Junk Food's Classy Turn

Sharlena Fong's semisweet return to Downtown

You might not recall her name, but if you have ever had a maple-bacon doughnut at Nickel Diner, you know Sharlena Fong's work.

Fong, who left the Diner last year, is slinging pastries in Downtown once again, at the just-opened Semi Sweet Bakery. She's not making doughnuts, but Fong is offering wonderfully salty maple-bacon sticky buns (pictured; $3).

Playful riffs on junk food continue to be Fong's strong suit, including strawberry Pop Pies ($2) that so strongly recall a Pop-Tart, we're temped to throw one in the toaster to see what happens. There are Ding-a-Lings ($2.50) too, chocolate-coated mini-cakes that are an honest, uncloying homage to a Hostess Ding Dong. The red velvet version had us wondering if we'd made a grave mistake in giving up on gas-station pastries.

Even an elegant-looking slice of pound cake ($2) has a touch of the convenience store, as that hint of citrus isn't derived from locally grown heirloom lemons. Instead, the batter is made with 7 Up.

Semi Sweet has plans for late-night hours, which, considering it shares a block with Las Perlas and Cole's, has us certain that Ding-a-Lings will soon be a favorite post-bar snack.

Semi Sweet Bakery, 105 E. 6th St., Downtown; 213-228-9975 or semisweetbakery.com