You can get a cup of coffee at Olsen Bakery, but only in a to-go cup. Everything made here is sold to go. There is no place to sit. Furthermore, don’t plan on eating in the car if you park out front. Signs warn that street parking is limited to 10 minutes. The point is to make it easy for customers to stop by and pick up the pastries they need, then be on their way.
All those caveats aside, if you are in Omaha and like fine, Old World (and new world) baked goods, Olsen Bakery is an essential stop. It’s a delightful little place, staffed by ladies who know their kolaches and strudels and donuts, located not too far from downtown but well away from the hurly burly of the Old Market.
“We’re the late bakery,” one of the gals told a very disappointed customer who had come for cherry strudel shortly after 8am, only to be told that it had been baked but was still too hot to cut.
“Is it worth coming back for?” I asked the dejected customer.
“Oh, God, yes!” he declared.
So I came back midday. The sad man was so right. This is great strudel: weighty and yet flaky-fragile, filled with fruit that is only sweet enough to harmonize with its essential tartness and topped with sugary frosting that makese it into one just-right package. A poppy seed kolache, made with the tenderest dough, is only barely sweet, the oily nuttiness of its poppy seed center delivering taste that verges on savory. Magnificent!
Donuts, on the other hand, are all-American, both cake and yeast-raised, available in all the usual flavors with all the usual toppings. I don’t know if it’s just that I am so smitten with this place and its more exotic fare, but I do believe that the chocolate frosting on cake donuts is better than frostings found on national-chain donuts, delivering really good chocolate flavor — not fancy chocolate flavor, mind you; but donut-right chocolate flavor. I’ll say the same about Olsen’s white frosting. It’s a cut above any ordinary donut frosting.
I can’t imagine anything this bakery makes is less than excellent.