Ohlson's Bakery and Cafe
8500 Sheridan Drive at Harris Hill, Clarence
3 pennies (out of four:)
"Could be heaven"
With a few minor tweaks, this could be heaven.
Ohlson's Bakery and Cafe has it all: satisfying sandwiches on your choice of seven kinds of home-baked, hand-sliced bread. Tea poured from china teapots into flowered cups nestled on matching saucers. And a selection of desserts that is almost literally overwhelming, with old-fashioned and fanciful concoctions of chocolate, cream cheese, whipped cream, fruit and nuts.
The soups ($2.80 per bowl) were Tomato with tortellini and Italian Wedding, but my friend Julie (who loves dessert but doesn't look it) and I started by splitting a Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche (3.25). The quiche, baked in a smallish round individual tart pan, was light rather than dense, with a buttery crust.
Sandwiches, which range from $4.25 for Wisconsin Grilled Cheese to $5.75 for a Reuben, are available on sourdough, sundried tomato, whole wheat, all-grain, sour rye, Dutch dill and homemade white bread. I chose the Grilled Ham and Cheese on all-grain bread, and it arrived perfectly toasted -- warm and crispy on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside -- and delicious.
Julie's Portabello Mushroom and Mozzarella Panini (5.95) was toasty and tender, and she praised the creamy garlic dressing. The panini bread is homemade, too, and arrived scored with marks from the grill. Other panini choices include roasted turkey, roast beef, smoked ham and chicken cordon bleu, each for $5.95.
We skipped the sandwiches' chips and pickle to leave room for dessert. In the interest of presenting a comprehensive review, we sampled three. The cream cheese brownie ($1.25), was satisfying, cakey rather than fudgy, and not overly sweet. We loved the German cheese square ($1.30), a flat slice of cheesecakelike sweetness punctuated by a layer of sweet canned cherries. But the one-serving Swedish lace cake stole the show with layers of chocolate, whipped cream and raspberry, topped by a drizzled crust of chocolate. The cream cheese brownie, which we had loved, paled in comparison to its richer, darker rival.
The tweaks, mentioned above? Teapots, tea cups and other accessories are sold at Ohlson's, and a wide selection of tea bags offered -- but sort-of-warm water was served in a pot for me to dunk my teabag in. Tea must be hit with actively boiling water to reach its full flavor. What I got was a disappointingly weak tea-impersonating liquid.
And the customer load from the nine-table cafe and the endless stream of bakery customers just overwhelmed the staff on Saturday afternoon, so the service, while extremely pleasant, was episodic.
But nothing could dim the splendor of the homemade bread and that wee Swedish lace cake. We'll be back.
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Wheelchair-accessible.
-- Anne Neville