For the past week I've been in Miami visiting my family. It has felt like school vacation - never knowing what day it is and waking up each morning with excitement wondering, "What are we going to do today?"
Yesterday, me, my parents and our family friends hopped in the car and headed to a super funky neighborhood called Wynwood. The area is best known for it's graffiti covered buildings. The works are mostly commissioned, but there is plenty of old school tagging as well.
On 26th Street, beneath a very unassuming sign that reads "Bakery" is a magical place called Zak the Baker.
The shop is owned and operated by Zak Stern, a Miami native with a passion for organic farming. Zak has traveled the world learning to farm, bake and make cheese in places like France, India, Israel, Italy and Sweden. You can read more about his story in this great piece in the Miami New Times.
When we arrived, it was about 2:30pm and the line was out the door. When you first step into the space the first thing you see is the chalkboard menu. The menu is small, but each and every offering sounds more delectable than the one before.
As the line snakes toward the counter, you'll find yourself squeezing in between the registers and the round family style table in the center of the dining room.
The bakery is actually quite spacious, with a long hallway lined with two tops, as well as ample seating at a counter that overlooks the kitchen.
In the kitchen you can see Zak and his team hard at work on the day's bread. Zak is the one pictured below, on the right, in the blue shirt.
You place your order at the counter, they hand you a sign with a number and then a server will find your table and plop down your food. Because we came at such a busy time and there were five of us, we waited quite a while for a seat.
Once we did finally get a spot, the first dish to arrive was my mom's, the smoked whitefish salad. Before she even took a bite, she said, "I love the presentation with the ceramic pot. The whole look of the plate is very enticing. It makes me want to put my fork right in there."
My mom continued, "The whitefish salad is perfect. It's mostly fish, as opposed to being too heavy on the mayo."
The salad was served with two kinds of bread, rye and olive. She described, "Both breads were so crunchy and delicious. I was happy to use them as the vessel for enjoying the whitefish, but I would have eaten them on their own too."
My dad ordered a sandwich that was grilled eggplant, tomato and Havarti cheese.
After a few bites, he shared, "The bread was extra crusty and the eggplant was drenched in oil. A winning combination."
My plate landed next, one of the savory toasts. I chose the avocado with ricotta salata. It was garnished with crushed red pepper. You can tell I liked it because I couldn't stop taking pictures of it!
The bread was toasted to exactly the right level of crunch, the avocado was smooth and the ideal compliment to the firm ricotta salata. The crushed red pepper added a dash of heat.
My mom and I also decided to share the heirloom tomato salad which came with kale, fennel, watermelon radishes and blue cheese. Aren't watermelon radishes just gorgeous?
All of the veggies in the salad was super fresh and there was a surprise on the bottom of the plate - a layer of pesto! The pesto tasted fantastic on the red and yellow tomatoes.
For dessert, my parents each got a piece of chocolate rugelach, but they inhaled them so quickly I couldn't get a photo! Our family friends indulged in a piece of the Dutch apple pie.
After two bites, our friend said, "The pie crust is unusually good. There is a great sweetness from the apples and I really like the hint of cinnamon."
There is no question, the food at Zak the Baker is off the charts. All the bread and baked goods are sensational. I'm talking, eyes rolling into the back of your head good.
That being said, the place is a bit of a balagan (that's a Hebrew word that means chaos or madness). The line is long, people don't know when it's their turn to order, you have to fight for a seat and the noise level is a bit much for a bakery (I know, I am getting so old). When you visit, just be prepared to elbow your way to a table.
You can visit Zak the Baker at 405 NW 26th Street, Miami, FL 33127.