Bakery: Eleni-Christina Bakery

From the August 16, 2012 edition

In the world of cooking, the baguette is one of those classic-but-not-easy items. How many times have salivating bread lovers torn off a knob of baguette, anticipating a rush of yeasty flavor, toasted scent and the contrast of crackling crust with soft innards — only to be disappointed?

Eleni-Christina Bakery will give you hope on the quest for the Best Baguette You Ever Ate. The long, skinny French loaf ($5) here is just right on flavor and texture; it was eviscerated on the trip home.

Eleni-Christina, which recently opened for retail sales, is owned by Kent and Tasi Rigsby and has long supplied bread to their Tasi Cafe and Rigsby’s Kitchen. Its baked goods are coveted by the city’s food obsessives, and now the hungry public has a shot at those wonderful loaves.

The entrance is on a quiet Short North side street, marked by a cheery sandwich board. Customers enter a bakery filled with natural light that brightens the grass-green paint and white tiles on the walls. The experience, just like the menu, is pleasantly incongruous and laissez-faire. Place your order next to a refrigerated case filled and topped with baked goodies. Next to that is a big old armoire; two massive molded green fists, a la The Hulk, are perched on top.

The day’s offerings vary, but there is consistently a variety of cookies, quick breads, yeasted breads, cakes and pastries ($2 and up). Small danishes, with spoonfuls of blueberries or chocolate filling in the center, were a nice morning treat. So were almond croissants, with a smear of almond paste laid down the center.

The bakery is making sandwiches, too, including a take on the trendy but classic Vietnamese sandwich Banh Mi ($6). This one is spread with liver mousse and green aioli and filled with rich salami rossa, pickled radishes, carrots and bright sprigs of cilantro. Everything is framed in that satisfying baguette.

Another sandwich, Jambon Beurre ($6), consists simply of thin ribbons of prosciutto between bread smeared with butter. It’s childlike in its simplicity — and just as comforting as a favorite school-days sandwich.

In both cases, the bread made the sandwich special. How rare is that? Too often shreds of bread are cast aside in favor of tempting fillings. Yours certainly will not after a visit to Eleni-Christina.