Ever since the sudden disappearance of Mirabelle — bless the hearts of carb-loving Urbananites — the future of the little store space became of curious speculation. As I grew accustomed to slipping into the bakery while going down Main Street on a Saturday morning, the thought of the space becoming anything other than a bakery was depressing.
Rick’s Bakery moved in as naturally as seasons had come. Riccardo (Rick), the friendly owner, told me that it was the customers who first called and suggesting to him about the then-empty space, before he finally decided to establish a location in Downtown Urbana.
The interior of Rick’s is radically different from the small, quaint storefront of Mirabelle; the generous sitting area is a shocking exposure of space that I never thought the building had, in front of an even more generous display of treats: breads, cookies, buttery pastries, cakes, from quick breads to composite desserts, New York cheesecake to Swedish princess cake, the selection was overwhelming. Better still, the savory items here offered options for a quick lunch or a substantial “snack.”
Instead of bread-based sandwiches one would expect from a bakery’s menu, Rick’s offers burritos ($6). A giant wrap stuffed with meat, rice, fresh veggies and other fillings was easily enough for me and my company, accompanied by red or green salsa on the side. For the steak burrito with red salsa we ordered, the flavor was ordinary, but very fresh.
More intriguing were the hot tamales ($2). Being some of the most wholesome and convenient street foods of all time, they had been absent from the Downtown Urbana food scene. I couldn’t be happier to find them at Rick’s.
Two tamales are easily a filling and healthful breakfast, sometimes enjoyed with a cup of champurrado (or hot chocolate in its absence). After trying both the vegetarian (onion and pepper with melted cheese) and the chicken tamales with salsa verde, I’ve decided that the vegetarian was more flavorful and satisfying than the chicken, in which the breast meat was a tad dry. With that said, the hot steam rising from tender steamed masa just liberated from the corn husk still gets me every time.
For the pastries, my friend and I shared a spinach feta croissant ($3). It didn’t look or taste like a traditional croissant, with none of the delicate flakes. Instead, the pastry was a substantial stuffed pocket, with fluffy layers of bread protecting generous amounts of spinach and crumbled feta inside. It wasn’t the flakiness or the buttery aroma that we expected, yet we both agreed that the perfect saltiness and the presence of vegetables made it a happy pick-me-up between meals.
I have been coming back to Rick’s ever since my first visit. When Riccardo was in the shop and wasn’t busy with cakes and orders I’d chat with him, learning that he had been a baker all his life. He would study baking books from different cultures to create the wild variety of cakes in the cooler, and the breads on the shelf; when I fixed my gaze on the colorful wood carvings (Alebrijes) on the walls and in the glass case underneath the coffee table, he smiled and told me that they were made by his mother in Oaxaca.
Often I remind myself to cherish the very existence of a neighborhood bakery, one that has its own personality, one that is run by hard-working people doing what they know best. With that in mind, I shall slowly make my way through the creations at Rick’s, one at a time.
Rick’s Bakery Urbana
124 W Main St
M-F 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photos by Cara Feng