I’m not sure who’s more excited about the opening of Clayton’s Bakery & Bistro—me, owner Mary Frese, or the collective Coronado community.

I met with Frese, who also owns and operates Clayton’s Diner and Clayton’s Mexican Takeout in Coronado, on a bright Sunday morning. Patrons, eager to sample the house made pastries and coffee drinks, waited in a line that extended out to the sidewalk. While we settled in to chat, multiple local folks stopped by our little table to offer their congratulations and compliments to Frese on what will surely become a very popular business.

Located in the space that formerly housed both Alexander’s Pizza and Fire + Fly Artisan Pizza at 849 Orange Avenue, the spot has been transformed into a 1900’s European style boulangerie and bistro, decorated with copper tin ceiling tiles, Carrara marbled countertops, and walnut-stained beadboard. The lighting is vintage Edison style, which reflects off the copper ceiling, creating a warm, inviting glow throughout the space.

I might be a bit unusual in that I don’t normally get too excited about pastries, but sampling the house-made croissants and bagels that Frese brought to the table on pretty blue china plates may have changed my way of thinking a bit.
 Made by classically trained executive pastry chef Elena Palma, who came to the bistro by way of The Lodge at Torrey Pines, these aren’t your ordinary grocery store pastries.
Crispy and golden on the outside, the inside of the croissant is light and airy, with the intoxicating aromas of good butter, yeast and sea salt. Though there are a variety of croissants available, including chocolate and almond, the plain variety is about as perfect as I could imagine. The bagels are equally astonishing. Not too big and not too small, the bagels are glossy and slightly crisp on the outside, while interior is properly dense and chewy. The simple salted variety won my heart, though the cinnamon flavor was equally divine, and not too sweet.

The bakery portion of the bistro is currently open from 6 to 11:45 a.m., and in addition to the croissants and bagels, Frese and Palma are also serving up peach and cream cheese Danishes, a variety of scones, cookies and galettes, with naked cakes and pots de crème coming soon. Organic, fair-trade coffee is provided by local roasters Café Moto, just over the bridge in National City.

While a great bakery in town again is a truly wonderful thing, Frese hasn’t stopped with pastries and sweets. She’ll be offering, with the help of executive chef Ira Sylvester (former executive sous chef from the Lodge at Torrey Pines), full breakfast, lunch, and supper (yes, supper!) soon—hopefully by the end of this week or early next week. A wine and beer license is also pending. The breakfast menu will include croissant and bagel breakfast sandwiches, as well as a traditional Dutch Baby, and more substantial items such as quiche, frittata, and a Croque Madame.

Lunch, which will be served from noon until 4:30 p.m. daily, will have traditional items such as onion and matzo ball soups (each crafted with house-made beef and chicken stock), salads, and sandwiches such as the classic Croque Monsieur, as well as hoagies and po boys.

Offerings on the delightful supper menu will include starters such as white fish ceviche, artichoke and spinach dip, and salmon cakes, as well as the above-mentioned soups and salads.

Frese and Sylvester will also be serving charcuterie and fromage boards, starring Sylvester’s house-made patés and traditional accompaniments, most of which will also be made directly in house. Entrees will include roasted chicken, fish, and steaks, and a vegetarian pasta option. Specials will be based on seasonal availability.

Frese also noted that from 10 to 11 p.m., dessert and fromage plates will be available for those looking for late night or après-movie bites, and is also looking toward having some live instrumental music on evenings and weekends.

Frese has noted that the bistro will truly be in the style of traditional European minimalism. While American eateries often go in the direction of the “more is more” concept, Frese’s model is conscious and deliberate. Bread baskets, water, and ice are optional items, and in the European style, aren’t brought to the table unless requested. She is also striving to minimize the use of plastic, and utilizes paper straws and paper carry-out containers.

Beginning this weekend or early next week, Clayton’s Bakery & Bistro, at 849 Orange Avenue, will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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