You’ll Feel at Home at Karen’s

Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the popularity. The line was going out the door, people crowded in looking for a table, and servers were dashing all over the bakery. It was chaotic; however, the large variety of cakes, donuts, cinnamon rolls, pies, cookies and more instantly attracted my attention.

Karen’s Bakery and Café is the name of this establishment. Located in Old Folsom, the bakery has its own corner just off of Riley Street. Parking is abundant with a parking garage located down the street– but it’s a little bit of a walk. I was lucky enough to find a parking spot just across the street in the bakery’s limited lot.

Outside, Karen’s looks like your average family-owned café, but it was nice to find this place amongst a town full of corporate restaurant chains. The walls are plainly decorated and a few oak tables are on the inside, but most of their seating is located on the front patio.

When I stepped in line, the place was bursting with people– which was no surprise considering it was a Saturday afternoon at 11:45 a.m.– and clearly bordering their maximum occupancy of 67 people. It took about 15 minutes to make my way to the ordering counter, and by that time the breakfast menus had been exchanged for lunch menus. I also took note that as soon as 12:00 p.m. struck, half of the café’s breakfast rush had finished their meals and exited, leaving plenty of seating for myself.

I soon found that when talking to the server, the acoustics were poor, as I competed against 60 people to have my voice heard in a small building. I even had to lean over the counter so that the server could hear my order.

But from that point, the afternoon went smoothly. I ordered the half pound burger with oven-roasted steak fries ($12) which came with a spinach-pesto base, topped with sautéed onions, a lemon-aioli dressing, and your choice of white cheddar cheese or Pt. Reyes blue cheese, all on their freshly-baked ciabatta roll. And because Karen’s is a bakery, I decided to sample some of their desserts; so I ordered Karen’s Famous Bread Pudding ($8,) a freshly baked Snickerdoodle ($1.75) and a freshly-brewed coffee ($2.50).

I took a seat at one of the outdoor tables on the front patio to escape the chaos inside and have my own personal space. My meal arrived within 10 minutes, and clearly, Karen’s is all about the food. The presentation was simplistic, with white plates to give the spotlight entirely to the meal– and the meal deserved it. I can confidently say that the burger was one of the best I’ve ever had. The ingredients were creative, and everything was extremely fresh; as soon as I took a bite, the juice was dripping and the taste was indescribable. Karen’s understandably famous bread pudding was served warm, drenched in a delicious vanilla sauce, and topped with fresh berries. It was the perfect combination of sweetness, texture and vanilla. I was so full by the end of the meal that I couldn’t dare taste the snickerdoodle; however, at the end of the day, it still tasted as if it had come fresh out of the oven and Karen’s Bakery and Café had won me over.

Not only was the food amazing, but I was extremely impressed with the service. The waitresses were available at your call, ready to accommodate any need, even with the large crowd of people flowing through the restaurant. My plates were taken as soon as I was finished, and I quickly understood why the restaurant was so clean.

Despite Karen’s small building, the staff and food make up for it. I highly recommend visiting Karen’s if you’ve never been before.

Menu: There’s something for everyone at Karen’s. There’s a breakfast menu from opening time to 12 p.m. and a lunch menu afterwards. The menu is constantly changing, and I had the choice of choosing from several different types of salads: “The Works” Mixed Green Salad ($9,) The Organic Bloomsdale Spinach ($11,) and The Summer Salad ($11,) and several sandwiches: Surryano Ham Flatbread ($14,) The Heirloom BLT ($13.50,) and the Ham and Cheese Panini ($11.50). There are several other meal choices on the menu for those not wanting a sandwich or salad– including kid’s meals– and a variety of other choices behind a glass display, with dozens of different bakery goods. And if you’re looking for a bakery item not currently available, just ask, and Karen’s will be happy to accommodate you.

Ambiance: While it’s chaotic on the inside, Karen’s front patio is a relaxing place to sit and have a meal. If you’re looking for a quiet place to eat, it’s probably not Karen’s unless you try during week at non-rush hours. The vibe is casual and you’ll find all kinds of people at Karen’s: bikers, families, business-people, etc.

Drinks: There is a wide variety of drinks to choose from including a dozen different types of tea, several choices of coffee, soda, and, of course, alcoholic beverages for your parents.

Is it for you?: If you want an amazing meal experience and are craving a delicious bakery item, Karen’s Bakery is where you want to be.

Forget it if: You don’t like large crowds or want a quick and quiet meal, however, the crowd can be avoided because Karen’s can prepare most meals to go.