Stepping Out: J & W Bakery

| Scene Reporter

8148 Olive Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63130
9:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m., closed Tuesday
(314) 432-8389

In a world in which a greasy box of orange chicken is often mistaken for traditional Asian cuisine, there is a small haven called Olive Boulevard.

A 20-minute bus ride will take you to a particular section of Olive Blvd. dedicated to truly authentic Eastern food, offering everything from chic restaurants to Eastern grocery stores, and representing every nationality from Vietnamese to Korean. On this street, wedged between a China Town Market and Herbs & Acupuncture is a quiet little bakery called J & W Bakery.

Milk tea, egg tarts, and sweet bread are just a few of the many treats available at J&W

Milk tea, egg tarts, and sweet bread are just a few of the many treats available at J&W

Its menu includes a selection of freshly baked Asian desserts, savory breads, juices and bubble tea at extremely low prices. Those who have never tried Asian-style desserts may be in for the best possible surprise. What the J & W Bakery refers to as “breads” are made to be sweet and dense in texture, much like a dinner roll. The smooth surfaces gleam from being brushed with butter or oil.

The Hot Dog Bread, for example, is a hot dog rolled in sweet dough that is baked, sprinkled with herbs, and served cooled. The result is something like a mildly sweet pig-in-a-blanket.

J & W Bakery also makes custom-order cakes for multiple occasions. Asian-style cakes are more like an angel cake in terms of sweetness and density, iced with a fluffy, whipped cream-like frosting and customarily topped with colorful sliced fruit for a wonderfully delicate, deceptively healthy dessert.

Walking in, there was no greeting or acknowledgement from the staff; in fact, they seemed annoyed and confused to even have customers in the middle of a Friday afternoon. Equally disappointing was the fact that the “bubble tea” did not contain any Boba, the tapioca pearls that gives the popular drink its name. Requests for Boba were met with a hostile glare.

Like most smaller stores in the area, J & W Bakery only accepts cash, which might be inconvenient to those who rely on credit cards. Dining in seemed to be discouraged; two of the 12 chairs available were marked “Employee only!” (with Chinese translations, of course) and another six were carelessly stacked with merchandise yet to be stocked. Most of the bread is neatly and conveniently packaged, and there is no option of having food served on dishes. The bright lilac walls and modern artwork were certainly cute and refreshing, but very obviously in need of cleaning and repair.

As for the taste, it was hit or miss. A favorite from the large selection would definitely be the modestly named egg tart: a delicious, moist gelatin baked into a light and flaky crust. However, the Pineapple Bun was a little dry, and my colleague with more classically trained taste buds declared that the Hot Dog Bread “needed ketchup.” The portions are small, but most treats are under 90 cents. This permits sampling of even more options to determine favorites according to personal preference.

Discourteous staff and outdated decor aside, J & W is the type of place that you want to be successful, because the recipes have so much potential. But for now, it is an adequate place to grab an afternoon snack if you want to experience a unique, yet satisfying taste without making a huge dent in your wallet.

J & W lacks the variety in drinks and dishes offered at Bubble Tea on the Loop, but makes up for it with superior pastries.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.