Clauss Bakery and Cafe

December 31, 2012

Clauss Bakery and Cafe in Rensselaer, Indiana

Clauss Bakery and Cafe in Rensselaer, Indiana

When traveling the interstate highways, dining choices are pretty much limited to fast-food franchises and truck stops. We prefer to off-ramp toward small towns in search of eateries that cater to local folk. That’s how we found Clauss Bakery & Cafe in Rensselaer, Indiana, about mid-way between Chicago and Indianapolis. It’s a route we drive a few times a year.

As you head into town on Washington Street, Clauss’ storefront is on the main square across from the courthouse. The interior is reminiscent of a farmhouse kitchen, with linoleum floors, laminated tabletops and the comforting aroma of fresh bread. The bakery cases near the front door are filled with sweet temptations, practically insuring you won’t resist taking home a treat or two.

The menu is comprised of light fare, mostly sandwiches, soups and pastries. Daily specials are handwritten on a whiteboard. At noon, there’s a salad bar, and on Thursdays, a baked potato bar. Bakery selections include bread, dinner rolls, cookies, cakes and pie. Soup and pulled pork are available in bulk. Everything is made daily for eating in or for carrying out. Prices are very reasonable–sandwiches are in the $5 range.

The bakery, a town mainstay for decades, was struggling back in December 2004 when Rex and Tammy Clauss decided to buy it. Rex had been working in the insurance industry and was burned out. They didn’t have any experience running a bakery, but no matter. They hired a former employee to teach them.

These days Rex does all the baking. He also makes a tangy vegetable beef soup on Fridays. He starts at midnight and works until dawn, when he goes home to get a little sleep. Then he returns to greet the day’s customers. Tammy keeps the books, and she also decorates wedding and graduation cakes.

The hours are hard, but the customers are wonderful, Tammy told us during a recent visit. Some even keep Rex company during his overnight shifts. Insomniacs are always welcomed with coffee and a chat.

My favorites: Egg salad on white bread followed by coconut cream pie. And another pie to go.

Hours: Weekdays 5 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday 5 a.m.-11 a.m.

Clauss Bakery and Cafe

110 W. Washington Street

Rensselaer, Indiana 47978