“Did you know they make sandwiches at the bread place in Bay St. Louis?”
Co-worker John Fitzhugh came in from an assignment one day and asked me this. He was in the Bay at lunchtime and stumbled across this intriguing information as well as a delicious meal. He went in detail describing the sandwich innards and the bread itself.
No, I didn’t know. In fact, I wasn’t sure exactly where Serious Bread is located in the Bay, but a quick search told me it’s at 131 Main St. I was familiar with the bread, which is sold at farmers markets along the Coast, and its stellar reputation.
OK, so Serious Bread’s address is indeed right on Main Street, but you won’t see it if you’re scanning storefronts as you’re driving down the street. If you’re coming from the beach, it will be on your right. See Bay Books & Gifts? There’s a small parking lot on the north side of the building. Serious Bread’s sunflower-yellow door faces that parking lot. Technically, they’re in Suite D.
The interior is small with a few tables. Business turns a lot on in-and-out customers. At the time I was there, I was the only dine-in customer but I wasn’t a curiosity. Because you’re in the Bay and you’re in a bakery (always a magical place), everyone speaks and smiles.
Whole loaves of bread (whole grain, western French, roasted sunflower seed, oatmeal cinnamon raisin, French sourdough, rye, for example) are for sale next to the register, and muffins, cinnamon rolls and enormous cookies are individually wrapped and displayed nearby. You can’t miss them. They beckon with a siren’s call.
The menu isn’t huge, but it has delicious-sounding offerings.
There are four individual sandwiches plus six sandwich plate selections. The plates include chips and a pickle spear.
Drinks are in a cooler to your right.
Individual sandwiches the day I was there were Chicken Salad ($5), Basil Pesto ($5.25), Hummus ($4.25) and Tabouli ($5). Sandwich plates were Veggie, Meat, The Works, Chicken Salad, Grilled Cheese and Muffaletta, ranging from $5 to $6.75.
I wanted to try out their chicken salad, so I got that plate and a bottle of water. Oh, and an oatmeal-raisin cookie ($2.50).
As for the sandwich bread, you can ask for whatever is already cut behind the counter. I was happy to know a loaf of garlic rosemary sourdough was waiting to accommodate me.
My Chicken Salad sandwich was basically two small sandwiches (I brought the other back to a co-worker) that would have made an unwieldy enormous sandwich. The bread was in good, thick slices and the chicken salad was generous without falling out of its bookends.
This chicken salad is chunky, with small apple chunks and dried cranberries and a low percentage of mayonnaise — just enough to make it moist. I don’t know if my combination appeals to everyone, but I liked the play of rosemary against the subtle sweetness of the apple and tang of the cranberries.
I barely got a hint of garlic, so don’t let that keep you away from this bread selection. It was fresh and full-bodied, wonderfully soft with a chewy crust. When I say soft, I don’t mean the smush into a tight ball or stick to the roof of your mouth kind of soft. It’s a springy soft.
By the way, that pickle spear was unexpectedly zippy, unlike the usual ones you see riding shotgun with sandwiches. Bite accordingly.
About that cookie. I normally am not an oatmeal-raisin fan. I think there’s a reason they’re usually the ones left untouched on the assortment platter, and not just because their splashier cousins chocolate chip and white chocolate macadamia get more attention.
This cookie changed my mind. First of all, it’s truly huge. It covered almost all of my hand. It’s also dense. I broke off a fraction of this behemoth and tasted it. It was more cinnamon-y than I expected. I made sure that fraction was all I had. Otherwise, I likely would have eaten the whole thing (the rest was divvied with co-workers).
Serious Bread, which started in 2003, has been offering sandwiches for about four months, said Vivian Jensen, who owns the bakery with her husband, Al.
She added a review by former Harrison County District Attorney and customer Cono Caranna to the wall after getting his permission: “You are making people think differently about bread.”
“It’s a process,” she said.
Al, a former oceanographer, took a bread class at King Arthur Flour.
Later, he went to the John Campbell Folk School near Brasstown, North Carolina, for a week to learn about sourdoughs, and he and Vivian went to Colorado to further their education on starters — sourdough bagels.
And yes, they make their own chicken salad.
Where: 131 Main St., Suite D, Bay St. Louis
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday
Details: Freshly baked bread and pastries as well as sandwiches made with the bakery’s own bread