Monday, June 29, 2009

Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery in Columbia


Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery has opened in Columbia and brought sandwiches and bread that rise immediately into my favorites in Howard County.

Great ingredients. It couldn't be more simple, but it feels less and less common to find delicious food that tastes like someone was paying attention. Certainly rarer at a casual sandwich joint -- where the chains make their money with interchangeable ingredients.

Bon Fresco's sandwiches are exceptional. Thick $6.50 sandwiches that each have several great ingredients. Thick slices of real roasted pork loin with grilled squash and a spicy sauce. A pile of salami that looks more like a gourmet deli than a sandwich shop, topped with

green-leaf lettuce and cream cheese. Cream cheese? We would never put cream cheese on salami, but Bon Fresco offers this kind of inspiration in everything from tuna to turkey, prosciutto to grilled vegetables. These are sandwiches with real flavors. Each ingredient stood out, and it came together with the beauty of Thanksgiving leftovers -- a simple sandwich made scrumptious because someone spent an entire day cooking the parts.

Of course, great sandwiches start with great bread, and Bon Fresco's baking is every bit as attractive as its meals. In the open kitchen, Bon Fresco bakes baguettes, ciabatta, focaccia and other loaves.  (Update: They added an Italian bread in 2010.)  You won't buy better bread in Howard County. This is the bread that I love -- crisp crust, light interior. They're sandwich breads so they don't have filings or flavors. We ate two ciabattas right out of the oven. So hot that the crust cracked rather than tore, and we juggled pieces as we drove home and wolfed them down. We brought home a separate baguette, and that bread holds it own with the local favorite Bonaparte Bread for sandwiches and French toast. Again, these are sandwich breads so the inside is more perfect white loaf than the famous, yeasty French bread of 2941, but they're spectacular warm and worth the trip over anything that I have bought in a supermarket.


This is a great place for lunch or to just pick up bread to bring home for dinner. Check out the salads. There is a rotating selection, and the Israeli coucous and the curried chicken salad looked spectacular when I visited. (Update: Try the potato salad!)  When a place pays attention to ingredients like Bon Fresco, simple dishes like tomato and mozzarella become worth a few minutes' drive.

Bon Fresco is just off Snowden River Parkway on Oakland Mills Road. Like so many Columbia joints, you can't see it from the main road, and I hope that people will search it out. As Jason1 noted on Chowhound, $6.50 is pricey for a sandwich without even chips, but I think Bon Fresco is worth the money. This is the kind of place that I hope would become a chain, and it has the clean, modern look of the renovated Maiwand Kabob, the perfect example of how to expand without losing the magic that made the first store so memorable.

(Update: Try the potato salad as your side.  It's very mild -- halfway to mashed potatoes from potato salad.  Just potatoes and something creamy, maybe a touch of vinegar.)

(Update:  Remember that you can make your own sandwiches.  I posted in January 2011 about how I added roasted vegetables and tapanade to the Maple Lawn turkey sandwich.  That's ideal.)

If you are looking for other options, check out my post about bakeries in Howard County or about the Pepperjack Deli in Laurel, which also serves good sandwiches. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.


Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery
6945 Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21045
410-290-3434

NEAR: Bon Fresco is in the shopping center on Oakland Mills Road at Snowden River Parkway. The center with Race Pace bike shop and a Ledo Pizza overlooks Snowden, but you need to turn onto Oakland Mills at the intersection and turn right into the shopping center. Bon Fresco is in the out-building just to the right of the entrance.

Bon Fresco on Urbanspoon

26 comments:

Jack said...

Thanks HowChow. My manager, Gerald Koh is currently working on a recipe for potato chips to serve with our sandwiches. Stop in and say hello to Andrew or I anytime we're working. The place is clean, the food is all made from scratch and Mr. Koh knows what he's doing.

Jack said...

When did you come in and eat? Were you there on Saturday? I was working that day.

pizzablogger said...

The bread in the main picture looks very good. You can clearly see that the crumb on the sandwich bread is very nice....large, irregularly shaped air holes always look good! I agree with your assessment of ciabatta bread...its best out of the oven (you could argue the only way to eat ciabatta is while it is warm and still has the snap to the outter crust). Years ago while working for Uptown Bakers in DC, we would frequently wait for the ciabatta to come out of the oven. I'd often have some EVOO, fresh mozzarella and Chianti Classico Riserva from the Italian deli next door at the ready when it came out of the oven at shift's end. Mouthwateringly good. $6.50 for a sandwich seems like a fair price if they are brining the goods. I'm definitely gonna try it out. Thanks for the tip!

pizzablogger said...

Jack, you have one request for freshly sliced, home made potato chips cut a tad on the thick side and definitely cooked until they are quite done and have crispy brown areas to them....a sprinkling of some high quality Sicilian sea salt and, better yet, also some good freshly cracked black pepper added and you have a variant of adult crack!

Stephanie T said...

After the glowing reviews (fresh bread! unrefrigerated tomatoes!), I had to check out Bon Fresco. I stopped in after work yesterday for the proscuitto sandwich and left with not only that, but a sample dish of salads (curry chicken salad and the Israeli couscous which I'd been eyeing the whole time in there) to try out. The sandwich was fantastic. The bread absolutely made it: crispy on the outside, pillowy inside with cavernous bubbles. I saved the salads for this morning's breakfast, and they were on par with the sandwich. I work not too far from there, and I'll definitely drag a few co-workers along with me for lunch.

As a bonus (it was like the HowChow rookie all-stars or something), Marcia from Oh, What a Cake! was at the shop, too, and we talked a bit about her business.

And I agree with pizzablogger: those chips sound fantastic. Sweet potato chips and fries have become pretty universal lately, though... some thick-cut, well-done, salted sweet potato chips? I'd buy it.

Sue D said...

I've already been twice and love this place too! Gerald has been giving away free cookies and you can tell he is still willing to adapt the menu to what people like. There is even talk of using flat bread for sandwiches in the future. Hope this place makes it--tell your friends!

Lyss said...

I stopped by this afternoon to pick up sandwiches for my husband and I. It was difficult to choose as the entire menu sounds so delicious! We both enjoyed our sandwiches - the chicken sandwich on ciabatta & chicken picante sandwich on baguette. We also shared a lentil soup. The chicken sandwich had caramelized onions and sundried tomato basil. The chicken picante had grilled veggies but was not as spicy (not spicy AT ALL) as they advertised, but still tasty. Gerald was very generous and not only gave me a sample of gazpacho (which I didn't expect to like found the bright, fresh taste very nice!) and large samples of several of the "sides" (curried chicken salad, israeli couscous w/ chickpeas, roasted veggies, etc). My favorite was the curried chicken salad. I also enjoyed a free cookie - 2 soft and decadant chocolate cookies sandwiching a strawberry mascarpone filling... YUM!! Gerald mentioned how he prefers to keep his recipes simple and healthy, which is big in my book. He only offers red wine vinagrette & balsamic vinagrette as dressing (fine by me) and all ingredients are simple, fresh, and of high quality. I will definitely be back!

Trixie B said...

In my opinion you must at least meet the chip standard of LeeLynns on 108. Their chips are cooked and seasoned perfectly unlike others I have had (Victoria's) They are so special, I scoop the leftovers into my to go container and when home put them in a zip bag to share at work. Folks love the days after I go to LeeLyns. Lots of luck Bon Fresco. I look forward to trying.

fultie said...

no doubt i will be returning to bon fresco soon, as i tried it for the first time today and was very impressed. i ordered the pollo sandwich, which comes with fresh mozarella, tapenade spread, grilled veggies and chicken, and that ciabatta bread. this is an awesome sandwich - it was incredibly tasty. thank you mr. howchow for scouring the county and sharing your finds!

Anonymous said...

That was pretty AMAZING!!! My husband and I stopped by this evening after reading a few reviews, and this place did not disappoint. The vegetarian selection was exceptional (more than the requisite single entrée). The bread on the sandwich was crisp/ mouth wateringly perfect. I would go here again. I can't believe that I didn't notice this place was there before.

Jeremy said...

Visited for the first time today. I tried the Fresco sandwich. I've been partial to veggie sandwiches lately, and this one was excellent. It wasn't spicy like the menu claimed, but otherwise I really enjoyed it. I was disappointed that they have no kids items. I'd suggest taking food for the kids if you're bringing the family. Also for a gourmet sandwich shop I was disappointed at the drink selection. Just a regular fountain soda machine and regular iced tea (which was not working). I'd suggest adding some gourmet drink options, for example at Potbelly I can get some nice fancy iced teas or unusual sodas to go with my sandwich. The food was really good, though, and I look forward to visiting again.

Bon Fresco said...

A little late, but thanks to the folks at, 'howchow' for being one of the first to leave us great reviews! Being a new business, we are always open to comments and feedback. If you have any additional questions or comments please feel free to contact us at: bonfresco@gmail.com

Don't forget to follow us on twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/bonfresco
for updates and specials!

Hope to see you all soon!

dailygoods said...

loveee bon fresco! I went there with my sister one day for lunch and we both devoured our delicious sandwiches. I loved how different the side options were as well. we also picked up a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven that day which was actually more like a cinnamon croissant and it was DELICIOUS!

Kristi said...
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Kristi said...

My friend and I had dinner a week or so ago and it did not disappoint! We always pick new place from HowChow every time we get together and I was excited for BF! I got the chicken sandwich with the caramelized onions. I'm not a big fan of basil, so Mr. Koh (I think that was him) recommended another spicy spread to go with the sandwich, which was awesome. Mr. Koh recommended the ciabatta, which came right out of the oven. I was so impressed with the food that I had called my husband to see what he would like (he went with the corned beef, which was great). This is a great sandwich place and the quality of ingredients are definitely better than Panera. The place was clean, the staff was incredibly nice and the food was delicious!

Anonymous said...

We tried to go to Bon Fresco this evening a bit before 8. Even though the sign on the door said that they are open until 9, the door was locked and even though a lady who worked there saw me, she turned and went the other way. They might have the best sandwiches, etc, but, if you can't get in, nobody will ever know. It onlyh takes one experience lik this to have a lack of customers.

Anonymous said...

We tried Bon Fresco for the first time about three months ago. We have since been back about two dozen times. The bread is wonderful; the ingredients fresh, and Gerald and his crew work hard to keep customers happy. It isn't very convenient for us -- we live in Ellicott City, 20 minutes from the restaurant -- but it is well worth it.

Anonymous said...

i tried bon fresco for the first time last night for dinner. they were out of potato salad and tomatoes by the time we got there at 6:30, which was a disappointment (my husband wanted to try a caprese-type sandwich). we both ended up getting picante sandwiches. my husband got a bowl of chicken noodle soup, as well, and i tried the cous cous salad. the sandwiches were served on ciabatta, which was delicious but very hard to eat. it was very crisy, hard to chew with all the sandwich stuffing and cut up the inside of our mouths. i would try again with flatbread or foccacia. the soup was chock full of roasted chicken and very good. i loved the cous cous. it was sweet and vinegary with surprising ingredients like apricots and olives. the lentil salad looked great. we will be back again to try more from the menu. the owner was very friendly and

fultie said...

bon fresco cinnamon rolls put cinnabon to shame. what an excellent baked good.

LeLe said...
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LeLe said...

Bon Fresco is now my favorite sandwich shop. Joe's Deli was at the top of my list until I discovered it. Better prices than Joe's...sorry Joe. I'm one of those that walks in and gazes in awe at the menu thinking "woooowwwww, how do I choose?" and I take forever and ask a lot of questions. Salami & cheese, awesome! Cream cheese makes everything special. Brie, I'll never ever turn down brie...and this sandwich was oh-so-delicious. Though the lovely woman at the counter suggested it's best when eaten in, alas I had to take it to go and rush back to work. The bread was still toasty, and the cheese was still gooey. And the Grilled Vegetable platter...so many delicious treats in one dish! Garlicky delicious hummus, creamy fresh mozzarella, tapenade, fresh greens, perfectly grilled veggies, Israeli cous-cous (lentils also a choice) and a huge fresh warm crusty ciabatta roll. After eating that for lunch, I wasn't hungry for dinner. No joke. I didn't eat dinner that night! I am in love with Bon Fresco.

p.s. The potato salad is, I think, my favorite ever!

LeLe said...

Just found out Bon Fresco now has a website! www.bonfresco.com

It seems to still be udner construction in some areas, but this is very exciting nonetheless!

1ltkls said...

I love this place. I came for the bread and I've been back, and back, and back. Even though rolls are not on the menu, I've called ahead and asked them to make them three times now and have been amazed each time. Ciabatta and French Bread rolls with great crust, like you can't get anywhere else in HoCo, and a light airy inside. The French is lighter, but both really make a meal, just by being there next to, or holding, the main event.

I'll be trying the sandwiches next.

1ltkls said...

Thanks for noting my post. For Thanksgiving, we called two days ahead. After that one day was enough, but it was less an order for rolls than a conversation: "Hey I've really been craving crusty dinner rolls, can you do that? Oh yeah, I guess we sure could, how many do you want, etc." After my previous post, their answer was: "We have caibatta now, come on by." When I got there, and showed me what they called rolls, I realized that I had forgotten to include the modifier "dinner" in my request and what I got was the size of 2 and a half dinner rolls (not coincidentally a perfect size to make a sandwich on. I tore into it on the way back to my office. Just out of the oven goodness!

icolithic said...

Truly a hidden gem in a country not known for its bread. Yeah ... the bread ... it is superb. According to my wife (a Euro Bread Snob), it's the best she's ever had here in the states. The baguettes retain a crisp crust and soft, moist inside that is perfection. The only other place that comes close is Pasta Plus' (In Laurel) Italian loaves.

Not to ignore the sandwiches ... they are of fine quality, and they don't skimp on the filings. The roasted veggies are crisp and their meats are fresh and tasty.

Cate in Columbia said...

LOVE Bon Fresco! I visited on Saturday night- took home some bread. The owner was very happy to hear of the reputation his shop has achieved. I can't wait to go back- hopefully there will be some of the cinnamon buns I've heard so much about!