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The Sweet Life 

Checking out the local bakeries

Charlotte's a tough town for bakeries. We've had bakeries come and go. One of my favorite bakeries was Honda, bad name for a great Japanese bakery. Occasionally, a French bakery will likewise open and then close.

Thankfully, Vlado and Sladjana Novakovic opened Nova's Bakery (now in Plaza Midwood) in 1996, and Latino entrepreneurs have contributed numerous pastry/bakery combination shops. A popular trend in fast causal restaurants is to bake products in house, as they do in Panera Bread and Carolina Cafe. Recently, more bakeries are popping up around town.

Joe and Joanna Andrews recently opened The Bread Basket, 9315 D Monroe Road (704-847-0062). This is the same location as a former bakery catering company, but don't be confused: This is a franchise operation from Tennessee, the first in North Carolina, and the company has appeared on the TV show Food Finds. For those with a sweet tooth, the glass case is full of baked goods, pies and breads. Their brownie is similar to the legendary Rich's (department store in Atlanta) brownie, though the icing differs. Ironically, Joe Andrews left a career in the dental industry to become a baker. The Bread Basket specializes in gift baskets, from small to extravagant and filled with freshly baked products. The Andrews deliver their "leftovers" to local charities. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9am until 6pm, and Saturday 9am until 2pm.

Also new is Jersey Girl Bakery in the Sycamore Shopping Center (704-849-0540). The Wilson family, Mike and Candice, hail from southern Jersey and opened this shop several months ago. Some of their popular offerings are sticky buns (with or without walnuts), decorative cookies and Danishes. St. Louis Gooey Cakes is one of the featured baked goods, but one St. Louis native suggested that folks in Jersey don't know Gooey Cakes.

Owners Kelley and Joanne Bowers opened Hansel & Gretel's Bakery and Catering, 8535 Hankins Road (704-596-1232), six years ago. The venue features specialty cakes with buttercream icing and original cookies made specifically for events. Recently, they made the ice skate cookies WBTV used for the opening of the ice skating rink on the Green. The Bowers used edible silver mixed with rum for the blades of these clever cookies. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am until 6pm, and Saturday 10am until 2pm.

In Mooresville is La Patisserie, 118 North Main Street, owned by Elsa Arango and Manuel Mendoza. The couple is from Colombia, but Arango trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. "I've made French pastries all my life," she reports. In addition to Francophile Napoleons, though, she also bakes a Latino Tres Leches cake. Hours are 7am until 6pm Monday through Friday and Saturday 8am until 4:30pm.

One of the best Mexican bakeries in the city is Odalys Bakery, 4404 East Independence Boulevard (704-535-8100). Look for the special baked goods offered for Mexican celebrations such as Day of the Dead and other religious holidays. Hours are 7am until 10pm daily.

Owner Carlos Suarez has operated Suarez Bakery for years in the Park Road Shopping Center (704-525-0145). This bakery is known for its cream horns, Cuban crackers and Cuban bread. Hours are 8:30am until 5pm Monday through Saturday.

And if your desire for baked goods has lessened since Atkins, there's another kind of bakery soon to open in SouthEnd -- but this one is going to go to the dogs. Literally. Barbara's Canine Cafe (704-588-3647), with freshly baked dog biscuits, is opening a second location, Canine Cafe of Charlotte, on the Trolley line in SouthEnd in March (the original's located at 315 Main Street in Pineville). The Cafe offers some baked goods for kitties as well. Gift baskets are available.

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