Sweet Crimes Bakery Open on Pennsylvania Avenue

Gluten Free Goods that Taste 'Like You Remember It' the Standard

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Alex packages a gluten-free pie at Sweet Crimes Bakery (1238 Pennsylvania Ave SE). E. O’Gorek/CCN

Keri Lijinsky has been working on two big projects; both are set to launch at the end of November.

The founder of Sweet Crimes gluten-free bakery, (1238 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) is expecting her first child Nov. 28. The bakery opened for holiday hours  to the public starting Monday, Nov. 22.

Clusters of white bags stamped with the Sweet Crimes logo glowed in the window, online orders fulfilled and waiting for pick up  customers waited for coffee and inquired about bread, a hot sell at the bakery (get there at opening)!

A former public health consultant, Lijinsky returned from assignment abroad with USAID in 2013 to focus on improving her own health. Discovering that she was allergic to gluten, she set out on a mission: to bake without compromise, starting with a gluten-free wedding cake for her mother. After a few years in her own kitchen, Lijinsky’s move to Union Kitchen food accelerator provided the impetus to determine how to make her work into a business.

After four years of research and experimentation, Lijinsky has created a proprietary gluten-free flour blend. She’s learned that customers want to buy their gluten-free baking fresh, rather than at a grocery store or baking it themselves.

Gluten free —but you can’t tell— that’s the standard at Sweet Crimes.
Dana hand a coffee to a customer at Sweet Crimes. The gluten-free bakery serves coffee, pastries, breads —and lunch items. E.O’Gorek/CCN

That’s how the dream of the Sweet Crimes bakery was born. From the window in the brightly-colored storefront views open onto the street, affording glimpses of adorable pets coming in and out of nearby Capitol Hill Animal Clinic.

Inside, baked goods on offer include the cakes that set Lijinsky on the baking path, as well as pies, award-winning donuts, breads, buns and dry mix for the ambitious. There are also some surprises: Katja, a baker from Georgia, has mastered a gluten-free Khachapuri, the Georgian cheese bread, and staff are working on the perfect gluten free empanada.

The shop offers coffee and pastries, but also sandwiches and soups, catering to a lunch crowd that rarely finds their needs accommodated.

Sweet Crimes bakery (1238 Pennsylvania Ave SE). E. O’Gorek/CCN
Seasonal treats at Sweet Crimes. E.O’Gorek/CCN

Lijinsky sees the shop as an extension of her training. While she loves the art of presentation, she’s drawn to the science of experimentation, of determining the precise alchemy to make a gluten-free la leche cake.

It’s about making people feel good, she said, both in terms of their physical health but also their emotional needs. Children on a gluten-free diet want to enjoy the same cookies as the rest of the family, she said, without it tasting like cardboard.

Food is the source of emotional memory, Lijinsky adds. Getting it right brings people to a place of comfort and happiness. “They want it to taste like they remember it,” said Lijinsky. “That’s the standard, and that’s what they deserve.”

Sweet Crimes (1238 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) debuts with limited holiday hours Nov. 22-25. They’re open Wednesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday (Thanksgiving) 9 a.m. to noon, but are closed Friday; they reopen Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.]

Eventually, they will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day –but there’s alot to adjust to, so stay updated on instagram: @eatsweetcrimesgf. Order online sweetcrimes.com

The Hill Rag is profiling local shops in the lead-up to Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27. That date is set aside to celebrate the contribution of smaller businesses to the economy and job creation —and to encourage people to ‘Shop Small’ instead of making purchases at large online and big box stores.