There’s a lot going on in the world of Baker Miller (4610 N. Western Ave., Lincoln Square). First off, starting tomorrow, Baker Miller will cease production of their much-lauded bread. They’ll keep milling flour and grains, but when you sidle up to the café’s toast bar anytime after Saturday, expect slices of Publican Quality Bread to put in their toasters.
Dave Miller, who owns Baker Miller along with his wife, Megan, says the decision to stop baking bread was a hard one—they’ve gotten quite a bit of national attention for their carefully considered loaves, made with flours ground in-house and all manner of other locally procured ingredients. But it became a huge time commitment: From breaking down the grains to popping out of the oven, Milller says it took close to 90 hours to churn out a single loaf of bread. “We’ve been really hesitant to tell people about this,” he says.
The other problem is with Baker Miller’s space itself, as it’s not equipped to handle the highest quality bread ovens. “Without a hood, we can’t get the right oven, and without the right oven, we could never get that char on the crust that we wanted,” he says.
Joining forces with the ever-expanding Publican Quality Bread makes sense, as Baker Miller already sends them flour for some of their works. “[Head baker] Greg Wade is already making some of the best, if not the best, bread in the city,” he says. Baker Miller will make it clear on their menus that their bread comes from outside the building. There is also a slight chance the changeover won’t happen on Saturday—there are a few details left to sort out, production-wise—but if it doesn’t happen then, it’ll happen soon.
If the thought of a world with fewer Baker Miller baked goods fills you with dread, though, fear not. Their planned second location is slated to open this weekend, but it won’t be the general store we once thought it would be. Instead, the space will go by the lengthy name of Hot Bar by Baker Miller (4642 N. Francisco Ave., Ravenswood Manor), and rather than be a well-designed take on a corner shop, it’ll be a commuter-friendly grab-and-go commissary kitchen, where the Millers will take some time to play around a bit with baked goods.
“We love the original Baker Miller, but there’s not a lot of room for creativity,” Miller says. “We decided, ‘let’s be millennials about this and try stuff out.’”
Their experiments will include the “stuffle,” in which laminated dough (the kind of dough that makes flaky, layered treats like croissants and Danishes) is stuffed with a flavored filling and pressed in a proprietary version of a waffle iron. Flavors will include cherries and cream, prosciutto and pimiento cheese, and the Greek (preserved lemon, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds). Also look for their “dough-nots,” a hole-less doughnut that could be filled with malted milk and coated in chocolate cookie crumbs or stuffed with maple cream.
“We really just felt like we had more to say with pastry,” Miller says. We’re definitely listening.
Update Due to popular demand, Baker Miller has reversed course and will continue baking bread. (Sort of.) Dave Miller says they’ll be trimming their menu down to just two loaves, sourdough and sunflower rye, and they plan to make fewer than before. If you’d like to guarantee you’ll score some on a visit, call ahead to pre-order. “This way we’re not wasting bread and we don’t have to throw things away that don’t get sold,” he says. And don’t be surprised if the bread program eventually goes away entirely–Miller says they’re waiting to see how consistently things are selling before they make a final decision.