Jessica Nolen’s dreams of owning a bakery began at a young age with a concept she dreamed up called Bob and Anne’s, named for her grandparents.
“My grandmother cooked a lot, but my grandfather was the baker,” says Nolen. “He’d make zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies, just silly stuff that was super easy. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Now, years later with plenty of experience heading up the pastry programs at Brauhaus Schmitz and Whetstone Tavern, she’s struck out on her own with Little Bird, a sunny bakery on Fifth Street just off South.
The concept of the bakery had been in the works for a while, and when the former Cookie Confidential space opened up the opportunity was too good to pass up — even though Nolen and her husband, Jeremy, were in the process of opening Whetstone Tavern.
“This is what I’ve always wanted,” she says, looking back at the open kitchen and seating area. “I wanted a space where I could bake and also communicate with people, because I’ve been in the basement for seven years now.”
The subterranean workspaces that acted as her pastry kitchens at both restaurants couldn’t be more different from her new digs. With West-facing floor-to-ceiling windows and a gleaming pressed tin ceiling, Little Bird is sunny and inviting. It’s a place to grab breakfast and coffee or a mid-afternoon slice of pie, or to swing by and pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread along with your weekly CSA box from Lancaster Farm Fresh. (Nolen volunteered her new bakery as a drop off point.)
The opening menu reads like a greatest hits from the desserts and breads that she created for Brauhaus and Whetstone. There are deep brown Bavarian pretzels, a standout hazelnut torte from Brauhaus and a lemon meringue cheesecake that won raves from Craig LaBan at Whetstone. Breakfast options like pressed egg and cheese sandwiches on Texas toast (with a cheddar butter spread!) and raspberry and brie croissant rolls, plus a secret recipe for chocolate milk, are the kind of morning offerings sure to make Little Bird an instant neighborhood go-to.
Shoe leather-like crusts and crooked crimping are only the beginning of the pitfalls that amateur home bakers encounter when endeavoring to make Thanksgiving desserts. Why not leave the last course to the pros?
Nolen’s holiday menu of pies, cheesecakes, bread pudding and a particularly show-stopping hazelnut mousse torte are all designed to feed a crowd. They also come with something extra: a bespoke ice cream, whipped cream, topping or sauce packaged separately for at-home spooning.
The classic apple pie is complemented by condensed milk ice cream perfect for serving a la mode, and a bourbon custard pecan pie is getting candied orange whipped cream to finish it off. Caramel pretzel bread pudding comes with Whoppers-inspired malted whipped cream, and that incredible hazelnut torte (a Brauhaus Schmitz favorite) gets a side of sweet-tart sour cherry sauce. Preorder them by calling 267-519-2313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and pick them up at the bakery on Nov. 26.