Manuel’s Bread Cafe

Bakery | Eclectic | French | Small Town Café
excellent
Worth a detour
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On the banks of the Savannah River in the developer-planned neighborhood of Hammonds Ferry, lovely tree-shaded streets converge on a commercial crossroads that is home to Manuel’s Bread Café. Like its synthetic community, which really is quite charming but has negligible cultural roots, the restaurant serves appealing food that seems strangely unconnected to culinary bedrock.

“In the tradition of a true French bistro,” the café describes itself, and that pose is well-reflected in an insouciant bill of fare that ranges from crème brulée French toast in the morning to Reubens and French dips at lunch to steak au poivre for two at dinner. Weekend brunch is a happy time to visit, especially popular when weather allows al fresco sidewalk dining.

What with shrimp and grits for breakfast and pulled pork barbecue and burgers for lunch and veggies straight from Manuel’s nearby garden, the menu is as much local and all-American as it is French (boeuf bourguignon) and even a bit French-Canadian (iconoclastic poutine topped with andouille sausage, gravy, and Gruyere cheese). French onion soup, a dish that was traditionally French until American gourmets made it ours back in the 1960s, is always on the menu: a slightly sweet broth with al dente strips of onion and croutons floating under an isle of melted cheese.

There is no clear gastronomic pigeonhole for Manuel’s salmon cake, but it is hard not to like. The fish is not really ground up; it is more pulled, so the patty includes good-size pieces of moist pink meat that taste like they just flaked off a salmon steak, interspersed with bits of crisp vegetable. The cake is pan-seared enough to give it a crisp edge and served on a ciabatta roll with roasted red pepper aioli. The roll is unimpressive; on two separate occasions it seemed day-old. Likewise, the length of wheat hoagie roll enclosing blackened trout was forgettable enough that I simply ignored it and forked up yummy pieces of the brightly-seasoned fish.

One sure winner from the regular menu is Manuel’s grilled vegetable sandwich, which features what’s in season. One Spring day it is slim stalks of asparagus, a disk or two of beet, onions, chevre, and olive tapenade singing a happy tune between two slices of crisp, multi-grain toast.

As you enter the restaurant, a glass cake to the left holds many handsome desserts, among them cheesecake, chocolate mousse, hummingbird cake, salty-sweet chocolate cake, white chocolate lemon cake,  carrot cake, crème brûlée and Godiva chocolate crème brûlée. Pound cakes are wonderful, including sweet-potato pound cake topped with sticky pecan glaze and 5-flavor pound cake in which orange, lemon, pineapple, coconut, and rum swirl together to make something at once complex, intriguing, and tremendously satisfying.

What to Eat
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, French Fries
French Fries
Must-Try
French fries, thin and crisp, with red pepper aioli
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Salmon Burger
Salmon Burger
Must-Try
Salmon cake is well abetted by a schmear of red pepper aioli below.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, 5-Flavor Pound Cake
5-Flavor Pound Cake
Must-Try
Five-flavor pound cake: sweet tangle of lemon, orange, pineapple, coconut, and rum.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Must-Try
Grilled vegetable sandwich contains asparagus, beets, onions, tomatoes, goat cheese and olive tapenade.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Eggs Sardou
Eggs Sardou
Must-Try
Eggs Sardou is like Benedict, but with artichoke hearts instead of English muffins ... plus creamed spinach.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Shrimp & Grits
Shrimp & Grits
Must-Try
Spicy sausage dolls up spectacular shrimp & grits.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Kobe Beef Burger
Kobe Beef Burger
Must-Try
Kobe beef burger: as succulent as meat can be
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Imposter Burger
Imposter Burger
Must-Try
Pseudo-beef Imposter Burger is fatty & flavorful, if not profound.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Must-Try
Fluffy, fruity pineapple upside down cake deserves better than its doots of whipped topping.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Hot Brown
Hot Brown
Must-Try
Hot Brown adds pork loin to the Kentucky recipe.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Eggs Julienne
Eggs Julienne
Must-Try
Eggs Julienne includes smoked salmon, onions, capers & hollandaise
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Chocolate Creme Brulee
Chocolate Creme Brulee
Must-Try
Godiva chocolate creme brulee is a chocoholic dream.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Cabbage & Ham Soup
Cabbage & Ham Soup
Cabbage and ham soup has mellow, Old World character.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Blackened Trout Sandwich
Blackened Trout Sandwich
Pyrotechnical seasoning makes blackened trout an exciting hunk of food.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
French onion soup does not harmonize. Onions, croutons and island of Gruyere do not want to be in the same bowl together.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Sweet-potato pound cake is dense, topped with nutty glaze.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Japanese Sunrise
Japanese Sunrise
Japanese Sunrise is a warm-weather refresher of fruit juices & saki.
Manuel’s Bread Cafe, Steak & Wedge
Steak & Wedge
Steak & wedge: great idea but needs more bacon & blue cheese
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday10am - 10pm
Monday11am - 10pm
Tuesday11am - 10pm
Wednesday11am - 10pm
Thursday11am - 10pm
Friday9am - 10pm
Saturday9am - 10pm
Roadtrips
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
10 stops | 48 MILES | 1 hr 22 min

Aiken has long been a vacation destination for the horsey set – back in the 1950s, weekly non-stop train service direct from New York served wintering horses, horse owners, and their staff. It remains a destination for horse people of all kind. If riding (or watching) the four-legged athletes conjures up an appetite, there is…

Information
Price
$$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
Yes
Website

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