The most annoying aspect of living with me is that anywhere we vacation, I always seek out the most popular artisan pizzeria or bakery. While we were staying at Billy’s Blue Heaven in Key West Florida, I didn’t have to look far to find the best bakery, it’s on the corner of Eaton and Grinnell and it’s called Old Town Bakery.
In between hurrican Debbie, and a trip to the emergency room, we were lucky enough to get one of the last baguettes that my two ravenous baguette-end-eaters promptly gnarled before I had time to take a picture.
Niall Bown and his wonderful wife Elzbieta Krysztofiak run this rustic place whose doors never seem to stay still. In fact, customers line up all day to get a crack at some of the best baguettes, croissant and pastries in the nation. (I kid you not.)
That’s because Niall knows his Plugra…er his stuff (Plugra is a Europeon style butter and contains higher butterfat and less water than most butter and, because of expense, only used by consumate, dedicated bakers.)
Check out the fantastic crumb on this Baguette. No wonder everyone in Key West told me to eat breakfast and lunch here.
He didn’t admit it but his bakery is run the old school way. It wasn’t just the fact that Niall and his wife greet all customers, roast all the meats on premises, make the croissants and pastries by hand and mix the fabulous pesto’s, it’s reflected in the little things like the old scale that they use and the monster Hobart mixer that Niall rescued from the last big hurricane but most of all in the welcoming way they treat everyone, even an invasive pizza goon with the 3rd degree sun burn.
The second best thing for me when meeting Niall was his Boston accent, (even though he never said “wicked.”) The first best was eating the croissants on the way back to Ohio. He graduated from Johnson and Wales and worked as a chef baker his whole life so Niall is a perfect fit for Key West.
Thank you Elzbieta and Niall for giving me a perfect reason to head back to Key West!
Here is a video of Chef Bowen talking about his time in the keys while he rolls some killer croissant.