Lately I am living for Asian bakeries/cafes. There are two in particular that have my heart.
I first discovered Caffé Bene in Flushing, Queens. My husband and I stayed at a boutique hotel there over Thanksgiving last year and noticed that this place was abuzz even on a holiday. I got a massive piece of banana bread, and being fresh off of my Vietnam trip, I was delighted to find Vietnamese coffee on the menu. (If you have not had Vietnamese coffee before, it is a dream from heaven. Super strong coffee mixed with sweetened, condensed milk. It is deliciously indulgent and will keep you awake for days! Though the version in Vietnam is much stronger than the ones here.)
Anyway, I was halfway through my brick of banana bread when my husband sat down with something very curious. It was a giant piece of bread covered with what looked like squeeze cheese, and also…honey??? Come to find out it is called Garlic & Cheese Honey Bread and it is one of the greatest creations of all time. Sweet, sticky, garlicky, cheesy…it is so wrong it just has to be right!
Since that euphoric day last year in Flushing, I found out that there is also a Caffé Bene in Suwanee, GA really close to where I live. I go there whenever I need a little reminder that life is pretty cool, and I ALWAYS get the Garlic & Cheese Honey Bread. I strayed only once from my Vietnamese coffee to try a drink they call Strawberry Mojito. While there was no alcohol in it, there were strawberries and mint and sugar…so much sugar!!! Too much in fact for me, especially combined with the honey bread, but it tasted good for sure. I will stick to the coffee though.
Other Caffé Bene menu items include waffles with various toppings like fruit, chocolate, gelato and whipped cream. My husband usually gets one of these, so naturally I eat half of it, and it’s quite a treat. (I let him eat some of the honey bread too.) They also have some other kinds of honey breads if you’re not into the garlic and cheese thing, as well as gelato, and many drinks including coffees, teas, frappes, smoothies and other fancy concoctions. There are some sandwiches available too if you are not into sugar, but honestly, sugar is kind of their thing so you might not want to go there if you don’t have a sweet tooth of any kind.
The ambiance of Caffé Bene is Starbucks meets hip Asian hangout. I dig it. A lot. In addition to Suwanee, their web site says they are opening up a location in Duluth soon too.
My husband recently passed by a Sweet Hut in Duluth and knew it was his duty and part of our vows to tell me about it immediately. I had heard of Sweet Hut before but had never been to it. Although I was already in a committed relationship with Caffé Bene, my cheating heart could not keep me from checking out Sweet Hut too. Now I have two lovers. Three if you count my husband. I really need to get my life in order…
Sweet Hut is much more bakery than Bene, which is, as I have previously stated, very much a café/coffee shop, so that made me feel a bit better about my two-timing. I spent much quality time going up and down the aisles of the serve-yourself bakery section at Sweet Hut before finally settling on the cutest little green tea donut you’ve ever seen. Then when I went to go pay for it at the counter, I realized they also had a bunch of hot foods you could order too, in addition to the obligatory coffee/tea selections. My husband and I went a little nuts at this point. In addition to our pastries, we ordered some pork buns, spring rolls, beverages and squid balls.
My spring rolls, pork buns and iced milk tea with tapioca balls were all perfectly good, but the real star surprisingly was the squid balls…and my green tea donut, ohhhhh that donut. My husband and I both went gaga over it. The green tea flavor was really pronounced and addictive. As were those squid balls. My husband would die for a good batch of calamari, so I felt like the squid balls were really for him, but I could not stop eating them. They were not very fishy (which was great for me because I usually find seafood to be meh), but they had a unique, meaty flavor that I could not get enough of.
After our gluttonous feast, I asked my husband if he liked Bene or Sweet Hut better. He could not decide. Nor could I. The atmosphere of Sweet Hut is more of a commercial eatery feel versus a quaint coffeehouse, but it was still fairly hip and comfortable.
Besides Duluth, you can find Sweet Hut in Doraville and Midtown Atlanta. I recently stopped into the Doraville location and got an amazing Strawberry Milk Tea with Boba (tapioca balls). I had just eaten, so that’s all I had room for on this visit. The Doraville location was super crowded compared to the Duluth store, and a lot smaller. I hear the one in Midtown is even smaller than that.
I will say that the staff at Caffé Bene seems to be a bit friendlier than the folks at Sweet Hut, but I still plan to keep both spots on heavy rotation. To me, they both offer a tantalizing oasis of tempting treats that quickly turn my frown upside down.Tags: Asian Bakery, Asian Cafe, Atlanta, Atlanta bakery, Atlanta Cafe, Bubble Tea, Caffe Bene, Coffee, Sweet Hut, Tea