Houston restaurant insiders know Emily Durham and Ashley Rosenfeld for their day jobs as a commercial real estate broker and the principal of A La Carte Food Service Consulting Group, respectively, but residents of neighborhoods like Meyerland and Braes Heights are getting to know them as the proprietors of a new bakery that recently opened in their area.
Meet Southern Sweets Bakehouse. Located at 4530 Beechnut St., Southern Sweets serves a diverse range of sweet and savory baked goods along with housemade ice cream and locally roasted Greenway Coffee. Both women live nearby and thought a new bakery would be a welcome addition to the area. They developed a concept built around nostalgic sweets, served with a twist, in a comfortable setting.
“It’s not like anything else that we have in Houston,” Durham tells CultureMap. “We put a nostalgic twist on the recipes. It’s supposed to make you think of your grandmother.”
Rosenfeld and her sister developed over 100 recipes for Southern Sweets, but not all of the items are available at once. For now, customers will find everything from chocolate chip cookies and salted butterscotch brownies to a cookie loaded with Fruity Pebbles and classic coffee crumb cake.
Savory items include: cornbread, sausage, and cheddar muffins; sage, brown butter, and honeycomb biscuits; and quiche, which is listed on the menu as “Texas egg pie.” Three varieties of ice cream are currently available — chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry cake — with more to come soon. Weekend specials include challah, two varieties of babka, and five spice cinnamon rolls.
Certain items, such as the apple cinnamon muffin and some of the egg pies, are gluten-free. Everything is sized to an individual serving, including items that normally come in larger sizes at other establishments such as fully frosted Texas sheet cake and mixed berry cobbler.
Southern Sweets further distinguishes its offerings with little twists that enhance each item's flavors. For example, its banana pudding features a creme brûlée-style custard with whipped cream folded in, and the blueberry muffins have actual blueberries in the batter.
“Everybody loves blueberry muffins, but it’s always a plain muffin with blueberries. That struck me as kind of sad,” Rosenfeld says. “It’s the first recipe I was determined to make: a blueberry-based blueberry muffin. This is the seventh or eighth version of this recipe.”
Given their reputations, the owners know that Southern Sweets needs to bring that kind of attention to detail to all of its creations. Both women realize their colleagues and clients are watching them closely.
“I invited all of my current clients to the opening. That was a proud moment,” Rosenfeld says. “They look up to both of us as the right way to do things. If we open a concept, it has to be pretty darn close to perfect.”
Being “darn close to perfect” manifests itself in ways other than the food. The interior is comfortable and inviting, complete with an Instagram-worthy neon sign that reads “muffin compares to you.” The bakery’s cow’s head logo and other branding elements all show more care than a typical neighborhood spot. Needless to say, they’re already thinking about additional locations once the bakery's operations are fully dialed in.
“We saw a need for the neighborhood, but it’s also about creating some amazing products,” Durham says. “One out of five people who walk in remark on how comfortable they feel. It could be anywhere.”