Best of the Boat: Best Bakery — Smell That Bread Bakery

Julia Ben-Asher
Smell That Bread's famous Monkey Bread.

See the complete list of 2017 Best of the Boat winners here.

If you catch a warm, steamy whiff of something baking downtown, follow your nose up 11th Street and over Soda Creek to this year’s Best Bakery.

Husband-and-wife team Juli and Sam Gordon opened Smell That Bread Bakery in 2014. Juli had been baking at home for years, and Sam was a former chef; their focus was on the wholesale of artisanal breads: whole grain, baguettes, sour dough, focaccia, brioche, challah. But soon enough, diners from the restaurants serving their breads sniffed their way up the supply chain and came a-calling to stock up their own kitchens. The bakery’s retail side quickly gained a loyal following.

“It would be 20 below, and people would be lined up outside for bread,” Juli says.

With the demand for more retail, the Gordons developed a traditional French style of offerings alongside their wholesale ventures. “Our vision had always been to add pastries,” Juli says.

The electric ceramic deck oven, which bakes from below and above, began to churn out twice-baked, 6,000-layer almond croissants known to sell out within an hour of opening; and cinnamon rolls and giant cookies that are the talk of the town. Baguettes merrily crackle — or sing, as staff say — as they settle on cooling racks.

Some customers have grown so attached to the baked goods that, upon learning their favorite was sold out, fully grown adults have stomped their feet and fled the shop.

“If their sourdough boule was the body of Christ at my church growing up, I might still be a Christian!” one customer commented on the bakery’s Facebook page.

In three years, the Gordons have grown their staff to 10. The bakery also recently finished its front room and retail area — a cozy, sunlit space of brick walls, small tables and a coffee, sandwich and pastry counter. Outside, a patio is perched along Soda Creek.

“We wanted somewhere comfortable, warm and relaxed, where you can hang out or grab and go,” Sam says.

Laughter echoes through the kitchen, and employees often visit on their days off to say hi and dig into the scrumptious staff meals. The bakery’s Instagram account is full of mouth-watering photography and funny, sassy captions.

Their bakers use natural yeasts and thicker crusts to prolong shelf life — no preservatives. There’s a use for every ounce of every ingredient: scraps of croissant, cinnamon roll and Danish dough are blended to make monkey bread, filled with bacon, egg and cheese. Leftover breads are donated to the Lift-Up Food Bank.

“Other restaurants are super supportive,” Sam says. “Creekside Café sends people over here, and we send people over there; Café Diva goes out of their way to explain where their bread comes from.”

The bakery also supplies breads to Natural Grocers, Low Country Kitchen, Mountain Tap Brewery, The Laundry, Community Ag Alliance and more.

And exciting things are on the way, with autumn’s temperatures ideal for making puff pastries, and the Christmas rush of pies and gingerbread. The Gordons are ready, and excited.

“We just love it; we have so much fun,” Juli says. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this community.”

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