Broad Street Bakery & Café
Coziness personified with a front-porch view
130 SW Broad St.
Southern Pines, NC
By RAY LINVILLE » Photos by Chelsey Carico
The coziest eatery in downtown Southern Pines, hands-down, is the Broad Street Bakery & Café. You feel at home here whether you sit outside with your food on the front porch to enjoy people-watching or inside in the small dining room as you have an intimate conversation with a best friend over coffee and a sweet pastry such as the popular cinnamon roll.
With huge windows that overlook pedestrians and vehicles rambling along Broad Street, it’s the perfect spot for waiting to see (and hear) the next train with your kids or grandkids as you inhale the wonderful aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries.
It’s where locals go regularly and
out-of-town tourists discover as they meander Broad Street in search of food that is comfortable but not ordinary. In fact, at the bakery-cafe, it’s extraordinary because Steve and Jackie Grasso, the husband and wife team who own and operate it, are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America.
The midday cutting board tempts with specialty sandwiches. True to its Southern roots, the restaurant offers a pulled pork sandwich (flavored with rum and Coke) and a fried green tomato sandwich alongside international favorites such as a classic Reuben (with pastrami instead of corned beef) and several paninis—roast beef, Cuban, mozzarella and tomato, and tres porcetta (ham, salami and capicola).
The Sunrise Griddle, the name that encompasses the popular morning dishes (that are served all day), spans the range from breakfast sandwiches, omelets and corn beef hash to pancakes, French toast and Cheddar grits.
Five specialty burgers also entice the lunch crowd. The bistro burger with caramelized onions and brie that is topped with lettuce and tomato is my wife’s favorite. Burgers and sandwiches come with a fresh side salad. The lemon thyme vinaigrette dressing is the perfect complement for most sandwiches and salads.
The cafe is vegetarian friendly, and daily specials are listed on a board at the entrance. Specialty salads include spinach with goat cheese, pecans, onion and raspberry vinaigrette and mixed greens with apples, blue cheese, pickled onions and candied peanuts.
The Grassos are still in love with the Sandhills and their customers years after opening their initial business in 1993 just a few steps away that was only a bakery. At that time Southern Pines had just one small bakery so they quickly established themselves with their signature breads, buns, cakes, pastries, pies and specialty items. “Our place has been bustling since we opened. Business has been very steady the entire time,” Steve adds.
In 2000 the Grassos jumped at the opportunity to buy the larger current location (which had originally been a dress shop) to expand the business and add the cafe offerings. He says, “We got a beautiful piece of property. At the time, it was the only place in the heart of the downtown area with outdoor seating. It’s spectacular to sit outside with coffee and a pastry, and watch the world go by.
“We still make a lot of the products that we started with in 1993, and over time we’ve added to our repertoire, such as grill and bakery sandwiches.”
After working in restaurants and cooking for country clubs and resorts, Steve then spent 18 years in the corporate food service world as a district manager. Tired of corporate mergers, the limited flexibility and the drain of the rat race in Manhattan, the opportunity to open a bakery in the Sandhills was just the change he dreamed about.
Being in downtown Southern Pines continues to be special for the Grassos. He reflects, “It is a special place for everyone when they walk through it for the first time. Even as we’ve watched this town grow, break at the seams, and then grow some more, it always reminds everyone of somewhere they have been. It reminds me of Milford (his hometown in Connecticut) with the train tracks running through it.”
Steve’s service in the U.S. Navy has nurtured a special place in his heart for veterans, and he does a lot of business with the local military. Active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he is teaming up with the town’s post in the local chili cookoff, a contest that benefits the Special Forces Association.
He has won the people’s choice category five years in a row. Although his chili, topped with smoked brisket, is a real crowd pleaser, it’s not a part of the restaurant’s menu. “We just don’t have the kitchen space to prepare something regularly with smoked brisket,” Steve laments.
The Grassos’ community involvement certainly helps business. He says, “We benefit from a lot of ‘word of mouth,’” particularly for wedding and specialty cakes, which his wife Jackie designs and creates.
“She has more patience and is artistically inclined. I handle the breads and wholesale business, which has supplied as many as 15 local restaurants,” he adds.
With Steve’s Italian ancestry, many customers believe that his baking expertise has been inherited, but he has collected ideas throughout his culinary journey. For example, the recipe for the popular hard-crusted Italian bread is from an Italian bakery in Connecticut. He also notes that he and his family have eaten “our way through Italy, and we have family in Catanzaro, a city in the heel of the boot.”
Serving breakfast and lunch, the bakery-cafe is usually open 10 hours (7 a.m.-5 p.m. except on Sunday when the hours are
9 a.m.-3 p.m.). Come by, listen for the train, do a little people-watching and enjoy the best specialty items in town.