After over a year of doing these reviews, I’ve talked with many different restaurant owners and their employees. Last week I had what was probably one of the strangest encounters with a business owner that I’ve experienced so far. Not long after Lagniappe Deauxnuts closed in Fayetteville, GA, a sign was put up in their window that told of a new bakery coming soon. I was excited that I had a new bakery opening so close to me, and hoped for some unique food to sample. I thought it would be interesting to visit on their opening day, try some food, get a feel for the place, and post a review so readers could see what it’s all about before most of them even knew it existed.
By their opening day, I still had yet to see a single piece of advertising for The Candybar Bakery, other than the sign that had been up in their front window saying that it was “coming soon.” It was exciting to think that my review could be one of their first, and I was more than happy to get the word out that they were now open.
I arrived at the bakery and started with some exterior photos as I usually do. This allows readers to have a general visual when I’m discussing the basics of the business itself, such as location, hours, and possibly any views it may offer. It can also be helpful if the place is hard to find due to lack of signage, or odd placement on the street. I started with the wider view of the building’s home in this plaza off of Highway 85, about two blocks south of the Fayetteville square.
As I finished the second shot of the doorway, which had their only signage indicating the name of the place, along with their hours of operation, the owner came out and asked, “Can I help you?” It took be aback slightly, as for one I figured the place would be somewhat busy on their opening day and I had already prepared for limited time to speak to the owner. Second, I could be interpreting this incorrectly, but the tone of the question felt as if I was being accused of being up to no good.
I would assume that a new business would have many photos taken over the first several weeks after opening from newspapers, magazines, and bloggers like myself. Look at many TripAdvisor pages, and you’ll find that quite a lot of them have at a minimum, a photo of the exterior. This helps people identify that they’re reading about the correct place, especially if the business has more than one location. So I was already a little surprised, but I responded to the question by letting her know that I was fine and I’d be inside in just a couple minutes.
I came inside and introduced myself, told her that I have a food blog, and that I wanted to check the place out on their first day, and most importantly, try the food. I was told that this was actually a soft opening to allow her find customer’s opinions on some particular items before presenting the full array of food that will eventually be available. She had hopeful plans to do a grand opening around the 4th of July weekend.
When I said I’d be happy to just get some photos of the interior, and what limited items were being presented in the bakery case, she asked that I not take any photos of the inside of the building. Now I have two sides of thought on this. One side can appreciate that she doesn’t want photos of her project (the completed restaurant) before it’s done. I feel the same way about my photos. I don’t want people seeing the bad ones that I plan on deleting, or before I’ve adjusted them to show my vision when I took the shot. I can see any project creator being uncomfortable with people seeing the unfinished product. Then the other side of me thinks that when it comes to a business, if you’re not ready for people to see it yet, then why allow people inside in the first place? Even if there are no photos, wouldn’t each customer still form an opinion based on what they saw personally when walking inside (first impression)? Someone may not be able to find a photo of the place, but they can always just stop in and see for themselves, so why hide it? Either way, those were her wishes, so I respected them. I can tell you that if you ever visited Lagniappe Deauxnuts when they were open, the interior appeared mostly unchanged. It still had that “outside cafe” feel. The décor was welcoming, well lit from the large windows in front, and definitely gave a feel that you’d just found a quaint, little known spot to have a light lunch, pastries, and coffee.
The bakery case was only about half filled, and below were my choices for this visit. They included cake slices in the following flavors: red velvet, key lime, coconut, chocolate, and pound cake. Out of view to the right were slices of apple and peach pie. On the bottom were various doughnuts and muffins. The left tray had red velvet doughnuts with a cream in the center hole, topped with crushed walnuts, and also strawberry cream filled doughnuts. The next tray contained glazed croissants and two types of fritters; banana with chocolate drizzle, and peach with white chocolate drizzle. The last tray had blueberry muffins.
I asked about the future availability of gluten-free food. The owner told me she does not make anything gluten-free and currently has no plans to at this time. However, she said her uncle does cook gluten-free recipes, so if he happens to be around it’s possible you could see something. She commented how it seems to be something that a lot of people are into these days. Because my wife is gluten-free, I’m much more aware of how big this has become. Around the world, more and more people are becoming anywhere from gluten intolerant, to full out allergic. On top of that are the many people that are trying to eat healthier, even when having pastries. For my family personally, if there’s nothing gluten-free available at an eatery, then we most likely can’t go there since she won’t be able to eat anything. Hopefully this is something we will find at The Candybar Bakery sometime in the future.
I made my first pick with the slice of apple pie. I had originally planned on eating at the bakery, so I could enjoy my food in the atmosphere in which it was served. The owner didn’t ask me if I wanted to eat there or take it to go. She instead just started bagging up my pie slice. I asked if there was a way I could have my pie heated up, as I feel fruit pies are always best served warm. She pointed toward a large microwave on the counter across the room. Again, this took me by surprise since I’d prefer the pie heated properly (with heat), and I was also still hoping to get the opportunity to eat in. After the microwave comment, she continued to bag up the pie. It’s possible that using the same line of thought as the photos, maybe she wasn’t ready to have customers stay in the bakery, and would rather have them grab some samples to go until the interior was ready for the grand opening. Unfortunately, it still gave me a slightly unwelcoming vibe, and I felt it was probably best if I didn’t linger too much longer.
As I was being rung up for my purchase, I held up the camera to get a shot of the menu boards, but was reminded not to take any photos, including the menus. Once again, for those familiar with Lagniappe’s old menu boards, much of it has remained the same. There were cakes, pies, muffins, doughnuts, fritters, and I’m happy to report that even the beignets remained intact. The owner had informed me that after the full opening, we can expect to see some lunch items like sandwiches and salads.
After the slightly uncomfortable experience inside the store, I was looking forward to what really counted, the food. If the food turned out to be incredible, then I could forgive the rest. After all, there could be many reasons for the way things went, most of all the fact that the bakery had only been in existence for about two hours. I brought my purchase home, and immediately got to work on the five items I picked.
The first item I tried was a glazed croissant. This was essentially like a glazed doughnut, except using a croissant as the main pastry.
There was a solid coating of glaze covering the croissant. I was intrigued by this concept, that up until now I had never seen before. Why are more people not taking this buttery treat, and adding a sugary glaze to it? Taste wise, it actually was very similar to a glazed doughnut. If there was any difference, it would come from the slightly different type of sweetness that the croissant provided. It wasn’t any better or worse than a doughnut, just different.
The texture was also slightly more chewy, as a croissant naturally would be when compared to its round counterpart. Since the croissant was obviously untoasted, the inside was just as soft at the exterior.
I generally like my croissants toasted, but this was a completely different way of eating it all together, so it’s difficult to compare. Each bite was super sweet from both the pastry and its clear coating that fully enveloped it. I wouldn’t rate this any higher than any other glazed doughnut that can be found in most shops, but since even standard glazed doughnuts are pretty good, this was as well. I have to give some credit just for the genius idea of taking one of my favorite pastries, and doing something to try and improve it.
Next up was a chocolate drizzled, banana filled fritter.
This also had a lot of similarities to a glazed doughnut, at least on the outer edges. This changed in the center, where it was filled with banana, and the whole thing had a chocolate drizzle covering it. I felt this fritter had a somewhat stale taste to it, as if it had been made the day prior. I don’t know if this was the case, or whether it was made very early in the morning, making it several hours old already. Maybe fritters just don’t age very well, I don’t have them very often so this could be normal. The fritter as a whole was a little chewy all around. The banana in the middle was pretty well firmed up. Some bites had the banana on the verge of being crunchy, which was a bit of a letdown.
The banana can’t be seen well in the cross section below, but the taste was apparent when I was eating it. Each bite had a hint of banana, almost no taste of the chocolate drizzle due to its minimal quantity, and plenty of sweetness from the full glaze that coated the whole fritter.
I was disappointed with this, as I have always liked the chocolate and banana combination. The lack of chocolate flavor, and the stale texture were the big negative points. Maybe if I had a fresher sample I would have liked it much more, but the one I had just didn’t cut it for me.
There are many variations of filled doughnuts available from every doughnut shop. Most of them use fake jellies made from high fructose corn syrup, creams from pre-made packages, or simple and cheap chocolate products. On the outside, they all look the same, just like the one I got from The Candybar Bakery.
The doughnut was a typical size, with the same bread-like composition, and a light dusting of powdered sugar. This one too had a filling inside, consisting of strawberries and cream. That also where the similarities end.
The doughnut didn’t have as much filling as a typical one, but the cream filling was also different from what is typical. It appeared to be a similar cream icing you’d find on pancakes or french toast at chain restaurants like IHOP.
It tasted like a cream cheese base that had been heavily sweetened. It was quite good, and I thought it was original. That wasn’t the best part though. This doughnut didn’t use the typical fake strawberry jelly than every other place does either, this one actually had real strawberries!
On top of the strawberries being real, they tasted really fresh. This gave the doughnut a very fresh taste overall. It was a huge improvement from the chocolate and banana fritter in terms of taste and freshness. The doughnut itself was light and airy.
I have to commend the bakery on this one. Fresh strawberry halves… on a doughnut. Added with the sweet cream filling that they were mixed with, and the light, fluffy doughnut, this was a refreshing take on a common product.
I couldn’t resist the key lime cake slices that I saw sitting in the case, so I had to choose one of those as well. I love key lime flavor, whether it be pies, cupcakes, or cakes. This one looked like it could be a winner.
I have been trying more and more cakes lately that have been very moist, very much to my liking. This one took it to another level all together. This cake slice was on the verge of what I would call “wet.” Initially, it was incredible. My biggest reason for disliking cakes when I was younger was due to the drier nature of these desserts. This cake couldn’t get much more moist without starting to drip.
I can see a lot of people probably feeling that this would be a little too close to the soggy side for a cake. Even I found it to be quite heavy feeling as I got close to finishing the slice, and it began to lose its initial appeal. It definitely filled me up more than a normal cake slice of that size would.
In between each of the three cake layers was a thin strip of cream cheese icing, along with a thicker layer on the outer edge.
I noticed a hint of a lemon/lime flavoring within the icing, adding to the cake’s flavor. It was one of my favorite types of icing, with that very granular texture and plenty of sweetness.
Based on how moist this actually was, I almost feel it should be categorized as something other than a cake. I think this may be the first cake that I’ve ever thought that slightly drier would be a little improvement. Either way, the flavor was tastefully obvious, but not overbearing. It was simple, with just the key lime flavored cake, and what I thought was a slightly flavored cream cheese icing. For most key lime products, simple is usually the way to go, as key lime is a star on its own.
I had one last item to try, and it was the first item bagged to go. A slice of apple pie.
The first thing you may notice is that it’s broken in the middle. This is a result of the pie crust being quite soft. Taking it out of its plastic container (maybe the fact that the pie slices were already packaged in to-go containers should have been a sign that the owner wasn’t ready to have people stay and eat yet), it already had a broken back, and I couldn’t get it to sit without bending into two pieces.
The owner told me in the store that she makes several different styles of pie. This day it was a very thin crust, with a lattice style upper crust. Both the upper and lower crusts were soft and breaking easily.
I personally like a thick, flaky crust, so this was not my favorite type, and unfortunately the biggest negative for me. I would have accepted it more had it at least been a bit flakier and not so limp.
Inside, the apple filling was really good. There was plenty of actual apple, along with the gelatinous filler, although given the choice I would have preferred the ratio to favor more apple, and less of the filler. It was perfectly sweet, and had plenty of cinnamon flavor.
I heated the pie up until the apple filling was bubbling. It thinned out when heated, and began to flow onto the plate. The flavors were heightened and everything was great, except for that dreaded crust. The crust is always my favorite part of a pie, so when that isn’t up to par, it take s a lot away from my enjoyment of the rest. Not only was the crust lacking (I was aware of this when I picked it, so no fault towards the bakery), but it was so soft that it was hardly a crust in itself, but more of a breading surrounding the pie. Other than that issue, this pie had all the flavors I look for and I enjoyed it. It just didn’t stand out as above average in any way.
My first encounter with The CandybarBakery was not what I hoped it would be. I felt a little unwelcome from the moment I got there. Before arriving I had visions of learning about this new location, and enjoying a nice meal inside as I took in the atmosphere. After the less than stellar visit, I then hoped that I would get home and find the food to be extraordinary, and I could put off the visit as just a result of the owner’s first day stress that probably comes with opening a new business.
I found the food to range from average, to some items being pretty good. Unfortunately there was nothing that wowed me. One thing in the back of my mind is that the previous owner of that location, Mr. Lagniappe, had a well loved business by those that knew about the place, and was always rated as one of the top 5 restaurants in Fayetteville on TripAdvisor. Even he went out of business. The Candybar Bakery has the same location, a very similar interior décor (again, the decorating may have not been completed at the time of my visit, or maybe hadn’t even begun), and a very similar menu. I didn’t find the pastries to be quite as good as Lagniappe’s as of this first tasting either. In the end, this isn’t about the previous business, but the concern is there since as popular as they were, they weren’t able to keep the doors open.
Additionally, there are also several empty buildings in this plaza. The toughest thing they’ll need to overcome is that Fayetteville’s favorite bakery (always in the top 3 on TripAdvisor), City Cafe & Bakery, is practically next door. With City Cafe’s food being as exceptional as it is, The Candybar Bakery has their work cut out for them.
I had decided after this visit that due to the above circumstances I probably wouldn’t be back. However, I feel it may be fair to give them another chance after the full opening. I do hope they’ll put up some kind of advertising to let people know that they’ll be open soon, whether it be banners at the store, or something in the local newspapers and magazines. They have some really strong competition just a walk away. Hopefully after the full opening we’ll see some improved pastries along with some tasty lunch items.