Coronado foodies are in for a treat after the start of the new year when Mary Frese, of Clayton’s Coffee Shop fame, opens up a new Bakery & Bistro at 849 Orange Avenue. Construction continues at the previous site of Fire+Fly Artisan Pizza, and will recast the eatery in a vintage, early 1900s decor. Customers will find the higher-end, smaller, and narrower area a departure from Clayton’s mid-century digs, with its iconic jukebox and expansive U-shaped counter. The petite bakery will feature natural elements such as marble countertops and tables, brass, copper ceiling, and wrought iron, reminiscent of classic European tight but homey spaces. Every last detail, down to the brown wrapping, twine, and butcher paper packaging, will adhere to the theme of simple elegance. Frese hopes to create a tasteful and accessible oasis away from the “all the chaos we live in. It’s going back in time. We’re evolving into that simpler space.”
Offering back-to-basics baking and comfort food with a focus on organic ingredients, Frese plans on incorporating her favorite concoctions from around the world, “the best of what countries offer.” Longtime Imperial Beach resident, Elena Palma, will serve as the Executive Pastry Chef. She has worked in the industry for 11 years, most notably as a Pastry Chef at The Lodge at Torrey Pines where she earned a rave review in Zagat for her “showstopper” cakes. Most recently, she joined forces with Frese at Clayton’s.
When the Bakery & Bistro opens its doors, Palma “will be starting with fresh made doughnuts, rustic sourdough bread, muffins, cookies, patisserie, baguette, bagel and more.” Upon entering the space, customers can expect to be immersed in “fresh bakery smells…[w]ith breads baking in the oven and cakes on display. Cookie and sweets jars on top of the counter tops.” Frese is particularly excited to present Italian pizzelles – referred to as the world’s oldest cookie, with a recipe originating in the 8th century – and naked cakes, which evoke a “more simple era” of baking. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and charcuterie will also be included in the menu.
The Bakery & Bistro is Frese’s latest venture as a restaurateur, having owned and operated her first restaurant, Beach Grill and Deli, in the mid-1990s at age 25. She recently opened Clayton’s Galley on Harbor Island, a nautical-themed, upscale market-cafe that primarily prepares sandwiches but will share baked goods from the Bakery & Bistro in Coronado. It is being developed as a farm-to-table establishment; Frese’s longterm goal is to open its own farm.
Her connection to food and hospitality was nurtured early on in life by her mother and grandmother, who were steeped in home cooking and baking. “I learned from my Granny Frannie, the most influential woman that ever existed – she’s now in her 90s – and my mom [who passed away two years ago], both extremely tenacious women.” Each had a different approach, though. “My mom took things further. She was creative and talented. She learned family home cooking from Granny but had a flair with it, used flowers, colors, themes, and had dinner parties all the time when I was growing up. I would put things together.”
Frese eventually became the sole owner of Clayton’s Coffee Shop, and made sure to stay loyal to its 1940s and 1950s nostalgic style that has been a hit with its steady clientele. But Clayton’s “had someone else’s thumbprint.” Now, crediting her recently solidified business partnership with her fiance, Andrew, and a longtime employee and current Chief Financial Officer, Chelsea, Frese is ready and eager to expand in both professional and creative directions. “I get to create this. It’s more my expression.”
Both restaurants are currently hiring for several staff positions on Craigslist and Indeed. Operating hours for the Bakery & Bistro are anticipated to be 6:00 a.m. to midnight.