Taking the Scenic Route

East Village bakery offers a slower pace of life to busy Des Moines residents

originally published for The Pedestrian on December 8, 2017

Rustic-looking lightbulbs hang from the walls, the scent of fresh coffee filters through the air as smiling baristas rush back and forth behind the counter, preparing food and drinks for customers. It’s only eight o’ clock on a Monday morning, but Scenic Route bakery has been up and running since dawn. Fresh pastries have been laid out in neat little rows inside glass display cases, the wooden tables have each been garnished with a blooming yellow sunflower, and sunlight streams through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows.

Scenic Route bakery, located in the East Village on East Locust Street, opened in 2014 with one goal in mind: to encourage people to slow down, smile, and take in the little things in life. Serving fresh cinnamon rolls, sandwiches, hot beverages, and just about everything in between, the small bakery has become a delicious taste of home to its loyal customers.

Elliana Huffman, who frequents Scenic Route bakery, says that for her, the small shop is more than just a place to grab a quick bite to eat — it’s a place to cultivate friendships and enjoy a free afternoon.

“It’s very calm and happy,” Huffman said. “I love to come here with friends and chat or read; I feel like a lot of other shops are very small and cramped, but [Scenic Route] has such an open layout. It’s very sunny so it just feels very welcoming.”

The eclectic kitchen and farm tools that hang from Scenic Route’s crisp white walls — anything and everything from hand saws to muffin tins — add a quaint touch to the family-owned bakery. On shelves behind the counter lie glass jars, crisp white coffee mugs, and the occasional porcelain chicken statue, adding to the bakery’s small-town atmosphere. In the center of the shop is a tall wooden bookshelf which boasts hundreds of brightly colored reading materials. Comfy, cheery couches sprawl around it, encouraging conversation (or a nice nap). The front door to the little shop is propped open, letting the scent of fresh food invite people from all walks of life to come inside.

The customers, who range from smartly dressed business people looking for a quiet place to work to a couple of friends catching up over a cup of tea, are all greeted warmly when they enter the bakery. Dressed in aprons and bright smiles, the baristas behind the counter exchange pleasantries with regulars and chat about the day ahead.

As the morning goes on, customers are streaming in to grab a cinnamon roll (which is a must-try) and take a seat at one of the sunny window-side tables. Almost no one gets their food to go; they’re captivated by the bakery’s homey warmth and charming character. Snippets of conversation float through the air in a cheery blur as people warm their fingers on steaming drinks. As people finish their food and stroll slowly toward the door, seeming reluctant to leave, the bustling staff offers a parting wave and a “thanks for coming!”

From the moment someone walks in until they leave, it’s very clear that Scenic Route is about more than just making good food. It’s a place where everyone is welcome, it’s a place to take a step back from the busy-ness of life and embrace friendships and community.

Scenic Route is located at 350 East Locust Street, Suite 104 in downtown Des Moines, and is open Monday-Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Samantha Jones