A sliced loaf of bread from Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland.
One of Manifest Bread's crusty loaves Credit: Nevin Martell

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It feels like Rick and Tyes Cook have always been together. When they talk, they correct each other, fill in the blanks when one forgets something, add onto each other’s stories. The couple started dating in 2000 while attending C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge; they married in 2014. Now they are co-owners of the area’s best new bakery, Riverdale Park’s Manifest Bread: He does the baking and she handles everything else.

Both are longtime restaurant industry pros. Tyes worked front of the house positions at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Fiola Mare, Del Mar, and Obelisk. Rick had jobs in restaurants growing up but didn’t take the work seriously. That changed when he moved to Savannah, Georgia, and spent time at the historic Gottlieb’s Bakery (which shuttered in 2020). Upon returning to the D.C. area, he got a gig working at BlackSalt under chef Danny Wells, whom Rick credits with his maturation as a chef. “He opened the door for me,” Rick says. “He saw my potential and beat the shit out of me.”

In 2009, Rick became the chef of BlackSalt. After three years, he felt restless, so he went out to Oregon’s Willamette Valley to participate in a wine harvest. When he came home, he worked at the original Addie’s in Rockville until it closed in 2013, then spent time at CityZen under Eric Ziebold and with Frank Ruta at The Grill Room in the Capella Hotel in Georgetown. His last stops before the bakery were a stint at Etto and a five-year stretch at 2 Amys.

Manifest Bread’s roots overlap the couple’s restaurant careers, stretching back five years, when Rick began baking loaves in their modest home in Cottage City, Maryland. They sold them at events at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park, where they started building a following.

A loaf from Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
A loaf from Manifest Bread Credit: Nevin Martell

The pandemic crushed the pop-ups but didn’t diminish their desire to keep baking. Instead, the pair decided they would ramp up their output. “We wore three layers of gloves and four layers of masks so we could deliver the bread to whoever wanted it,” Tyes recalls.

Someone posted about their baked goods on a neighborhood listserv, and business exploded. To keep up with the demand, the duo worked on the dining room table, bought a commercial mixer, and put up shelving. Initially, they could only fit two to four loaves in their oven at once. With each bake taking an hour, turning out batches of 36 loaves could consume the better part of a day. Eventually, they bought a larger oven that could handle six loaves at a time, but the process was still time-consuming.  

On top of handling their burgeoning business and dealing with COVID, they were navigating parenthood. Their son, Oliver, was born in spring 2019; their second son, Max, arrived three years later.

Originally, the couple thought they would open a full-service restaurant, but the pandemic shifted their thinking—a bakery, they decided, would work better. As they looked at real estate, they found themselves drawn to nearby Riverdale Park. Lots of restaurant industry folk were moving to the area, and the couple loved the town center and its weekly farmers market. Plus, there was already a trailblazing restaurant drawing people to the area: barbeque titans 2Fifty. “Respectfully, the prices they charge is—again respectfully—fucking ballsy,” Rick says. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth it. So, we figured that if someone would pay what they charge for brisket, they would definitely pay $10 for a loaf of bread.”

Their friend Kat Hamidi, owner of Capitoline Vermouth, recommended they check out a 1,200-square-foot space in the center of town on Rhode Island Avenue across from the train station. The couple fell hard for it and signed the lease in September 2021. The bakery opened at the beginning of this year. Done up in earth tones, it’s a cozy spot with just a couple of tables and a small counter, and a few tchotchkes on a high shelf, including a classic record from ’70s soft rock band Bread. They sourced handmade clay plates and display dishes from Material Things in North Brentwood.

Most of the loaves Rick turns out are made with house-milled flour (the bakery does use some organic white flour made off-site), the wheat coming from several sources, including Pennsylvania’s Pecan Meadow Farm and Small Valley Milling, and Migrash Farm in Randallstown, Maryland. He has been working with Pecan Meadow since stumbling across their stand at the 14th & U farmers market. Recently, the farmer stopped in to check out the culmination of his journey. “To have him come in was very surreal,” Rick says. “He wouldn’t leave. He was practically crying and saying, ‘Holy shit, it happened. It really happened.’ He helped start the spark and keep it going.”

Rick’s breads are bold and unapologetic. Full of natural flavors, rich with sourdough funk, his rustic loaves are heavy on the attitude. Some might take a little while to get your head around, but spending the time to learn why he makes them the way he does will be worth it. It’s heartbreakingly delicious bread I will gladly endure the Beltway to experience. (Manifest’s loaves are also popping up around town in dishes at Bar Spero, Petite Cerise, Vigilante Coffee, and Primrose).

Every day the bakery is open (they are currently closed Mondays), they have sourdough loaf made with wheat, rye and spelt, as well as the same loaf rolled in sesame seeds. The rest of the options rotate daily, including baguettes, whole grain oat loaves, tourte de seigle (hearty, deeply flavorful rye), and what Rick calls “a great rendition of the classic shitty, white bread that we all grew up on that’s great for tomatoes in the summertime.”

Buttermilk biscuits with honey mustard and Surryano ham at Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
Buttermilk biscuits with honey mustard and Surryano ham Credit: Nevin Martell

The breads are the base for half a dozen pork-centric sandwiches featuring meat from Catoctin Mountain Farms in Sabillasville, Maryland. Every day there’s a different one, such as rillette with pickled vegetables of the moment, jambon beurre, bacon-radicchio-avocado, piggie bits terrine (essentially head cheese), and muffuletta. There’s always a vegetarian option as well, such as fig spread with whatever locally made soft cheese they pick up at the farmers market or a cheddar-apple-arugula combo.

Caramelized onion and anchovy tart from Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
Caramelized onion and anchovy tart Credit: Nevin Martell

The cases are filled out with a slew of savory and sweet items. In the former category: wheat bialys with cores of caramelized onions, petite puff pastries stuffed with gingered pork liver that take inspiration from Vietnamese bánh patê sô, and dainty buttermilk biscuits with a slight swipe of honey mustard and ribbons of Surryano ham from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, the baker’s ode to the ham biscuits sold in gas stations across the Virginia countryside. Larger options include a tart cradling anchovies and caramelized onions, and lemon-spritzed rockfish salad stacked on wafer-thin bialy chips.

Bialy chips with rockfish salad at Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
Bialy chips with rockfish salad Credit: Nevin Martell

For something sweeter, there are buttermilk glazed brioche cardamom buns, toasted oat financiers with plum jam, and fat, chewy chocolate chip and walnut cookies made with a little bit of sourdough discard that are slightly underbaked and everything I want a cookie to be. Just writing about them makes me want to hop into the car and go treat myself to a couple.

Chocolate chip cookies at Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
Chocolate chip cookies Credit: Nevin Martell

On the beverage side of the equation, the bakery offers coffee, cold brew, and espresso from Ceremony Coffee, as well as curated selections of beer, wine, and liquor. “We don’t have everything under the sun, but we can make a few classic cocktails,” Rick says.

Toasted oat financiers with plum jam at Manifest Bread in Riverdale Park, Maryland
Toasted oat financiers with plum jam Credit: Nevin Martell

The couple are working to get the permitting necessary to open a small patio out front. Another goal is to offer family-style dinners, such as lasagna or pizzas.

Manifest Bread, 6208 Rhode Island Ave., Riverdale Park, manifestbread.com.