Two Birds Bakery is a welcoming mix of old-school and modern, of quaint and cutting-edge.
On any given day, a Hungarian nut roll made from a vintage recipe might be next to a vegan muffin sweetened with dates, maple syrup and coconut milk. Or a holiday cookie — the kind your grandmother made, studded with a bright red cherry — could be next to a gluten-free coconut macaroon.
The small shop is an unusual addition to Elkhorn's historic main street, and it's worth the drive even for those not after vegan or gluten-free goods. For those who are, it's a must-visit.
I'd truck back to Elkhorn in a snap for the blue apron muffin. It's a treat that's more savory than sweet and more like a small quiche or biscuit than a traditional muffin. Its light, fluffy texture is studded with chunks of blue cheese and bits of apple and walnut. It can work for breakfast with your morning coffee, or for dinner next to a big bowl of beef stew.
The Curry of Kali muffin, another I liked, is vegan and can be made gluten-free. It's got a hint of curry along with big chunks of dates that co-owner Trilety Wade said are soaked in coconut milk. The muffin is just sweet enough — all of Two Birds' vegan muffins are sweetened with grade B maple syrup — and a toasted coconut topping gives it a slight crunch.
Most of the muffins at Two Birds are slightly sweet. There's no mistaking them for cupcakes. Wade and co-owner Megan Thomas aren't huge fans of candy or sugar, they said, and it wasn't until customers commented on the almost savory nature of all their baked goods that they realized it. I found it refreshing. Too many times, breakfast treats have enough sugar to make me feel guilty after just a bite.
It's also worth noting that unless someone tells you one of their baked goods is gluten-free or vegan, you're not going to notice a difference. Textures almost all the way across the board were spot-on, and nothing was too gooey, like some other dairy-free muffins I've eaten.
The bakery also makes vegan and non-vegan bite-sized cookies, and we liked every one we tried.
The peanut butter dimples, vegan and gluten free, are a rich, delightful bite. The flavor of the peanut butter is broken by just a touch of cardamom; a favorite spice of theirs — and mine. I also enjoyed the unusual Ta-honey-hini cookie. It was again not too sweet, with tahini — usually an ingredient in hummus — meeting honey in a soft, subtle way. The finish of the cookie is almost nutty.
There's other classic cookies, too: vegan and regular chocolate chip, rum raisin, peppermint chocolate for the holidays and classic snicker doodles, among others.
The bakery sells classic Hungarian nut rolls made from a traditional recipe passed down from one of their grandmothers; the rolls are filled with apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts and cut into thick slices. Cinnamon rolls are popular on the weekends, and the bakery also sells cakes in white, yellow, chocolate and vegan chocolate by special order.
The juxtaposition of old and new is by design, the owners say. The women talked for years about opening a storefront before actually taking the plunge. Wade wanted a change from her environmental consultant job. Thomas, who had been baking at restaurants and bakeries around Omaha, wanted her own place. So they took Thomas' classic baked good recipes and Wade's vegan recipes — she was vegan for five years — and set up shop in a building built in the 1950s by Roy Johnson, Wade's grandfather.
They turned the space, which used to be a post office, into a full-fledged bakery. They installed rustic touches, like reclaimed barn wood along one wall and a large glass-fronted bakery case. Bird feeders hang outside almost every window, and good smells fill the air. But there is no seating. Instead, customers take their baked goods to-go in cute, square cardboard boxes stamped with the Two Birds logo.
The owners said they knew there was a demand in Omaha for dairy-free and gluten-free treats, but it's even larger than they realized — almost half their business comes from the vegan goods.
I like the mix of heritage dishes with modern ones. And when dairy and wheat-free baked goods are just as tasty — and in this case, even more creative — than the standard fare, the tiny Two Birds should make it onto everyone's list of “to-visits.”
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Two Birds Bakery
2812 Main St., Elkhorn
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.
Hit: The savory Blue Apron muffin is tender and almost quiche-like.
Miss: The one vegan muffin we didn't care for, the Campfire, tasted overwhelmingly smoky and had a tougher texture than the others.
Reservations: The bakery is take-out only.
Drinks: The bakery serves Blue Line coffee to go.
Price: Muffins run $2 to $3 each; a dozen are $22. Classic cookies are $2.75 for six, and vegan cookies are $4.50 for six. Cakes are available by special order.
Service: Friendly and fast.