Not all pastries are created equal. And that's a good thing, especially at The Bun Shop.
The hipster cafe on West Read Street, known for its sweet and savory buns from cuisines across the globe, now has a second spot on Light Street.
The bun rotation changes often at both locations. On any given day, you may find a Cornish pasty plumped with tender beef or a tropical guava and cheese pastry popular in Cuba. Another time, Asian pork buns and empanadas may be available.
"We wanted something easy," said Lam Bui, who owns the shops with his brother, Andrew, and a friend, Minh Vo. "People can grab them if they're in a rush or eat in the store."
The buns are made ahead of time and then heated up in a rapid-cook oven. There are no plates. You'll get your turnover wrapped in white paper, which can be messy. Grab a lot of napkins.
The shops also serve various hot and iced teas and coffees, including a New Orleans cold brew infused with chicory and a chai latte with cardamom.
The biggest differences between the Mount Vernon and downtown stores are the hours and BYOB policy. The Read Street shop is open until 3 a.m. and welcomes customers to bring alcoholic beverages with no corkage fee.
Meanwhile, the Light Street shop closes before midnight and is alcohol free — but maybe not for long. The owners are hoping to introduce extended hours and to allow liquor at their new location.
"We want to bring that to Light Street," said Lam Bui. "We want to liven up the nightlife in the harbor."
Scene & Decor: The long room with gold-leaf designs on the floor looks like a Pottery Barn discard shop, filled with eclectic furnishings including couches, communal and individual tables, old wood library file cabinets, and a wall-size baroque mirror. There's even a chess set if you want to break the ice with other customers.
Appetizers: Not applicable.
Entrees: The Bun Shop had three choices of savory buns available on our visit. We bypassed the cheese and onion turnover in favor of the round Cornish pasty ($4.25), stuffed with beef, peas and potatoes, as well as a flaky pastry tube filled with ham and gooey Gruyere ($4.25). They were both delicious.
Drinks: There are several coffee and tea choices. We decided on the flavorful, chilled Vietnamese coffee ($3.75) with a double shot of coffee and condensed milk. We also liked the refreshing house iced green tea ($3) mixed with ginkgo and a hint of citrus.
Service: There is no wait staff. Customers order at a counter, where samples of the buns are displayed.
Dessert: To end on a sweet note, there are buns and cookies. The guava and cheese bun ($3.50) was terrific with lots of fruit and wrapped in a tender pastry. The rotiboy ($3.25), which has an Asian pedigree, has a subtle espresso-flavored crusty exterior and a pillowy, buttery interior.