A Junction fixture for the past 35 years, Sweet Trolley Bakery stands out in a pastry-crowded field.
If you wanted to cast a baker in a movie, you could hardly do better than Steve Androulidakas. He wears a towering chef’s toque, along with a flour-dusted white jacket, and he has the thick hands and build of a man who’s devoted his life to butter and sugar. That’s because he has: A third-generation master baker, Steve was just four years old when he began mixing ingredients at his father’s bakery on the Greek island of Crete, which he left for Toronto in 1963. “All day long, we bake. We never stop,” he says, standing by the worn wooden work surface in the rear of Sweet Trolley Bakery, the pastry haven that he’s run with his wife, Anna, and daughter, Hellen, in the Junction since 1979.
No one walks reluctantly into a bakery, armed with a shopping list of necessities to tick off. Usually, when you step inside, it’s a prelude to a celebration: Maybe you’re buying a cake for a birthday party; maybe you’re surprising someone with (or treating yourself to) a thin, slightly crisp chocolate chip cookie. But in a city awash in jewel-box bakeries (there are seven in the Junction alone), Sweet Trolley stands out for its overwhelming warmth and joy.
You get a sense of the bakers’ enthusiasm before you even set foot in the door, with signs, hand-inked by Hellen, boasting that their cinnamon buns are the best in the city. A dozen sit in a warming tray in the window. Steve received the recipe from a fellow cook when he was the executive chef at the Windsor Arms hotel in the 1960s; two years ago, Hellen insisted he resurrect it and start serving the buns at the bakery. The Androulidakas family makes a fresh dozen every 20 minutes, and they usually sells out in about that time.
On Saturdays, the line for the cinnamon buns will form around 10 in the morning and stretch out the door. Each customer walks away with a tight spiral of light, stretchy dough, gooey with melted butter and cinnamon, and crowned with a sweet glaze. “It’s the delicateness of the dough that just melts in your mouth,” says Hellen, noting that the buns contain only five ingredients, all of which are natural. “I’ll tell ya, those cinnamon buns have done gangbusters!”
Inside the bakery—which is essentially one long counter, a few feet of floor, and a wall packed with yellowed photographs of customers, their cakes, and their hairstyles—more hand-written signs claim that “Everything here is made with love” and list the different treats on sale. There are small (but deep) fruit pies in flavours like apple, cherry, blueberry, and peach, which are made with a butter crust—and always with fresh fruit. A tray of coffee cake, cut into fat squares, sits right by the cash, near towers full of Greek cookies, like ouzo-laced shortbread crescents hiding under a pile of icing sugar or little oval melamokarana, which are dense, honey-infused, and topped with chopped dates and cinnamon. Everywhere you turn, something begs to be taken home: creamy cheesecake, flaky, custard-filled cannoli, and golden apple turnovers.
Anna, who also came from Greece in the early 1960s and learned to bake at restaurants on the Danforth, is a virtuoso with dough. Want proof? Pick up a generous portion of her spanikopita. A thin layer of cooked spinach and feta cheese is sandwiched between the most delicate sheets of hand-stretched phyllo dough I have ever tasted. The whole thing is barely as thick as a finger, but it’s so buttery, rich, and perfect that a few bites are more satisfying than a full meal.
Steve, Anna, and Hellen regularly stand at the doorway and call out to people walking by, sometimes with a free cookie in their hand, beckoning them in for a taste amid the wall of faded photographs. Sweet Trolley Bakery is more quirky than slick, the kind of mom-and-pop (and daughter) neighbourhood business that’s starting to stick out on a strip that’s increasingly dominated by pastry shops ready for their photo shoots. But what it lacks in polish, it makes up, tenfold, in heart. “Our customers say to us, ‘Don’t change, we love it.’” Hellen says. “They love the fact that it’s not four shiny walls. It’s got character. It’s the character that brings people back.”
3056 Dundas St. W., 416-762-1487.