Is there anything better than freshly baked bread? A warm baguette on a chilly evening in Paris never made it home without the crouton taken as a reward for whoever had to go and fetch it. Even the smell of freshly baked bread apparently makes us nicer people. Warm and soft, it’s delicious on its own but a little knob of butter wouldn’t be unwelcome either. Bagels, pitas, even the humble dinner roll are exponentially better the sooner they get to you from that hot oven.
Here in the District, our bread experience has been a little underwhelming, that is, until we found the Pretzel Bakery. They’re closed Monday and Tuesday, a fact that, as you can see from the photo below, we learned the hard way the first time.
The specialty here is “Philly style” pretzels. I honestly have no idea what that means, but Philadelphia did once have a pretzel museum, so I’ll take their word for it that that’s a thing.
You can choose from classic salted or the “everything,” lightly studded with seeds. Unable to decide, we usually get some of both to share. Forget those greasy things at the mall or the overly salted rocks at the ballpark, these pillowy soft little pretzels served fresh from the oven out of a little red door have become our new favorite Sunday breakfast.
At $2 each or three for $5, it’s a pretty good deal. Since they’re churning them out hot and fresh all day, there may be a few minutes wait for your order. I’ve seen many a customer happily wait with a coffee in the cold for a piping hot dozen to take home. If you have the foresight to call ahead, apparently they cater as well.
Dips are a dollar, although you can squeeze as much spicy brown or yellow mustard on your pretzel as you please for free. The caramel mustard is worth the spurge. I could also see the cream cheese helping ease the pangs of those homesick for good, fresh bagels. Someone suggested cutting them in half to make a sandwich. They’ve never made it back to our apartment in one piece to give it a try, but I suspect it would be a delicious reward for a little self-control.
They have excellent coffee and Z’s become a fan of their hot chocolate or “Hotella,” a name apparently coined by the owner’s daughter. It’s made with Nutella and comes with or without little mini marshmallows.
Even though there’s no indoor seating, and only a few benches outside, there’s always a small crowd regardless of the weather — kids sipping chocolate milk after a little league game, couples and families having a lazy Sunday morning, and groups of friends steaming pretzels in hand. They do sell out, so check their Facebook page for updates.
The Pretzel Bakery
340 15th Street SE, Washington DC 20003
Closed Monday & Tuesday
First Bite: The Pretzel Bakery (The Hill is Home)
The Pretzel Bakery Finds a Home in Hill East (Washington Post)
Philly-Style Pretzels at the Pretzel Bakery in D.C. (Serious Eats)
The Short and Twisted History of the Pretzel (The Food Channel)