A scone at Courageous Bakery & Cafe. Eaten by David Hammond

“Is it always this crowded?” I asked the young woman behind counter at Courageous Bakery & Café (736 Lake), looking around at what seemed a full room.

“No,” she smiled. “It’s usually WAY more crowded. This time of day, I’ve had people in a line out the door.”

Even though we have some excellent bakeries around here (Spilt Milk, you), apparently the Village’s hunger for baked goods has yet to be satisfied.

Honestly, baked goods don’t do much for me.  Cake seems boring, pastries always feel terribly rich on the tongue, and cupcakes – not to be too harsh – seem like a trend whose time has passed, kind of like kale and putting fried eggs on top of everything.

Scones, though, to me, they’re different, mostly because I like them.

Likely originating in Scotland, where the name scone rhymes with “gone,” these quick breads can be sweet or savory. No one knows exactly where the name came from, though if you’re a Scotsman you likely hold to the theory that this bread, usually enjoyed earlier in the day, is named after the Stone of Destiny, where Scottish kings were crowned.

There was also a Welsh tradition of cooking small wheat cakes on bakestones, which also could have given rise to the word “scone.”

Though the exact origin of the scone is uncertain, the little cake is much beloved throughout the United Kingdom, and the recipe is undoubtedly many centuries old.

You can see why scones were a favorite at British tea services: they’re easy to eat with one hand while holding a tea cup with the other, and they don’t usually crumble all over and make a mess. The traditional British scone is usually somewhat dry, which is probably why in Britain scones are frequently accompanied with lemon curd or clotted cream, both of which help moisten what can be a rather Saharan bite. When we were in London a few years ago, we ordered a “cream tea,” which is a cup of tea, accompanied by a scone and a small pot of clotted cream to spread on top. Nice.

The New York Times has taken the position that except for a little sugar and an egg, a scone and a biscuit are basically the same, going so far as to claim “American biscuits originated in the British Isles as scones,” a contention that no doubt enrages biscuit-loving all-Americans south of the Mason-Dixon line.

At Courageous Bakery & Cafe, my cranberry scone was delicate and just slightly flaky, with enough crust to provide some chew; it was not very sweet, which was just fine with me.

Courageous Bakery & Cafe seems like a worthy place, and I plan to go back for more scones. They also have a very large menu with lots of inviting breakfast and lunch items, probably much more than you’d expect, including such unpredictable additions as papas bravas (a tapas-bar item), a croque-madame (using the bakery’s croissant and off-the-bone ham), and a three-meat omelet called Joy of Meat.

With such a menu, high-quality ingredients, and a powerful location, Courageous Bakery & Café seems destined to be in our village for some time.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...