The Corner Bakery: Model Fast Food?

Today I rode the laurels of my celebrity away from school and on to the mall, where I could revel in my splendor—absorbing the awe-struck gazes of passers-by who whispered to one another: “Is that the guy from TV?” “He’s so much cuter in person!”

I made my way up the escalator and turned left towards the warm, welcoming glow of The Corner Bakery.


The Corner Bakery is nothing new. I remember my first few years in Atlanta, mustering up my friends and saying gleefully: “Let us journey off to the Corner Bakery!” “There’s a bakery on the corner?” “No you fools!” I’d admonish them. “The Corner Bakery! It’s a novel, fast-food concept located in the mall!”

And then this summer I worked at a law firm in Los Angeles. Our first day there, the interns decided to go for lunch to the Corner Bakery. “There’s a bakery on the corner?” I asked. “No you fool!” they admonished. I hung my head in shame.

Here’s why I think the Corner Bakery is a good thing. First of all, it is fast food. “Fast food” is a tainted concept. We think of greasy fries, bitter countergirls, and ketchup that you pump energetically into little paper cups. And yet the Corner Bakery conjures forth notions of authenticity, of fresh ingredients served in a charming atmosphere. No rank smell of grease; the Corner Bakery is clean, efficient, and impressively consistent. Their glass case offers interesting sandwich options—ham on a pretzel roll, chicken pesto, tuna on olive ciabatta—and the salads (ginger chicken, D.C. chicken salad) and soups (roasted tomato basil) are equally compelling.

Today, for example, I had the lunch soup / sandwich combo with a half a chicken pesto and a small cup of the tomato basil soup. Here’s a picture:


Not only do you get the sandwich and the soup, but you get a generous portion of chips and a pickle. With a drink, the total came to $8. So I acknowledge that that’s expensive for fast food. But maybe there’s a happy medium between the dreck they serve you at McDonald’s and the quality food they serve you at The Corner Bakery. I suppose one answer is Panera bread; or Cafe Au Bon Pain. I’m not a big fan of the former, and I haven’t been to the latter enough to judge.

Surely, though, all these establishments are from the same school of thought: quality ingredients served quickly. I think that this is a good school (despite the principal’s drinking problem) and suggest that it serve as model for the future of fast food. With my vision fulfilled, there will be a Corner Bakery on every corner. I dream of a future where you can say “Let’s go to the Corner Bakery!” and your companions will respond in unison “Let’s!” as you frolic there hand in hand.

Unless your companions have no limbs.

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