WASHINGTON — If I'm enjoying lunch in Washington on a cold wintry day it means I'm eating at the Denhart Baking Co. The restaurant occupies a corner spot on the square, a structure built in 1874 that once housed the Washington State Bank.

History abounds at this spot but you'll have to do your own research on that (check out the restaurant's website at www.cornerstoneinnbnb.com/denhart.php). We're here to talk about food.

The place closes at 2 p.m. every day, so it's just breakfast and lunch at Denhart. But that's enough.

We stopped by in the afternoon, in time to order some loaded french fries ($7.99) as an appetizer. The fries were fresh and hot and topped with cheese sauce and bacon bits. They disappeared quickly if that tells you anything.

I decided on the quintessential quiche ($8.99), a slice of quiche along with a cup of chicken fiesta soup. The soup was hot and flavorful with beans and other vegetables but not too spicy.

The accompanying quiche was fresh and delicious. I used a little Tabasco sauce to bring it to life and accepted the onions of my dining partner from her pork tenderloin ($8.99). That tenderloin is a Denhart specialty, by the way. I got a taste of it and it was truly distinctive — tender is in the name, but as anyone who's run into crusty pork platters in the past knows that isn't always the case. Sometimes people get fixated on the size of the sandwich instead of the taste. At Denhart, it's delicious. The only thing missing were the pickles, a situation I'm sure our attentive server would have remedied but we didn't bother.

The lunch menu isn't big, but it's easy to remember. The chicken salad sandwich, the french dip, the Reuben and the BBQ pulled pork are all $8.99. There are also a host of burgers available ($8.49 to $9.49) along with a horseshoe sandwich ($9.49) served on Texas toast with your choice of meat and then smothered in cheese.

Breakfast is another big item here but we'll leave that dissertation for another time. Suffice it to say that you won't go wrong if you drop by in the morning. Just make sure you're hungry.

There's nothing worse than a lukewarm cup of poorly brewed coffee when you're at a restaurant but, fear not, you won't be disappointed at Denhart. The coffee ($1.95) was hot and plentiful.

Now you'd assume that a reviewer worth his salt would sample a baked good at a place with baking company in its name. I did — but it came with my quiche, a muffin of the chocolate chip variety. I don't know that I had quiche, soup and chocolate together before but all went well.

All's likely to go well for you, too, if you're looking for a square meal.



Denhart Baking Co & Restaurant

101 Washington Square, Washington

(309) 444-2200


Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Ratings: **** is best

Food: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Atmosphere: ****

Lunch menu: Appetizers, $6.49 to $9.49; soup, $3.49 to $4.50; salads, $9.99 to $12.99; sandwiches, $7.99 to $9.49; burgers, $8.49 to $9.49; beverages, $1.95 to $2.50.

Additional: Credit cards accepted, take out available.

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.