A Special Treat
Saturday pop-up no more, Greenwood welcomes Coyle’s Bakeshop
BY CHELSEA LIN
There’s a pleasant buzz in the air at Coyle’s Bakeshop—customers chatting about whether to order savory or sweet, the espresso machine whirring milk to pour into homemade caramel lattes, and owner Rachael Coyle’s genuine gratitude to every customer who enters her newly opened Greenwood bakery. Sunlight pours through the corner windows, hitting the Marie Antoinette-worthy crystal chandelier hanging over the pastry case and scattering rainbows across the room.
Coyle’s business, which opened in March, is the brick-and-mortar embodiment of her popular pop-up of the same name. It was there that customers first got a taste of what is now available at the shop: tender cream scones with currants, tarts filled with passion fruit curd and topped with meringue, beautifully browned croissants filled with rapini and Point Reyes blue cheese, bags of granola and marshmallows. This place, this food, is the culmination of years spent refining her dream. And while plenty has changed in Coyle’s business plan over the years, she hopes her namesake shop is the sort of inviting neighborhood spot she envisioned from the start.
Coyle has an impressive resume, but what landed her on the radar of many sweettoothed Seattleites was her monthly—then weekly—pop-up bakeshop at the Fremont community cookbook store, Book Larder. Owner Lara Hamilton hired Coyle as the culinary director in 2012. Coyle was already thinking of opening her own business at the time, so the pop-up was born as a way for her to experiment with concept, and for Hamilton to use the bookstore in more innovative ways.
From the first pop-up in May 2013, Coyle fielded lines of hungry patrons, there to try the Danish pastries, croissants, layer cakes, English muffins, and—perhaps most popularly— cretzels, her own pretzel/croissant hybrid that earned plenty of local press.
Coyle took her inspiration from cookbooks around the world, creating a menu that is traditional French at its heart, but a little American, a little British, and very Seattle.
The ability to change the menu weekly allowed Coyle to try new concepts and recipes in a low-risk fashion, giving her a good idea of what customers were looking for.
“What was so nice about the pop-up was that I was forced to suss out my fantasy of having a bakery and determine what was really going to work,” she says. When she decided to plow ahead with the brick-and-mortar space, 245 people pledged $33,932 through her Kickstarter campaign, overshooting her goal of $25,000.
But Coyle’s Bakeshop isn’t the place she originally thought it would be. After graduating from New York’s French Culinary Institute, Coyle returned to her hometown Seattle and ended up as a pastry chef at The Herbfarm in Woodinville, working under chef Jerry Traunfeld. It was the job of culinary students’ dreams—creating elaborate, plated desserts in a fine-dining kitchen. What the young pastry whiz kid realized in her year there was that seasonality is everything, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
“What I took away from that job, more than anything, was working through the seasons at a place that very much celebrates that,” Coyle says. “I learned about maple blossoms, huckleberries, things that had never even been on my horizon. That’s the stuff I keep coming back to, even now. We shop at the farmers’ market, and we try to bring a really seasonal approach.”
Though Coyle learned a great deal at The Herbfarm, her next move to Columbia City Bakery was a sharp departure from the arena of fine dining. At the time, the neighborhood bakery had only been open about a year, and it was lauded most for its croissants and breads—things Coyle had little experience with in a production kitchen. Those golden croissants of hers—laminated-dough perfection— come thanks to her Columbia City Bakery experience.
Still, Coyle didn’t envision herself as a bakery owner. She moved on, acting as the executive pastry chef at Le Pichet and Café Presse. It was that job—in addition to a well-timed trip to France—that spawned the idea for her first solo business venture: a tiny crêperie, the sort found speckled across Paris. Recipes were developed. A business plan was written. Coyle still runs into friends she hasn’t seen in awhile who ask if her crêperie is open yet.
“In some ways, I think this idea of opening a tiny space that did only one thing was my way of acclimating to the idea of opening my own shop,” she says. “Opening a fullblown bakery was just too much. At the time, I was: ‘This is it!’ But along the way, I realized I was a pastry chef.”
This realization obviously shaped what guests to Coyle’s Bakeshop can expect— basically much of the same that they came to love at the pop-up.
But the menu won’t be exclusively sweets. Coyle already has a seasonal, savory, vegetable croissant and plans to expand the afternoon menu to include hearty salads and the sort of things that “make a really good meal before you have a slice of cake.” There may also be a daily plated dessert, something like a warm tarte Tatin with ice cream, as a nod to her Herbfarm days.
Above all else—and the reason she held out for a space big enough for seating—Coyle wants this to be a special experience for her customers. “I really want people to be excited when they walk in the door and see what’s on display,” she says. “I want this to be like the bakeries I love to visit in other cities: b. Patisserie in San Francisco, Ottolenghi in London, any number of places in France where you walk in, and it’s a treat to go there. That’s what I’d love this to be—I’d love to be worthy of people making a special trip.”
8300 Greenwood Avenue North
(206) 257-4736 • coylesbakeshop.com
Chelsea Lin is a Seattle-based freelance writer—and baked-goods aficionado—who has spent the past five years writing about the city’s food scene, both in print and online.