Restaurant Review, The Butter Stick
Much like old friends, restaurants are often lauded based not on any present-day excellence but rather the mirage of the past. Behind the smoke and mirrors of fond memory, a bland soufflé crackles with imagined flavor and depth, a one-time fire-alarm jambalaya secretly hits snooze, and an overly dry slice of Grandma’s coffee cake simply possesses “character.” It is only the brave amongst us who give our time honored institutions no safe haven in nostalgia, who dare look them in the eye and ask to be met here, in this moment, and not in the Land of the Used To Be.
Walking into the Butter Stick this past weekend, I feared the worst. This was, after all, a bakery, a peddler of sugar, an establishment whose sole purpose is to create sweet confections not only in palate but demeanor. These are agreeable treats aiming to please, not impress. Without aspiration, what space could there be for ingenuity?
And yet here I was, Angus’ familiar sweet tea in my hand, the beverage still exceeding all expectations past or present, the tea’s sweetness tiptoeing its edge without ever plunging into the depths of the saccharine, and I knew immediately that my fear was misplaced. Spread amongst the Butter Stick’s tried and true – Aunt Mae’s Carrot Cake, Pumpkin Pound Cake, Shelton’s Peanut Butter clusters, all still executed to perfection – were little flares of the here and now. The Hummingbird Cake, as nimble in flavor as its namesake in flight, combines the tropical flare of pineapple and coconut with the Southern staples of cinnamon and walnut. The Salted Caramel Chocolate Fritter cupcakes, though an abomination in thought, avoid bombast, the interplay between savory and sweet a work of subtle delicacy. And its signature Breakfast Skillet bread pudding, with its pops of caramelized bacon and sharp cheddar interspersed in a fluffy pillow of brown butter brioche, is a coronary I don’t mind risking. It is not often when this reviewer is wrong, but in this case, I admit my folly. I’m sorry I doubted you, Butter Stick, and I will never doubt you again.Recap: The Butter Stick Bakery has proven to me that the familiar is just fine, and that friends of old can surprise you still. A Quadruple Dash.