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Athan's Bakery... disappointing

  • l

After reading about Athan's Bakery on this board and checking out their website, I decided to go there (Washington Square) around 10:30am today. I don't have a car so I rely on the T. I ordered a Jamaica (dark chocolate torte), Bolero (milk chocolate torte)and Sara Bernhardt (strawberry torte). At $3.95 each, they better be good I thought. After getting home (1 hr later) the first thing I did was take a bite out of the strawberry torte. I was so disappointed when the genoise cake that was supposed to be soft was instead hard and rubbery. It was stale!!! For all you bakers out there, you know that despite refrigeration sponge cakes don't get this hard after a few hours. The piece that I got must've been 2 if not 3 days old. The "fresh" strawberry that they used as garnish should've given it away because it looked like dried fruit instead. I decided take it back even if it meant walking one mile to board the bus to get there. They offered to give me another one but I wanted my money back (why would I want another stale pastry?) but the owner/chef refused. I said, "Well you just lost a good customer." The owner/chef then replied "I don't need a customer like you!" A customer like me??? What, one who expects quality and decency after paying $3.95 for an individual cake? Unbelievable... So the moral of this story is if you plan on going to Athan's make sure you check the quality of their goods before you leave their store. Otherwise you just might have to waste your time going back there and have to put up with their horrible customer service. As for me, this will be the first and last time I ever go there. What they have to offer I can find elsewhere with much better treatment.

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  1. Sorry you had an unsatisfactory experience. I have gotten their pastries and cakes dozens of times and always found them to be fantastic, and sure crowd pleasers.

    1. Wow, you travelled that far for Athan's, I would have told you not to bother. I have a friend that lives around the corner who had the same expereince, but they did not offer to replace the pastry. Same rude final response, so he no longer goes there either. I find it a place to go in a pinch that's close for people in the neighborhood. The mousse fillings that they use for practically all of their pasties gets tiring after a while. Live and learn.

      1. I also read such great things and went there about 6 months ago. I was not impressed at all! Not sure why people love it- I thought it was average at best.

        1. I'm not much of a pastry fan so I can't comment, however, their gelato (esp the chocolate) is fantastic.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Notorious P

            I had an opportunity recently to try their Green Tea Gelato. It had a nice taste...not overly sweet.

            1. re: Notorious P

              I am not a cake/pastry fan so I can't weigh in on that topic, but I agree the gelato is v. good. I like the yogurt flavor.

              1. re: yumyum

                I agree that the gelato is excellent.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  i've tried the green tea, chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, and black current gelatos. All are good...green tea and chocolate are great. Black forest cake is your best bet, but i dont think any of the pastrys are anything special, even when they're fresh. One thing good I can say about the pastries and gelatos are that they don't over sweeten them.

              2. I had a like experience. With Daniel's an awesome local bakery just steps away there is truly no reason to head to Athans for overpriced and underquality baked goods.

                Also as an FYI Athans doesn't make their own Gelato if I remember correctly (I may not).

                Hopefully in the future people will try Daniels for good old fashion local baked goods.

                -TZ

                4 Replies
                1. re: Tzonis

                  Where is Daniel's? I didn't eve know it existed.

                  The large tiramisu cake is pretty good at Athan's.
                  Some of the other cakes use the same mousse filling, but there is some variety. I've never had a stale one and have been there a half dozen times.

                  1. re: Tzonis

                    The OP cited the Washington Square location in Brookline. Daniels is a few steps from the Brighton Center Athan's, which is relatively new. I have enjoyed the tortes at Athans and found the quality and freshness to be excellent and good value and it It also servesa nice inexpensive dinner. I really like Daniels for macaroons, plum pudding and bread but it is a very different kind of bakery. Both Athans for tortes and greek pastries and Daniels are nice additions to the Brighton Center scene.

                    1. re: Tzonis

                      Daniels is excellent. Real whipped cream on their cakes, so good.

                      1. re: Tzonis

                        They claim that they make it themselves

                      2. I am a huge fan of Athan's goodies. It is disappointing indeed to hear that you were treated rudely.

                        As for the price, I think full disclosure is required. For the uninitiated, the small cakes which the OP ordered are not mere slices of cake - they are complete mini versions of the large multi-serving cakes that Athan's offers. (Honey, I shrunk the Jamaica!). At $4, it is not cheap, but certainly it is not unreasonable, imho.

                        Incidentally, I recently bought four of the small cakes to bring to a party - tasted three of them and they were delicious as always.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          The size of the individual serving cakes were about 3 inches in diameter and about 2.25 inches in height. While Athan's isn't as ridiculously expensive as Finale it's still quite pricey if you're a student like me. As with any establishment (except for fast food), if I pay a decent amount of money, I expect the goods to be fresh at least. Is my $3.95 worth less than someone's $3.95 who got a fresh pastry? Next time I travel to that area (if I ever) I'll try that Daniel's bakery that someone suggested. Thanks!

                          1. re: lemondrop

                            My comment was pointing out that $4 for the cake is not unreasonable in my opinion, based on what similar pastries, etc. might cost in the Boston area.

                            Personally, I think they're worth about $3.50.

                        2. I went there last year after reading the raves on this board. I too was disappointed, and I don't see why people are so excited about this place. One more reason the overused term "board favorite" is meaningless.

                          1. I was probably the original raver about Athan's, I don't know how long ago, and sadly, I must agree with the other posters. I do think they were a little better about freshness, etc. when they just had one store.

                            I had a Baba Au Rhum this weekend that was just eh.

                            I do think the Jamaica is pretty darned good.

                            Most of the other pastries, even when totally fresh, are just okay, not mindblowing. Their chocolates are kind of lame.

                            I think in this town that is relatively starved for (non-Italian style) pastries I was originally happy to see this stuff. Lately, I have concluded that most of their stuff is just not sufficiently delicious.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              When I went there was just the one in Brookline. The stuff looks great, and I am sure some of it really is, but the two pastries I had were subpar-- enough to keep me from going back, although it is admittedly far from my normal path. The pastry counter at Russo's in Watertown actually has some unbelievably good stuff. I recommend those.

                            2. What I like about Athan's, most in the new Brighton Center location, is that it is someplace I can buy a little something sweet to eat, and sit down and enjoy it for a bit. I don't think they're the be-all end-all
                              when it comes to desserts, but I like it for something
                              that there maybe isn't enough of in the Boston area: a
                              place to eat a reasonably good pastry and sit and
                              relax.

                              Are there better places people know of for such a
                              leisurely experience? I wish Rosie's (the various
                              shops) were a bit larger and had later hours, or
                              Clearflour had someplace to sit..

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: amatto

                                Another option in Brighton Center would be Cafe Nation. (Close to the intersection of Market/Wash/Chestnut Hill Ave and about 1/2 a block from Athan's).

                                Very laid back. Great coffees and coffee drinks. Some pastries. Tons of great crepes. And a nice sandwich selection.

                                Service is always spot on, which I can't say about Athan's. I was excited for months to see Athan's moving into the area, but after a more than a few trips in and being annoyed by the dismissive staff, I no longer go there.

                              2. I'm shocked to hear so many people complain about Athan's - I've had their pastries many times and never been disappointed by freshness or flavor. They make everything in house and are always busy...how often is a dessert going to sit around for too long? Once in a great while - get over it. You've been served less fresh desserts in restaurants for your whole life.

                                As to pricing, what do you think a dessert this tasty should cost? You'd pay the same at Whole Foods for a lesser dessert. You'd pay probably twice as much in most restaurants for something potentially not as good. Maybe if you go to a sandwich shop that imports its desserts from elsewhere you'd find a less fresh and more basic dessert for 2-3 dollars. Because their sole revenue stream is selling desserts (no money coming in from marking up pasta and wine like an Italian restaurant with $50 Chianti they bought for $12 and $6 tiramisu that they don't even make themselves), I can't see how they could stay in business selling desserts for significantly less than four dollars. You're going to pay for something made with care one at a time. If you want cheap sugars, nutty bars cost a quarter at the store 24, and if you've got a buck the hostess cupcakes are pretty good - you even get two.

                                As to the new Athan's, I will say that the one time I went in there the servers were as deep in the weeds as I've ever seen, without a full restaurant, and I just wanted take-out. I can't even imagine how long the sit-down customers were waiting for things.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cgaros

                                  In the final analysis for me it ain't the price, it ain't the freshness. I was initially a big supporter.

                                  But having tasted my way through most of there stuff, the pastries just are not that good.

                                2. I find this place disappointing too. Everything looks fantastic, but the taste is just so-so, and I've never even gotten anything obviously stale. If the pastries tasted as good as they look, I would say the prices are fair, but they don't.

                                  1. Just reading this post and was wondering about alternatives -- what places do folks prefer for cakes and sweets of this sort?

                                    I haven't been to Blue Frog in JP for a while, but I did enjoy their little cakes, even if they were a tad dry on occasion. And they use good chocolate (Callebaut). How is it now? It's the type of neigbourhood place with no PR apparatus that hounds should champion if they like it.

                                    I'm looking forward to Cafe Cakes when they reopen in Watertown. Better most cakes I've had anywhere for their delicacy and refinement.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Limster

                                      Found info on Watertown web site that Cafe Cakes is set to open on Galen St. This month.

                                      Link: http://h2otown.info/node/1005

                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                        Thanks for the tip! I'm planning to check it out. Is it a Japanese bakery? I hope so. Maybe they'll have a better version of melonpan as compared to Japonaise's.

                                        1. re: lemondrop

                                          The owner/baker is a Japanese woman who learned baking with French techniques.

                                      2. re: Limster

                                        I love Flour Bakery in the South End. Their carrot cake is always moist and their cream cheese frosting is just right. I also like their lowfat chocolate cupcake. I'm not a fan of lowfat anything but that one is good. I also like the chocolate fudge cake from Rosie's Bakery but I wish their stores had a place to sit and relax. I've always wanted to try Konditor Meister in Braintree but I don't have a car so I'll just have to wait until I rent one. Please keep the suggestions coming since I'm a sweet tooth who would go to great lengths for any tasty dessert.

                                      3. I absolutely agree as well. Everything sure looks pretty, but the taste is horrible.

                                        1. the baklava is excellent, the florentines are great, their almond cookies are delicious, and the lemon sponge cake is super. their service sucks and is getting worse for some reason. I'm not at all a fan of daniels where everything i've had has tasted metallic and supersugary. i do recommend japonnaise, which is not cheaper, but has lovely stuff.including for me unusual asian combinations.