If you’ve driven near War Memorial Stadium any time over the past few months, you’ve probably seen the small white building turning into a new restaurant on Van Buren St. It’s been coming for most of 2019, but now Hillcrest Little Bakery is open for business. Owned by Scott Loye and managed by his daughter Zara Schmidt, Hillcrest Little Bakery is a beautiful niche restaurant offering a modern, Southern take on breakfast and lunch.
“I think a lot of people didn’t expect that from us,” said Schmidt. “We definitely have pastries and donuts, but we just saw there was a piece missing for breakfast in this area, and I think people around here are excited to have this new breakfast option.”
Before you ever walk in, Hillcrest Little Bakery strikes you as unmistakably hip. Terra cotta pots hang bunched from the roof, overlaying a brilliantly white gabled roof front. A natural wood patio rests underneath a large oak tree. And of course, the aquamarine marquee “HLB” sign on an ivy background seems destined to be a mainstay in Little Rock Instagram pictures for years to come.
On the inside, plenty of natural light, wood surfaces and a cozy space greet diners, who place their order at the front counter and have their food ushered out. There’s not much seating; Hillcrest is hardly known for having a lot of free space, and HLB is certainly in the “less is more” category here. Still, if you get a table, seating is comfortable and service is quick and friendly.
“I just love the feeling that we have here,” said Schmidt. “The patio, the light, it makes it all feel open. There’s just nothing really like it in this area, we were really excited to bring it to this neighborhood.”
From a restaurant that clearly pays attention to detail with its branding, many guests would expect an edgy menu with California-typical items like quinoa or kale. However, Hillcrest Little Bakery is considerably more traditional in the kitchen than in the dining room. Biscuits dominate the menu; more than half of the items on the board feature a quarter-pound, fluffy buttermilk biscuit. There are six variants of biscuits and gravy, including the “Hot” Springs with scrambled eggs, melted cheese and HLB’s version of hot chicken. It’s quite good, especially the chicken, which is more of a grilled tribute to Nashville than an attempt at a classic fried hot chicken. You can also get one of several biscuit sandwiches, including the Avocado Biscuit made with guacamole, tomatoes, eggs and a house sauce.
And then there are the biscuit traditions, which are basically a full breakfast on biscuit halves. The Benedict is hews true to the original (minus the English muffins), while The Swimming Benedict substitutes salmon for the Canadian bacon. Both were tied together by a capable hollandaise sauce that had just the right amount of lemon juice. Most biscuit meals are also served with breakfast potatoes for a hearty start to the day.
There is more to the menu than biscuits, though we’ll have to make a second trip to taste them. Pancakes, donuts, salads and cheesecakes are on my to-do list in the future. Hillcrest Little Bakery is open Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) for breakfast and lunch. Not all of the menu is available to go; Schmidt is working on sourcing compostable containers for larger plates like salads and pancakes. Also, Hillcrest Little Bakery is planning on a formal grand opening celebration later this month; we’ll let you know as soon as HLB has a date.