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It is 4:30 p.m. The Black Cat Bakery is closing in a half an hour and you can see desperation in the cashier's eyes. "Pick one," she says, beaming, sweeping a heavily ringed hand rapidly over a plate of cranberry-orange muffins. You ask for a cookie. "Great! Would you like some bread with that?" You imagine yourself at a drive-through in carb-loader heaven. Some bread, to pair with a muffin and a cookie? That's like White Castle offering a rib roast to accompany a few sliders, but perhaps you might as well. After all, every day of the week, beginning an hour before closing, baked goods at the Black Cat sell for half their normal retail price. It's almost cheaper to buy than not to buy.
This is not to imply that the Black Cat does bad business, baking so many breads and pastries that it can't possibly move them all without an end-of-day close-out spectacular. No, no, no. We might recommend that the store consider staying open until 7 or at least 6 during the week -- so working stiffs might make it through traffic in time to get a little cut-rate bread for dinner -- but that's a very small complaint.
The hours-old wares are great and plentiful: crumb-crowned coffeecakes, scones with orange peel and golden raisins, croissants, baguettes, rustic loaves, tart shells slathered with lemon cream and topped with blackberries, and those notorious chocolate cupcakes pretending to be mere muffins--all available for the cost of a loaf of Wonderbread. During the weekdays, duck in between 4 and 5 p.m.; on Saturday and Sunday, come between 5 and 6 p.m. And be sure to bring a big box.