Sticky Fingers Baking Company
2016 E. Main Street

The sign outside Sticky Fingers Baking Company reads, “Sorry, we’re open …,” offering just a hint to the whimsy and personality behind the quaint little bakery in midtown Ventura. A retro vibe dominates the shop, with a 1950s-inspired logo — showing an apron-adorned lady staring at her sticky, dough-covered hands — that harks back to a different era. Whimsical signs are spattered throughout the tiny space and even the red glittery vinyl chairs ooze personality.

Yet while the style says retro, when you peek inside the bakery case, what you will find is a very modern-day selection of breakfast treats and dessert sweets, modern because the majority of them are either vegan or gluten-free, terms that would have sounded like a foreign language to that stereotypical 1950’s housewife. Behold, this tiny little bakery just may be the ultimate haven for those looking for vegan or gluten-free foods, and even for those who aren’t.

When asked about the inspiration behind the vegan and gluten-free treats, owner Katherine Glassman (who owns Sticky Fingers with her husband, Marty) says that being dairy-free herself and having a daughter with autism most definitely inspired the menu items. Studies have shown that a gluten-free diet can be beneficial to those with autism. Yet, she explains, there are still plenty of dairy-eating, flour-consuming folks who come in every day for an espresso or for one of the multitude of goodies available.

Now, for those of you who are vegan or avoid gluten, I know I have your attention. But for those of you who are not, take it from an equal opportunity eater: at Sticky Fingers you won’t even miss your gluten or dairy. You might even surprise yourself and like the coffee cake muffin better without the gluten.

Having fallen hard for the treats, I’ve been trying to become a regular over the past few weeks. Of all that I have tried, the standouts are many. Take, for example, the caramel sticky buns that are made every other Sunday morning. Hot out of the oven, buttery, salty and sweet, it’s no wonder that there is often a line of customers waiting for them to come out of the oven. They are large yet light, and somehow not overly sweet because of the saltiness of the caramel sauce. Think of them as the anti-cinnabon.

The same bit of restraint and balance is apparent in the chocolate-chunk scone. Full of chunks of semi-sweet chocolate and finished with a sprinkle of rock sugar, it still tastes like breakfast (not like the cookie-like scones you find at many coffee shops). The vegan piña colada muffin is another memorable item. It is chewy and doughy, like a perfectly dense dinner roll, yet infused with the sweetness of pineapple and the nuttiness of toasted coconut. And finally, that gluten-free coffee cake muffin. With a tender crumb and a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping, it’s even better than my favorite gluten-heavy sour cream coffee cake recipe.

When it comes to cookies, there are gluten-free French macaroons in flavors like rose and violet lavender. As you bite into them, the slight crunch of the outer shell of meringue gives way to an almost melting center that marries well with the sweet cream filling. The colors are beyond vibrant (think dark purple, fuchsia and bright orange), and when wrapped in a gift bag and tied with a bow, they make the perfect gift.

If you’re in the mood for a big chewy cookie, you will find plenty at Sticky Fingers. As he finished his first bite of a ginger molasses cookie, my son exclaimed, “It tastes like Christmas!” With spice in the front and sweetness in the back, this is a cookie to be remembered. As we tasted the vegan blood-orange chocolate cookie, it reminded me of the foil-wrapped chocolate oranges of my childhood. And the vegan and gluten-free chocolate peppermint cookie that we meant to eat only half of? Well, yeah, it didn’t stand a chance.

We also enjoyed the Belgian liege waffle: made to order and finished with a dusting of powdered sugar before being tucked into a pocket of French newspaper inspired paper — to be eaten on the go, as they are often eaten in Europe. These well-crafted waffles (often made with yeast, bread flour and a decadent amount of butter) manage to be both crunchy and chewy at the same time; yet for me the price tag of $6.50 seemed a bit steep.

As for beverages, Sticky Fingers offers espresso drinks only, no brewed coffee, and a small selection of bottled drinks in the cooler. On one visit, I did enjoy creamy and rich hot chocolate made with Ghirardelli chocolate. The only downside was that it was lukewarm instead of hot.

No matter your dietary preferences, culinary tendencies or the size of your sweet tooth, Sticky Fingers just may become your new favorite bakeshop. And at the least, their treats are sure to conjure up some delicious childhood memories.

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