is no stranger to great cupcake bakeries. While there are many places that claim to be cupcake specialists, one in particular stands out above the rest. That is Gigi’s Cupcakes located at 3800 Colonel Glenn Highway in Beavercreek. At Gigi’s you can find specialties like Banana Split, Merry Margarita, Miss Princess, S’more, Carrot and even Lemon Dream Supreme. It’s hard to decide, so you might just have to order an assortment, find your favorites and go back for more. It is the perfect ending to any party or even the perfect hostess gift to hand your guests after dinner. Get with the craze. If you haven’t experienced cupcakes recently … you must. They aren’t just the treats brought in for the elementary school birthday parties anymore.
They’re chic, don’t you know?
What about cookies? In this quest for the best bakeries in town, I managed to find a cookie that nearly changed my life. Well … almost. I can’t believe I have lived here most of my life and until recently hadn’t experienced a Sand Tart. I know that doesn’t sound like a cookie, but it is. There are many great cookie options out there, like the Laura’s cookies at Dorothy Lane Market located in Oakwood, Centerville or Springboro – all locations carry Laura’s cookies. Laura’s Cookies are some of the most beautiful cookies around. Beautifully decorated and filled with flavor and they even come in two sizes. There is nothing like receiving a box filled with Laura’s Cookies to make your day a bit brighter. These cookies can always be found inside the showcase in the bakery department at any local Dorothy Lane Market. You certainly don’t want to miss them. At Boosalis Baking and Café located at 9486 Springboro Pike there is a Ginger Molasses cookie that is a crowd pleaser. Yes, you read that right. Ginger Molasses … write that down.
However, I have to go back to the Sand Tart. Sand Tarts, as they are called, are a mix of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour … as if that’s not enough, they are soft baked and topped with cinnamon dusted meringue. Wow, what a cookie! These cookies can only be found at Ashley’s Pastries in the heart of Oakwood at 21 Park Ave. These delights have been found on the set of the West Wing television series and even the 9 to 5 Broadway stage. I wonder why … these are favorites of Rob Lowe and Allison Janney (and now Brian P. Sharp). I don’t think I have ever had a better cookie. Sorry Mom! That wasn’t the only great cookie at Ashley’s; there is a case full of them, but clearly you can’t go home without a package of Sand Tarts.
While I didn’t really do a comparison of brownies, I didn’t think I needed to. Hands down the best brownies in town can be found at Dorothy Lane Market – the Killer Brownie. The bakers at DLM have worked to create many varieties of this Dayton favorite. Try all of them — the cream cheese Killer Brownie, the Blonde Ambition Killer Brownie, the Raspberry Killer brownie or even the Salted Caramel Killer Brownie, but the original is still a winner. This is another perfect hostess gift or dessert for any party. You can’t go wrong.
Then the sampling turned to breads. There are so many places now to find great breads, from crusty French breads to great ryes and multigrains to the perfect challah. There are the amazing artisan breads that can be found at Boosalis Baking and Café – the nine grain is fresh every day. The Asiago-Onion is amazing though it is only baked on Fridays. They also have a great challah.
Certainly, while you are shopping at the PNC Second Street Market on the weekends you can find a great selection of homemade breads at Rahn’s Artisan Breads. This is the destination for fresh baked European-style crusty breads. The marbled rye is fantastic. But wait — the market is only open on limited days, so what do you do the rest of the week? There are the amazing artisan breads that can be found fresh-made daily at Dorothy Lane Market – these too are the perfect choice. There is a New York Rye that can’t be missed. The sourdough has a crackly crust and a delicious aroma. They have a delicious ciabatta and a versatile signature round. Then back to Ashley’s Pastries we go to find the same great crusty breads and rolls that are staples at some of Dayton’s finest restaurants. That’s right – the salted rye twists that you find at the Pine Club, the herbed rolls that you find at the Oakwood Club all originate in the kitchen at Ashley’s Pastries. No dinner party is complete without these dinner rolls. The other bread that thrilled me at Ashley’s was the cinnamon bread – without raisins! There is something wonderful about cinnamon toast in the morning and this is the place to find the perfect cinnamon bread.
While this article is about baked goods, no bakery article would be complete without a shout out to doughnuts. Or is it donuts? Whatever the spelling, I found some delicious ones. The nice thing is that we have great doughnut shops all over town. There is Jim’s Donut Shop in Vandalia, Stan the Donut Man on Wilmington Pike and Bill’s Donut Shop in Centerville. However, there are no doughnuts like the ones that can be found at Schuler’s Bakery in Springfield, now with three locations – trust me it’s worth the trip because they are by far the best doughnuts in town. It’s an easy drive from downtown Dayton right out Route 4 into Springfield.
So, is there a best bakery in town? Well I do have a favorite, but as you can tell, you may have to go to several for all of your baking needs. While I don’t give much credit to large chains or mega stores, Kroger Fresh Fare on Stroop Road has a nice selection of breads, cakes and pies that are well made. However, if you have the time and want to really find the perfect pie, cake, cupcake, brownie, bread or even doughnut, take the drive to one of our best bakeries. Don’t settle for the big box. Give your business to one of our local bakeries and you will not be disappointed … and you might just get hooked!
Finally, does anyone have the Doebler’s recipes for potato rolls or strawberry cake?
I would love to find them!
Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at Thatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.