Red Bandana Bakery Opens in Bethesda with Gluten-Free Treats

Red Bandana Bakery Opens in Bethesda with Gluten-Free Treats

Bakery sells pies, brownies and other products, including vegan and dairy-free goods

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The Red Bandana Bakery opens this week at 8218 Wisconsin Ave. Photos: Joe Zimmermann

Red Bandana Bakery doesn’t look much different from a standard bakery at first.

The Wisconsin Avenue store has a red-and-white aesthetic with small tables, a sofa and a counter filled with brownies, pies and other sweets.

One distinction, though, is that none of the items is made with gluten, a grain protein that’s typically a key ingredient in baked goods but that many people avoid for health or medical reasons.

“I think there are more and more people with sensitivities,” Jaimie Mertz, the owner, said. “Why shouldn’t everybody have cake?”

The Red Bandana Bakery is holding a soft opening this week before its grand opening Saturday. Located in the former space of the Flaxella Café, the shop sells baked goods, as well as soups, salads and sandwiches.

All of the food is gluten-free, and many items are available without dairy or as vegan options, though some salads and sandwiches come with chicken, Mertz said. Other items are low-fat and low-sugar.

Mertz, a graduate of L’Acadamie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, isn’t new to baking in the area. Since 2014, she’s sold cookies, breads, cupcakes and other items at the Bethesda Central Farm Market, a tradition she expects to continue.

A gluten-free, dairy-free "Bonfire Brownie" with marshmallows and crumbs of graham cracker—gluten-free graham cracker, that is.

Vegan meringue cookies made with chickpea water (left) and mini gluten-free pumpkin and pecan pies.

Mertz initially planned to open the Red Bandana Bakery last fall, then pushed the opening to the summer. She said various complications held her back, largely due to unexpected “surprises behind every wall” in the old building, including asbestos, lead paint and a complicated grease trap system they had to replace. County permitting caused some delays, but mostly in the last few weeks, she said.

“It’s taken a lot longer than I thought it would,” she said. “But one silver lining is I got to decorate exactly as I wanted to and I love it.”

She said it felt surreal to finally be open. She is glad she’s ready for the holiday season. She’s already getting busy with pies for Thanksgiving, which are available for $30.

The bakery is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, though it closes later on Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

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