Restaurant review: The Angry Baker creates happier customers

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

If you liked The Angry Baker before, now you'll like it even more. See, in preparation for its recent fourth birthday, The Angry Baker got a fresh coat of paint, new display case and a rearrangement of its narrow little space that makes it feel marginally less congested. Along with such upgrades, AB rolled out several new menu items. I figured I'd check some out.

Most of these dishes are lunch-oriented, but one is a creatively reimagined and "healthed-up" breakfast staple so terrific I'd consider eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That would be the Oatmeal Pancakes ($7.75; dietary restrictionists should note they're vegan and gluten-free).

My stack of three unusually dark flapjacks was attractively strewn with oatmeal but not unduly sweet, as is too often the case. The hearty-yet-still-supple griddle cakes featured appealing cinnamon accents and were topped with chewy homemade granola plus a smattering of confectioner's sugar. Further flattering the more-is-better ensemble were cooked-down/intensified blueberries. Though wonderful as is, the hotcakes came with warm genuine maple syrup (not that insipid, factory-made crap), so I gave them a beneficial little baptism. Frankly, just typing this unleashed another craving.

The Taco Trio ($9.50) was the other best new thing I ate. Sheathed in warm, soft corn tortillas was juicy and textured carnitas-like meat. Teasing out nuances and providing spicy, sweet and tart complements was a sorta pickled jalapeno slaw. Sides of sour cream, salsa verde and Sriracha are best used minimally, if at all.

Both daily soups ($5.50/big bowl) I sampled were deeply flavored and good. For instance, a butternut squash "du jour" exhibited a natural - and long-cooked-onion-strengthened - vegetal sweetness plus underlying hints of tomato. Tightening these were herbs like oregano. As for a porridge-thick turkey and rice potage, though it was unfortunately served lukewarm, it was also brimming over with a homey poultry savoriness.

Soup, a nice little side salad or sliced fruit accompany two new sandwiches starring this place's outstanding bread - a vegan Reuben ($9; AB was out of seitan so I couldn't try it - be forewarned that, especially after lunch, AB's inventory can be frustratingly depleted) and the house-roasted real turkey. Though my turkey could've been moister and an over-applied potent mustard was an attention-hog, I still got a very fine sandwich.

A few new veggie-heavy bowls offer health benefits but also plenty of flavor. The huge Grilled Tiger Shrimp Salad ($11.50) supported three large, just-seared crustaceans on a chilly bed of arugula with green beans, capers, chopped redskins and a bright herbed vinaigrette.

I was also a fan of the generously sized, raw-kale-based Superfood Salad ($9.75). Red onions, lots of red quinoa, berries, avocado, sunflower seeds and a creamy/tangy dressing completed this never-boring texture-fest.

If my BBQ Bowl ($10.50) was less successful, it was still worth ordering. And had that odd jumble of stiff kale, seared pleasant tofu cubes coated in the sweet namesake sauce, corn and black beans all lightly tossed in a garlicky dressing not been so under-seasoned, it would've eaten much better.

Here's what else could be better: an overwhelmed, your-clothes-might-smell-like-a commercial-kitchen ventilation system and inconsistent service that ranged from friendly and courteous in the morning to distracted and indifferent in the late afternoon.

Other than that, I'd like to say "Happy Birthday, Angry Baker. I appreciate your upgrades, and I'll see you again soon."

Photos by Meghan Ralston

The Angry Baker

891 Oak St., Olde Towne East