Opened in May 2010 by Niall Bowen and his wife, Elzbieta Krysztofiak, Old Town Bakery is a local Key West favorite for pastries, pie, bread, sandwiches, coffee, and cheese. Bowen has been baking for over 25 years, and Krysztofiak is responsible for the cozy feel of the place. Dade County pine walls and exposed beams surround the small space, which can comfortably hold about five hungry guests, standing.
The front case displays croissant, muffins, scones, palmiers, sticky buns, and lemon honey pound cake. There’s also a section with cheeses, making Old Town a great spot to stop in before a picnic or a day on the water.
We’re helped by a bright and kind young lady who shares her favorites and is patient as we soak in the array of choices. It’s just before 11, which means we can still get a breakfast sandwich. Served on brioche, the sandwich is simple and good, the bacon chewy and greasy, the tomato a nice touch. The brioche is sweet and airy.
The gal’s top recommendation is tomato soup. Soup at a bakery / cheese shop? Yes, because an entire wheel of brie is melted right into it. Though you can’t see it, the cheese makes the soup rich and creamy. It is well-suited to a blustery Key West day.
A pumpkin cream cheese muffin is top-heavy, as all muffins should be. It has the texture of banana bread and the spice of gingerbread. A dollop of cream cheese has a frosting-like effect; I wish there was more of it. We also get a slice of pumpkin bread, which tastes like the same recipe and is equally as delicious.
Next, croissants. A ham and cheese has a cheesy crust and crunchy outsides; the inside could use a touch more ham. It’s beautifully layered and buttery. An apricot croissant has a gorgeous glaze and not-too-sweet apricot jam inside. It’s a bit salty, and its layers are even softer and more buttery.
The beautiful palmier is sweet, crunchy, and flaky. The peach cobbler Danish is a mix of oatmeal-based topping on top of sliced sweet peaches with a cheesy center. There’s also a blueberry scone that’s very light on sugar and tastes like it’s made with whole wheat flour.
Finally, we get a slice of the key lime pie we’ve heard so much about. The filling is piquant, the whipped cream on team surprisingly unsweet. The moist crust is filled with layers of unexpected spice (rosemary?). It’s not the usual formula, but it is made with good ingredients and great care.
There’s no place to sit at Old Town. In late December, most customers are placing Christmas orders for pies, Valrhona chocolate walnut tarts, rum cakes, gingerbread, and brandy crumb cake with cherries and apples. The fresh bread that comes with the soup is a good indication that plenty of loaves will also be taken home for morning toast and sandwiches.
We take our haul to enjoy overlooking the beautiful Key West water. Not a bad way to start the day.