Sweetbites Cafe and Bakery, McLean

I walked into Sweetbites for the first time today, and the first thing I noticed was the grab-n-go cooler on the left, which had been plundered of everything savory, save for a couple of kale salads which tempted me, but I soldiered forward.

Sweetbites serves Illy coffee (like with Little City Gourmet, I suspect Illy paid for the espresso machine in exchange for using the product – this is a great deal for both Illy (who moves product) and the retailer (who doesn’t have to shell out $10K for an espresso machine); the only one who suffers is the customer, because Illy coffee, despite being from Italy, is pretty middling). Regardless, I had my pre-existing cup of Starbucks (even worse) sitting out in the car, so I didn’t need coffee today – what I was looking for was savory baked items so I could give Sweetbites a whirl.

The prices on some of the items hit me pretty hard – some gluten-free brownies were, if I read this correctly, $5.50 each, and you should be prepared to pay $3.00-$4.50 for most baked goods. That’s okay with me as long as the quality is there, and indeed, for the two items I purchased today, the quality was there. I didn’t get the prices, or get a copy of the receipt, so I can only guess that my bill, including tax but no tip (I had no cash, and by the time the register got to me, the cashier had skipped over the tip screen), was something between $8-10. I apologized for not having any cash, and made a mental note to leave a little more next time.

A small slice of Quiche with Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Black Olives, Sweet White Onion, and Arugula was wonderful – really, everything you want your quiche to be. More custardy than eggy, it was delicious cold although the cashier offered to warm it for me. This was just savory enough so that you could taste the sweetness in the sweated, white onions, and the sun-dried tomatoes (an ingredient which I often do not care for) were wonderful in this.

My Scone with Butternut Squash, Feta, and Sage looked like it might have been underdone, but it wasn’t – both the Feta and the squash are moisturizers which can deceive a diner into thinking that baked goods using them aren’t cooked long enough, even though that’s not the case. This was a delicious scone, and I think the baker may have even put a layer of butternut squash at the midway point in the scone. It was perfectly moist, and the butternut squash was the dominant flavor – this actually reminded me of a pasta dish I might see at Tosca, served with a light cream sauce and nutmeg.

Sweetbites is expensive, but it’s in a wealthy neighborhood, and if there are any other bakeries nearby that are as good, I’m certainly unaware. They’ll get plenty of support from the office building they’re in, but people in McLean looking for breakfast or lunch should be aware it’s there. It has much more of a Korean, bubblegum-corporate character (here’s their website) than Village Sweet does, giving it a more “finished” look and feel – it leads me to wonder if this is a franchise of some sort; regardless, the baked goods I had were “talented home baker” all the way.

On deck: a lemon bar – I was almost swayed today by the way they looked.

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