Some days all it takes is chocolate banana bread in the shape of a brontosaurus to put a pep in your morning step. Or a four-layer sponge cake topped with mascarpone whip and fresh daisies to say “Happy birthday” or “I’m thinking of you.”

That’s the idea behind The Dinersaur bakery in Phoenix, which has been Olivia Girard’s project since 2015.

After her career in printmaking took a turn, she started baking bread at home and taking sandwich orders online. After baking in restaurant kitchens and selling pastries from other storefronts, on Saturday, Sept. 11, the self-taught baker is opening her own brick-and-mortar shop.

The experience is “totally surreal,” Girard said. “I’m flying a spaceship and trying not to crash it.” 

Located on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and Thomas Road, The Dinersaur will offer seasonal cakes and pies along with some of Girard’s most popular pastries.

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From sandwich deliveries to cake shop

Girard credits her partner for coming up with the name “Dinersaur,” even before she started baking. They had been tossing around ideas for business ventures when the name popped up.

After finishing her second degree at Arizona State University, in printmaking, Girard had planned to purchase her own printing press. When plans fell through, she began baking bread at home, starting with sourdough. The bread she enjoyed making the most were potato buns, so she launched a sandwich delivery business that she ran using her own car.

The sandwich options typically included cold-cuts — such as salami with strawberry, basil and black pepper — and vegetarian options like roasted broccoli salad. At the business’s height, she estimated she was delivering about 200 sandwiches a week.

In 2018, she began transitioning to pastries while working for Futuro, a coffee shop in downtown Phoenix. Later, she did a one-year stint in the pastry department of Chris Bianco’s restaurants.

“I think what I really enjoyed about baking pastries is the process of it,” Girard said. “I personally don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I do really love the process, the kind of science of baking, decorating things, building this aesthetic.”

For most of the pandemic, Girard baked for The Dinersaur out of Restaurant Progress’ kitchen space.

One of her creations from Futuro, the custard churrover — a baked popover rolled in cinnamon sugar and filled with vanilla custard — has become a Dinersaur staple.

What to expect at The Dinersaur bakery

Peruse The Dinersaur’s Instagram or website for a glimpse of Girard’s aesthetic: A soft and warm color palette; uniform cookie letters with a round, usually lowercase, serif font; minimalist decorations with a preference for natural cake toppings, such as berries, banana slices and real flowers.

“A lot of my memories of pastries or sweet stuff was birthday parties, those kinds of nostalgic grocery store cakes, which definitely have their place,” Girard said. “I definitely think our products are certainly not as sweet. It’s nice to maybe push that visually. There’s not those really stiff buttercreams. Some of the aesthetic plays into the flavors of what you expect from the piece, I guess.”

Employees will wear masks and customers are encouraged, though not mandated, to mask up too, she said.

What’s on The Dinersaur menu

The shop will serve ready-made pastries, such as custard churrovers, banana bread, key lime pies, banana cream pies, chocolate chip cookies, pecan tea cookies and orange juice lemonade sold by the quarter gallon.

There will be single-layer cakes on rotation, such as poppyseed cake with blackberries and thyme whipped cream. And she might also bring back the sandwiches on occasion.

Custom cake orders will likely become available in October, after she’s had the chance to settle in, Girard said. Advance orders will be for pick-up only.

Girard said some of her most memorable custom orders include a birthday cake for someone’s 100th birthday. For another family, she baked the baby shower cake, plus cakes for the first, second, third and fourth birthdays.

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“I feel honored and humbled,” Girard said. “I feel so grateful to be a little piece of such a big celebration.”

People can also find The Dinersaur’s single-serve pastries at First Place Coffee truck. And, starting Sept. 14, Nelson’s Meat + Fish market in Phoenix will stock The Dinersaur’s salt and vinegar chocolate chip cookies, Girard said.

The Dinersaur is scheduled to open Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10-11.

Details: 1339 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. thedinersaur.com.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and Instagram.

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