I’m not sure what’s wrong with my calendar, but it failed to notify me that today, April 26, is National Pretzel Day. That wouldn’t normally be much of a deal in the District, a place not really known for salted sourdough knots outside of our sports arenas, malls, airports and train stations.
Well move over, Auntie Anne, there’s a new pretzel sheriff in town: The Pretzel Bakery, a nugget-sized walk-up on a residential block of the Hill East neighborhood, opened April 21.
“It was just one of those things I was saying for years: ‘You know what would be awesome in D.C.? A pretzel spot,’” said Sean Haney, the bakery’s owner, who turned to pretzel-making when his contract working for a big telecommunications company wasn’t renewed after 12 years.
Haney, 36, toyed around with different pretzel recipes that he would give to his friends, and while his background in restaurant management helps from an operational standpoint, he’s quick to admit, “I had never baked before in my life.”
But you wouldn’t know that from the scents coming from the commercially zoned 400-square foot space on 15th Street SE that was once destined to become a pottery studio. Word has gotten out, too: Haney sold 400 pretzels in two hours during his first day in business (Although remarkably, he hasn’t seen the classic “Pretzel Wagon” episode of the Simpsons).
The entire operation is contained behind a Dutch door with the top half swung open for customers to place walk-up orders. There’s no seating area, and the living room-sized kitchen churns out nothing but soft, salted pretzels ($2 each, three for $5 or $15 a dozen), which you can see Haney twisting, dipping and baking from scratch.
There’s a selection of dips: whole grain or caramel mustard, Nutella and cream cheese are $1 each. Gulden’s spicy and French’s yellow mustard are 50 cents for a dip cup, but they are free to squeeze onto your pretzel as you please.
“[For] every single pretzel that has been sold, I have made the dough, rolled the dough, twisted every pretzel and baked it. It’s like my baby. I’m not ready to hand it over to anyone else as of yet,” Haney says.
The Pretzel Bakery’s hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday Wednesday through Sunday, or until Haney runs out of dough for the day, which has happened a number of times already. Follow the bakery on Twitter to find out when the pretzels are fresh out of the oven.
We picked up a dozen pretzels earlier today and were hooked, our respective National Pretzel Days made. But other than the national pretzel chains, who else in the D.C. area makes a soft pretzel worthy of a national holiday? Let us know in the comments.