Good Eats in the Southeast
A Union couple switches up their lifestyle, and everyone passing through town benefits.
Photographed by Carla Witt Ford
Sometimes it’s in offhand comments that people find their true callings.
Not too many years ago, Todd Baker was teaching science and math at a Christian academy in Monroe County, and his wife, Korie, was homeschooling their brood of four. Todd baked pastries in the evenings for stress relief. Sometimes when Korie cooked up something especially tasty for dinner, they’d joke, “Are we going to serve this in our bakery when we have one?”
“We didn’t really think we’d have one,” Korie says.
But about three years ago, a house her family owned in Union needed a tenant. “Things started clicking into place,” Todd says. He and Korie remodeled part of the house as a cozy café space with outdoor seating overlooking quiet, tree-lined Main Street. And in January 2015, they opened Nanny’s Bakery and Cafe, named for Todd’s grandmother.
Nanny’s menu would read as eclectic even in the state’s larger towns. “We usually take a Southern classic and twist it,” says Korie, who handles most of the savory side. “Mac and cheese might be a special, but it’s jacked up”—one Facebook post advertised a Baked Pizza Mac ’n’ Cheese with pepperoni, tomatoes, herbs, and lots of extra cheese. Most popular on the regular menu is Korie’s house-made chicken salad seasoned with basil and lemon, while the most popular special is the meatloaf grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, that’s meatloaf in a grilled cheese sandwich.
Among their soups, the minestrone and clam chowder always bring customers calling. And Todd says Korie’s creole dishes have gotten good response: shrimp and grits, gumbo, shrimp etouffee. They also do a muffuletta sandwich on homemade bread.
Pastries, for the most part, are Todd’s side of the house. A self-taught pastry chef, he bakes all of the buttery, flaky favorites: cream cheese danish, scones, cinnamon rolls. And he likes a challenge: “Croissants are labor intensive, but I really do enjoy making them. And napoleons.” In February, he was working on tortes. He gets up at 4:30 to start all this baking—luckily, they live next door.
Nanny’s offers cupcakes and decorated cakes, too, including wedding cakes. Those are mostly Korie’s productions. They get a lot of love on Nanny’s Facebook page, which has more than 1,000 likes in a town of well under 600.
The Bakers’ four children are now ages 7 through 16, and they’re still homeschooled. They help out after closing and sometimes during the work day, especially their 14-year-old daughter. The family hopes one day to buy the house where Nanny’s is located and live in the building with the restaurant.
As the restaurant has taken root in Union, Todd and Korie are happy with their change of lifestyle. “We like working together,” Todd says. “Korie really loves people through her food, and we like people to feel like they’re at home. That’s our style.” 541 Main Street, Union, 304.772.5430, “Nanny’s Bakery & Cafe” on Facebook