Open for just over four months, Tova du Plessis's South Philly Jewish bakery, Essen, is already shaking things up, because of course it is. After all, small, neighborhood eateries are almost sentient creatures, always adapting, reacting, and growing to the needs of its patrons.
When it first opened, Essen operated as a simple bakery — which it still is — but the menu was tight and small: two types of breads by-the-loaf, and a handful of pastries and cakes, a sandwich du jour, plus coffees and teas. Now, there's a new menu in place (below) with over ten baked goods to choose from, an entire section dedicated to just breakfast, more daily sandwiches, and toasts.
So you can pick up a slice of babka with coffee on your way to work ($4 for the pair), or if you'd rather, choose a croissant instead, perhaps the za'atar sort, which pairs easily with some za'atar-spiced labneh spread on top. There are toasts, too, with house-cultured butter and black salt, or fancier with avocado, pickled onions, and capers. But whatever you order, make sure it includes at least one of Du Plessis's "grown-up" (as she puts it) black and white cookies, laced with orange zest, and topped with 64% dark chocolate ganache.
And every Sunday through the summer, stop in for a babka sundae topped with halva, and once the cold weather rolls around, get ready for some homemade soups.
Check out the new menu here: