The Rapidian

Hall Street Bakery restores tasty options with gluten free kitchen

Thanks to a gluten-free-only kitchen at the Hall Street location, Wealthy Street Bakery and Hall Street Bakery now have a variety of gluten free options including muffins, cookies and bread.

Gluten free options that are available

French Baguettes

Sandwich bread

Muffins: vegan banana walnut and blueberry

Scones: cranberry almond, double chocolate, chocolate chip cinnamon, chocolate coconut, chocolate orange and hazelnut white chocolate

Cookies: chocolate chip, M&M, island and snicker doodle

Hall Street Bakery's business hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

/Jenean Zahran

/Jenean Zahran

About a year and a half a year ago I was forced to officially rid gluten from my diet for health reasons. This created bitter feelings toward eating out at restaurants. I couldn’t bear the thought of not eating those rolls they bring out before your dinner, or the buttery breadsticks you get with your salad. Bakeries? Forget it. The smell alone would leave me heartbroken knowing I couldn’t have a bite of some freshly baked bread.

Supermarkets and restaurants in the greater Grand Rapids area have made some progress in terms of the availability of gluten free products, with some restaurants going as far as providing a separate menu. Hall Street Bakery is one of the establishments in Grand Rapids making an effort to provide more gluten free options to the public. Of course, I made a visit to the bakery - how could I not?

When I walked in the first thing I noticed was how spacious it is. It almost looks more like a dining restaurant rather than a bakery. There are plenty of tables throughout the place, and customers will be able to sit comfortably at one of their high tops, regular tables or a stool by the counter.

They also have beer on tap. When I visited, the beers were all Michigan selections: Bell’s Smitten Golden Rye, Founder’s Dirty Bastard, Short’s The Magician and Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand. They offer a variety of bottled beer as well, such as Miller Lite, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Heineken. 

The atmosphere is very friendly, and the noise level makes it easy to have a conversation. It can be a place to go for a quick bite while on a work break, or to grab dinner with a friend to catch up. 

Since opening in February, Hall Street Bakery has definitely gone above and beyond in terms of providing gluten free options. It is rare to hear of bakeries doing this around the country. To avoid contamination, they even have their own gluten free kitchen in the basement run by Lauren VanHarten, assistant pastry and gluten free chef. Van Harten and her assistant are the only ones allowed in this kitchen.

“I started having issues with gluten about a year ago,” VanHarten says. “That’s when I started getting into gluten free baking more. But before then I was just a regular pastry chef.”

Being somewhat new to gluten free baking, VanHarten has experimented with different types of flour, and has made her own recipes for all of their gluten free baked goods they sell. She supplies both Hall Street Bakery and Wealthy Street Bakery with gluten free products.

“The five main ingredients I use for my flour mixes are white rice mix, sorghum flour, oat flour, potato starch and tapioca,” says VanHarten.

After hearing how great their scones were, I had to go and try them. They rotate with a variety of flavors of scones each day, with cranberry almond, double chocolate, chocolate chip cinnamon, chocolate coconut, chocolate orange and hazelnut white chocolate. I was able to try the cranberry almond and I have to say it was the best scone I have ever had, including ones that weren’t gluten free.

Cookie flavors rotate between chocolate chip, M&M, island and snicker doodle. I tried the chocolate chip cookie, and it tasted like your average chocolate chip cookie but not as soft. I wouldn’t have guessed it was gluten free, and it wasn’t overly crumbly. The price for their cookies are $2.43, and that’s not asking for much when comparing to other local bakeries that are not gluten free. Nantucket Baking Company sells their cookies for $1.50 and at Cakabakery they are $2.00. 

The muffin options are blueberry or vegan banana walnut. The muffins are medium sized, and you can tear off a piece without the entire muffin breaking apart. The texture was thick and moist and the taste was not overly sweet, which is how a muffin should be. Not a treat, but more of a snack that you can convince yourself is a healthy option. 

On to the breads – my favorite part. The bread they have available are French baguettes and sandwich bread. Being used to constantly eating frozen gluten free bread all the time, I had forgotten how fresh bakery bread tastes like. The French bread was delicious. It was soft on the inside, and just the right amount of chewy crisp on the outside. It is as close to a French baguette you can get, and my favorite out of the two. Their sandwich bread was thick, heavy and had a sweeter taste to it comparing to the French bread, almost similar to a challah flavor.

The French baguette is $5.99 and a loaf of the sandwich bread $6.35, which is around the same price for the gluten free bread that's frozen. Not unreasonable and completely worth the price considering the size and flavor of this fresh option.

VanHarten says recipes currently in the works are a gluten free pizza dough and cinnamon rolls. 

Hall Street Bakery is located on the corner of Fuller Avenue and Hall Street (1200 Hall Street S.E.). Their business hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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