A good bakery is hard to find. Believe it or not, with the slew of mass-produced chains throughout all the major cities, it’s rare to find one these days that gives you the downhome taste without the capitalistic takeover Starbucks feel. Even at the most Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives-ish mom-and-pops, some of these places, the baked goods are, well, simply outdated. And just okay (or how you kids say, “Meh”).
Well, at Bakeshop in Clarendon, Arlington, Northern Virginia, located right outside of our Nation’s Great Capital, the District of Columbia, you can find a mom-and-son operation that incorporates Old Skool wisdom with New School flair. Justin Stegall, head baker and owner, runs the slightly off-the-beaten-path storefront, located on North Fillmore Street in between 10th and 11th Streets, with a practical precision that is reflected through his presentation - in the oven and out.
Pies, cupcakes, cookies, and treats fill the front case with colorful baked goods, all ready to be devoured. Cakes can be custom-made and ordered in advance. Linda Stegall, Justin’s mother who helps run the bakery, makes everything from scratch in small batches, helping ensure the dignity of each creation, which is the artful expression of Justin’s creative imagination as a baker and kitchen scientist.
Bakeshop has a plethora of yummy cupcake flavors that outshine any rival cupcake chain the District has to offer. Georgetown Cupcake, Crumbs, Sprinkles — they hardly hold a candle to the ingenuity of nostalgic and witty flavors Bakeshop has to offer. Available daily are your red velvets, cookies ‘n creams, devil’s foods, and the like. However, the seasonal menu, which changes as frequently as Stegall’s opposition to staleness, is much much more interesting. And this goes across the board. 7-Up cupcakes, anyone? Or how about Oreo in a Blanket? Stegall’s concoctions are unique and tasty, presented in the manner of your neighborhood bakery, something he takes pride in. And his frosting to cupcake ratio cannot be beat.
Stegall’s favorite creation? ”It’s simple,” he says, “but I love the oatmeal blueberry cookie. As a boy, I never loved oatmeal cookies because I didnt like the pairing of oatmeal and raisins, or chocolate. So I subbed in dried blueberries and created my new favorite cookie, it is perfect.” This is the prime example of his style, which incorporates modern and retro, young and old, traditional and contemporary. As for his inspiration, it comes from many places, including “childhood memories, travels abroad, the internet. I have a great team in my kitchen and they are also constantly trying new ideas.” It is this dedication to constantly being creative that differentiates Bakeshop from any other baked spot. Stegall is committed to delivering delicious and innovative flavors presented in a simplistic, modernistic approach with the energy and dedication of a traditional, classically trained baker.
An added perk to his business and art? ”I love the neighborhood and the people that come into the shop. Running Bakeshop has allowed me to become friends with many cool people,” he says. He also enjoys that such an occupation allows him to “wear shorts and a tshirt everyday.”
Simple, refined, unique, creative, unpretentious, laid back, and neighborly. Bakeshop just isn’t a bakery - it’s an approach to life.
Bakeshop is located at 1025 N. Fillmore Street, Suite G, in Arlington, Virginia. To see a list of their daily offerings, go to BakeshopVA.com.