You can get a pleasing sort of time warp sensation visiting Oak Street these days, as more new small businesses continue to revitalize this vintage commercial stretch. Now, Oak Street even has its own artisan bakery, adding the reliably nostalgic aroma of baking bread and the sight of people strolling the sidewalk while picking apart a fresh baguette.
Chamain and Sean O’Mahony opened their Breads on Oak earlier in July, and though the bakery is only open on Fridays and Saturdays for now the quality of the first few loaves and pastries I’ve sampled here augurs good things to come.
The daily-changing bounty that the couple spreads out along the shop’s rustic-looking display counter and bread racks borrows from different baking traditions around Europe. From classic baguettes and buttery croissants, there are also round country loaves with olives or cheese, Irish soda bread, strawberry and apple fig bran muffins and cinnamon walnut coffee cakes. There’s also a wide range of vegan muffins, cookies and other dairy-free baked goods produced by Chamain O’Mahony, who is herself a vegan.
“My first job when I got out of the Marines was working at a French bakery,” says Sean O’Mahony, an Atlanta native who has lived in New Orleans since 1995. “The hours were brutal, the work was tough, but at the end of the day you’d made all of this delicious food that people love, and that really appealed to me.”
He later became a corporate consultant, a job that entailed a great deal of traveling, but when it was time to shift gears and start a new career the baking arts called to him again.
“At one time, this was the place you’d go for the best breads, New Orleans, but somehow it all devolved into po-boy bread,” he says. “ So I want to help bring some of these things back.”
Breads on Oak is housed in a former appliance parts store, which has been handsomely remodeled into a very large, open bakery with a small service counter and a handful of tables. The shop serves coffee drinks and tea as well. The bakery’s potential capacity is evident in its size, and O’Mahony says Breads on Oak is set up for daily restaurant supply business as well as its current two-day-a-week retail schedule.
Breads on Oak will likely add Sunday hours soon and the O’Mahonys plan to expand with more weekday hours in the fall. For now, the retail bakery is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Breads on Oak
8640 Oak St., 669-5173