When a kitchen has great bread to offer, it doesn't need much else. The Stone Mill Bakery cafe doesn't have a whole lot else, but what it does have is worthy of the bread it's served with.
Before I go any further, let me warn you not to rush off to the Stone Mill if what I say sounds good to you. Stick this review in a drawer. Then in a few weeks or months when you come across it again, drop in at the tiny Mount Washington cafe. The narrow room holds only six tables for two and has only one or two people working behind the counter, so a sudden influx of customers could be disastrous.
The actual bakery is a few blocks away; the cafe and a vintage clothing shop share a shingled house on Sulgrave Avenue. The little porch out front could hold a table or two when the weather gets warmer. Inside, the look is simple and homey, with a gray and white linoleum tile floor, stainless steel-topped tables and gray-cushioned cafe chairs, a small case of gourmet-to-go items and, behind the counter, a seductive rack of freshly baked breads. You can treat the Stone Mill Bakery just as a bakery, a place to buy wonderful baguettes, boules, brioches, sourdough bread and focaccia. Or you can stay for the excellent sandwiches or a delicious, very Parisian breakfast.
Hanging on the wall is an impressive array of diplomas from French cooking schools awarded to owner Billy Himmelrich. So it's no surprise that the few sandwiches, while simple, are appealing and sophisticated. Take the Maine cold water lobster roll ($7), the most expensive item on the blackboard menu. Chunks of poached lobster were arranged on a rich-with-eggs-and-butter brioche roll with a delicate homemade mayonnaise and nascent lettuce leaves. A small bunch of red grapes decorated the plate. The roast capon salad sandwich ($4.50) with bits of green apple and a tangy mayonnaise on a chewy baguette was even better. I haven't sampled any of the others, but they all sound good: sliced cucumbers and goat cheese on that fine baguette, smoked salmon on toasted brioche, ham and cheese on focaccia.
If you want a salad, the choice is Caesar ($5) or baby greens ($4.50). For the latter, the kitchen coats the youngest leaves imaginable with a mild vinaigrette; a little radicchio gives the greens some color. The salad isn't quite enough for a lunch by itself, even with the rolls studded with pieces of black olive, so you might ask for some cheese as well.
Lunch is good at the Stone Mill Bakery cafe, but breakfast is even better. With a bow to American tastes, the cafe offers freshly squeezed orange juice. Other than that, the meal is very French: flaky croissants, fat little brioches or toast made from any of the bakery's exceptional breads. Sweet butter, of course, and jams or marmalade served in little espresso cups with demitasse spoons. You'll probably want a cafe au lait, the coffee strong and flavorful, the milk hot and foamy; but if not, you have your choice of teas. Linger as long as you want if the cafe isn't crowded; the staff doesn't mind. There'll be some Simon and Garfunkel in the background, or maybe classical music, and you can read your paper in peace over a second cup of coffee.
Stone Mill Bakery
Where: 1617 Sulgrave Ave.
Hours: Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays.
Credit cards: None.
Features: Continental breakfast, sandwiches, salads.
Non-smoking section? No.
Call: (410) 542-2233.