Trying to order at Frogs Organic Bakery when it's busy is about like trying to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic on Grant Road. At rush hour.
Which is to say, it's tricky.
When Frogs is, um, hopping, bodies clog up against the two registers, and it's hard to tell who's next. Fellow customers can't help but bump into you as they try to squeeze through the narrow-as-a-supermodel walkway between the counter and tables.
But Frogs' saving grace is its amazing scenery. (Same can't be said for Grant Road.)
Sure you're getting jostled and cut off, but you can gaze lovingly at oversized croissants burnished to the kind of beautiful, shiny finish that tanners can only dream of. Or deep-dark rectangles of flourless chocolate cake that sparkle with flecks of gold dust. Or shiny circles of macarons in vibrant shades of purple and green.
You're lost in a reverie, and everything else around you melts into the background. Nothing matters but food. Oh, and wiping that string of drool from your chin.
If you haven't already figured it out, there's a reason this place gets pretty busy.
Frogs - it opened in December in the spot formerly occupied by Paradise Bakery and Café in Casas Adobes Plaza - serves fresh-baked breads, quiches, salads, and hot and cold sandwiches along with those sinful sweets, everything made from organic, all-natural ingredients. Owners Marc Lory, chef Jean-Luc Labat and his wife, Isabelle, hail from France, hence the French-inspired menu.
Some sandwiches are prepared open-faced, a tartine as they'd call it in France. The chicken zucchini ($10), served warm, featured a long, angled slice of dark, whole-wheat bread topped with thin zucchini planks, actual slices of rosemary-scented chicken (no scary, pressed lunchmeat here) and a light blanket of melted Swiss cheese. The question - do you pick it up or go for the fork and knife? A bit of both works best. Slice the sandwich into smaller pieces, then pick it up and eat.
The earthy bread balanced well with the juicy chicken and lightly roasted zucchini. The only downer was the accompanying side salad, which was nothing more than greens plucked straight from the bag. No tomatoes, no carrots, just greens and a plastic tub of dressing. Instead, opt for soup, which on this day was a fabulous gazpacho.
The problem with most versions of the cold soup is that they come off as little more than rebranded salsa. This gazpacho, though, was a deep, nearly burgundy color, with lots of raw, diced veggies - onions, celery, bell pepper - for crunch. It had some zing but wasn't overly spicy. This stuff was well worth the mild, raw, onion-fueled backlash that came later.
The veggie focaccia bread ($10) reminded us of a fancy white pizza - a generous rectangle topped with onions and bell peppers and a healthy dusting of oregano along with creamy bechamel and melted mozzarella. Couldn't detect the zucchini and mushroom that were mentioned on the menu, but the fluffy focaccia, with a crisp bottom, was no less enjoyable.
The Build Your Own Sandwich ($9) lets diners create their own combos. In this case, it was crisp bacon with more of that juicy chicken nestled between one of those irresistible, pillowy croissants. With lettuce and a slick of mayo, this was pure heaven.
It's a given that you'll order dessert here. The flourless chocolate cake ($5) was positively swoon-worthy. Alternating layers of thin cake and thick, melt-in-your-mouth, dark-chocolate ganache gave it a trufflelike texture. It was perfection. The strawberry tart ($5) had a buttery, crisp crust and lovely glazed berries but a lackluster custard.
Frogs offers a variety of macarons ($1.60 each) daily. These are the Parisian ones, with discs of airy meringue sandwiching a creamy filling. They're so pretty, they look like little colorful pieces of art - and the vanilla caramel macaron, in particular, tasted like it, too.
REVIEW: Frogs Organic Bakery
7109 N. Oracle Road in Casas Adobes Plaza, 229-2124; www.frogsorganicbakery.com
• Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.
• Wine list: It may only be open for breakfast and lunch, but wine, beer and champagne are on the menu.
• Noise level: Even when it's packed, you can easily hold a conversation.
• Vegetarian options: Plenty.
• Gluten-free: For an additional $2, you can get gluten-free bread.
• Family call: There are two kids menu items. Of course, you'll have to pry them away from the sweets case.
• Price range: Sweets start at 80 cents for selected cookies; most breakfast and lunch items are $8-$10.
• The name: "Frog" is an Anglo-American insult for the French, and co-owner Marc Lory told the Star back in December that he didn't want the organic restaurant to sound stuffy and serious.