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EATS: Get sweet on Eileen's

Save room for dessert: Chocolate cake with ganache is a real beauty at Eileen’s Bakery in downtown Fredericksburg.

If the idea of a bakery conjures up visions of delicious pastries and breads, then a bakery with a deli completes the delicious picture. Eileen’s Bakery & Café in downtown Fredericksburg has a loyal following for its breakfast and lunch menus, and one taste will explain why. Baked goods are fresh and varied, as are the salads, sandwich fillings, homemade soups and sides.

When My Dining Partner and I stopped in for a recent lunch, it was our first visit to the restaurant’s second location. Eileen’s originally opened farther down the street at The Chimneys in 2005, and in 2009 relocated to a historic building near the library. The new location has served several denominations as a church since it was built in the 1830s, and was even used as a hospital during the Civil War. The buttery-colored walls add an appropriate ambience to its use as a bakery.

There are three deli cases, with the first the most treacherous as customers make their way through the serving line. That’s because it showcases desserts. During our visit, the case contained giant cupcakes topped with a thick layer of coconut, macaroons, Napoleans, tarts and not-your-usual cookies.

Having made some mental decisions about dessert, we moved to the center sandwich and salad section, and were awed by the artistic and tempting choices. Some sandwiches are wraps, others are fashioned on various types of breads. The third case contains breakfast pastries—all delectable. Breakfast sandwiches are in the $4.50–$5 range (the printed menu does not show any prices).

We tried to focus on the center case as the crowd built behind us. We ordered a bowl of the soup of the day ($5.50)—chicken and wild rice—which Eileen’s divided into two servings for us. It had a lovely homemade, hearty quality with chunks of chicken, slices of carrot and a lesser amount of rice. A small slice of toast floated on top of each serving.

MDP ordered a roast beef Reuben ($8.99 on thick focaccia bread), with a side of spinach, pasta and red pepper salad garnished with slices of shaved Parmesan. It was more “Reubenesque” than similar in taste to its corned beef counterpart (also made with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese) and with which he compared it. He felt the bread somewhat overwhelmed the flavor of the beef. His salad was excellent with a nice balance of fresh ingredients and a light dressing.

I ordered a chicken curry sandwich ($8.99) on dark rye bread with a side of chili lime potato salad, which added both color and zest to the meal. The curry was excellent (the sandwich also included lettuce, onions and cucumber slices). And the potato salad, complete with skins (which I like), had a zippy wake-up flavor.

But, oh, the desserts! I selected a finger-like coconut macaroon (80 cents) topped with “chocolate cloud,” which resembled chocolate whipped cream, and dusted with colorful sprinkles. Coconut is one of my favorite flavors and this was dessert solid and satisfying.

I also sampled a ginger chew (80 cents) cookie that was soft and spicy—just the right amount of both.

MDP meanwhile was enjoying his large Napolean ($2.75) with its layers of cream and flaky pastry over raspberry sauce. We didn’t dare take another look at the breakfast pastry section—we would not have been able to pass it by a second time.

Eileen’s continues to dish up excellence and charm. Clearly, using a former church building is appropriate for this bakery: We were led into temptation, while giving thanks for daily bread.

What: Eileen’s Bakery & Café

Address: 1115 Caroline St., Fredericksburg

Info: 540/372-4030 eileensbakeryandcafe.com

Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Prices: Soups: $5.50; Sandwiches: $7.59–$8.99; Children’s menu: $4–$5; Desserts: $2–$6; Lattes, mochas, teas, cappuccino, hot vanilla and more.

The Scoop: Helpful staff, table and sofa seating, vegetarian options and cozy ambiance. Patio seating behind the restaurant.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted.

Linda Salisbury is the author of the  Bailey Fish books, an award-winning  adventure series for kids.

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