Of the many restaurants we’ve lost during the pandemic, the closing of Res Ipsa was particularly disappointing. But the Department of Consolations has come through big with a prized whole-grain replacement for the slender space at 2218 Walnut St.: the first full-time retail storefront and cafe for one of Philly’s most innovative bakers, the Lost Bread Co.

“The running joke is that we were actually lost and you couldn’t find us anywhere,” said owner and baker Alex Bois. “We just needed a [retail] headquarters.”

Bois initially opened his bakery on North Howard Street in 2017 after coming to renown for his bread at High Street on Market. He moved his ovens a year later to a much larger production facility in Craft Hall where Lost Bread has been producing thousands of exceptional loaves each week from fresh-milled local grain for farmers’ markets in Philadelphia and New York, Common Market food boxes, local grocery stores, and prepaid weekly pickups at the Howard Street space. You could still get your fix of his corn-forward Homadama, seedy loaves, pretzel shortbread cookies, milk buns, and focaccia. But it took planning.

The opening of Lost Bread’s Rittenhouse Square cafe in late January has made them far more accessible, an asset Bois has come to value more during the pandemic (”It’s a basic right to have access to healthy and nutritious staples,” he says.) Having a retail storefront with regular hours is part of that plan. Now you can find not only loaves for sale, but shelves of Lost Bread’s fresh-milled flours (plus free sourdough starter), pantry ingredients, and cookie kits of pre-measured dry ingredients to make the amazing smoked malt chocolate chip cookies developed with spelt flour by Bois and pastry chef Lex Ridgeway — an easy score for Valentine’s Day.

» READ MORE: Finding sourdough magic at home with help from Lost Bread’s Alex Bois |

Perhaps just as notable, the Rittenhouse location, which also serves some intriguing sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, is where Lost Bread has finally entered the artisan bagel fray with a kettle to boil and bake on site.

“We’ve taken a deep dive down the bagel hole,” says Bois, who concedes he’d struggled in the past to make bagels with whole grains and the kind of deep fermentation he’s accustomed with his breads. Bois believes he’s now “cracked the code” by using scalded flour porridges of rye, oats, or corn, depending on the bagel, which add depth, shelf life, and a doughy chew.

» READ MORE: These are some of the Philly area’s favorite bagels

They’re definitely unconventional, trending still a shade towards a bready softness — but they’re also wonderfully delicious. The hominy bagel made from the vivid flavors of cracked heirloom corn from Green Meadow Farm is Bois’ bagel-shaped ode to his Homadama loaf; it’s irresistible topped with cream cheese that Lost Bread makes with Lancaster dairy and a touch of goat’s milk. The well-seasoned everything bagel made a fantastic base for the French Kiss, an homage to the beef tongue sandwiches Bois’ French dad used to make, the meat braised to impressive tenderness with leftover whey from cream cheese production and paired with cornichons, whole grain mustard, and pastrami-spiced onions.

Lost Bread’s many other loaves are also used in the excellent sandwiches produced by the cafe’s chef, Amed DeJesus, including a butter-crisped grilled cheese with Pennsylvania Noble cheddar on the maple whole grain with pickled onions and sweet bourbon cherry jam. Chicken salad comes tucked inside the intricately flaky crumb of the bakery’s dark croissants. A cumin- and herb-spiced falafel made from Midnight Turtle black beans was paired with a pepita hummus and pickled beets on an earthy round flatbread and is now one of my favorite falafel riffs in the city. DeJesus’ soulful farro and chicken soup was also memorable.

I haven’t yet had a chance to try Lost Bread’s coffee or breakfast sandwiches, which incorporate whole hog scrapple and lox that are both made in house. And there are also plans soon for pizzas and Northern Michigan-style pasties to look forward to. But this is only the beginning, says Bois.

“We did this in a totally counterintuitive way,” he says. “We built all this back-end capacity to produce a lot of loaves as efficiently as possible, and just lacked a way to [get them to the public.] This cafe is the first step in our next chapter.”

— Craig LaBan

Smoked malt chocolate chip cookie kits, $18.50 (makes 24); bagels $2.75 each ($24 a dozen); loaves $4-$8; sandwiches, $8-$13; can be ordered in advance at Lost Bread Cafe, 2218 Walnut St., 215-309-2773. Open daily until 3 p.m.