Looking over the loaded pastry case at that newly opened Red Dessert Dive on Studewood, the options are sort of dizzying. Unlike the cupcake shops that sprouted up a couple years back, much more than sweets are on the menu.
Is that bread made with smoked gouda, bacon and Karbach Weisse Versa beer? Are those kolaches filled with cream cheese, bacon and chives? Yes and yes.
"We like to do everything a little bit differently," owner Jessica Lusk tells CultureMap. That ethos drives most of the choices at Red, where both sweet and savory bakery classics get a clever twist either from Lusk's recipes or from pastry chef Ashley Leonard, who joined the bakery after a stint at Hotel ZaZa (Update: Leonard is still at the ZaZa; she contributes to Red part time.).
"I want people to come and hang out. It's family friendly, but you can still enjoy a beer."
Although the bakery has been open only for a few days, things are "going well. We definitely have best sellers already," Lusk says. "Most people are interested in the weird stuff you don't see anywhere else."
For example, the Debusker is an early hit. Named by Lusk's 7-year old cousin, the dessert combines a rich, chocolate brownie with an M&M cookie. The shop turns leftover croissants into bread pudding that's topped with a Texas bourbon caramel sauce. Chocolate chip cookies have an unusually rich flavor thanks to Valrhona chocolate and a sprinkling of high-quality fleur de sel.
I took a box with a few items to go for the team at CultureMap to sample. We liked everything, with the Debusker and kolache emerging as particular favorites. Not many bakeries around town offer flavor combinations like that, and Red shows a lot of promise for being so new.
As noted in a CultureMap article last November, Lusk trained as an architect before deciding to open to Red, and she designed the interior herself. It has a cozy feel, thanks to reclaimed wood accents, and lots of seating, thanks to a couple of bars with individual stools. While bakeries are traditionally retail, to-go affairs, Red offers a selection of local craft beer and wine as well as coffee from Heights favorite Boomtown, that encourages customers to sit for awhile.
The idea is to mimic the atmosphere of a place like Onion Creek, Lusk says. "I want people to come and hang out. It's family friendly, but you can still enjoy a beer."
For now, the hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but Lusk says she'll extend them once she has her full selection of wine and beer in place. She notes that customers have been walking in close to closing time and she doesn't like to turn people away.