Whenever I fly up to Detroit to visit my family, I always try to squeeze in a visit to Elliott’s Bakery. Located in a retail district in the older part of Trenton, Michigan, the bakery has been in business since 1931 and is a popular hangout for local senior citizens who enjoy gathering each morning for pastries, coffee and the latest gossip.
Upon entering the bakery, you are immediately inundated by the mouth-watering aroma of baking cakes, cookies, pies and pastries and, of course, freshly brewed coffee. This isn’t some ersatz bakery tucked into the corner of a grocery store. This is the Real Deal. The Genuine Article. The Real McCoy, and most definitely the Cat’s Pajamas.
On the left are the glass display cases taunting you with all manner of baked goods. Straight ahead is the counter with the cash register – they accept cash, only – and a row of diner-style counter stools. In the mornings, these seats will be taken up by the regular senior patrons who like to “belly up to the bar” with a hot cup of joe and “chew the fat” along with their favorite pastry.
Like an outlaw motorcycle gang hanging out at their local ice house, every time the bakery door opens, these seniors will turn around to see who it is. If they don’t know you, they’ll check you out, and I swear I’ve caught some of them reaching for their canes.
For a brief moment, you wonder if you’re about to be run out by a small army of senior citizens, because if they don’t like the looks of you, that’s exactly what might happen. Many of these folks are war veterans – Korea, Vietnam, maybe even a World War II vet or two – or the spouses of war veterans, which pretty much adds up to the same thing. Either way, these are not the folks you’d want to mess with.
And if they were, I’d ask you what the hell you were thinking. Messing with senior citizens? In a bakery? You must be out of your mind! I mean, really!
Each time I venture into Elliott’s Bakery, I’m always prepared to drop the names of my grandparents who lived in the neighborhood for decades, just in case.
In addition to the counter stools, there are also several restaurant-style booths to the right of the entrance and directly across from the pastry cases. So you can decide what else you want to eat once you’re finished eating what you’re currently cramming into your mouth.
One of Elliott’s specialties is a light, flaky butter cookie that melts in your mouth and leaves you begging for more. They make two varieties of these culinary gems. Their currant cookies are square shaped with tiny, chewy, purple currants throughout and sprinkled with coarse, white sugar crystals. Delicious!
The other variety is their plain butter cookie, but there’s nothing plain about it. These cookies come in round, star shapes and are liberally topped with jimmies sprinkles whose colors change to match the appropriate season or holiday.
Everyday Jimmies: Autumn Jimmies:
Patriotic Jimmies: Christmas Jimmies:
These little devils are a delight to the eye as well as the palate. The only thing that gets you to stop eating them is an empty box!
There’s another item that Elliott’s Bakery makes that has been my personal favorite since childhood: The Cream Horn. This delectable delight is self descriptive: A horn-shaped cone made of light, flaky pastry filled with fluffy white icing and a decorative dusting of lovely, yet utterly superfluous, powdered sugar. The wider end of the cone is topped with a star-shaped dollop of icing, its air-exposed surface hardened into a delicate, sugary shell.
When I was a kid, I remember going to the case where the cream horns were displayed – always the same place – and eyeing them covetously, my mouth watering in anticipation. If I were an addict, this creamy white confection would be my cocaine, and I wanted… no, needed it. Badly! With a large glass of milk. Oh, creamy, flaky, sugary bliss!
As far as I’m concerned, Elliott’s Bakery’s cream horns are the Standard to which all other creams horns are held, and I have yet to meet its equal.
I have since moved far away from Trenton to Houston, Texas. I have yet to find a bakery that offers up anything even remotely close to Elliott’s specialties. That’s okay with me, though. Too much of a good thing can spoil the joy of it forever.
If you ever find yourself in the Detroit area and have some extra time, check out Elliott’s Bakery. It’s located at 2636 West Jefferson Avenue, Trenton, Michigan, 48183. Please note, however, that they are closed on Sundays.
And if you go in the early morning and encounter the Elliott’s Bakery Seniors, just smile and say “Hello.” They won’t hurt you. Probably.