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Bon Fresco, Owner Gerald Koh's Mini-Chain Now in Several Maryland Locations


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Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery opened a few weeks ago 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. 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 Savage's 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. 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. $6.50 was pricey for a sandwich without even chips, but I think Bon Fresco is worth the money. Plus, I have heard that Bon Fresco has already started adding some side salads to their sandwiches, and the owner has told people that they're working on a recipe for potato chips that they'll make there.

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