When sisters Elizabeth and Natalia Hess moved to New Orleans in 2009, they talked about opening a coffee shop/bar together. My sister was an accomplished baker. Their grandparents ran restaurants and bars in their hometown of Milwaukee, so hospitality was in their genes. But life got in the way, as it sometimes happens.
“We forgot about it,” says Elizabeth Hess.
But in late November, Elizabeth Hess finally decided to open her own cafe at 2400 St. Claude Ave., home to Byrdie’s Pottery and Old Marquer Theater. For her 10 years she moved from restaurant management to the coffee industry and for the last 6 years she worked at HEY Coffee Co.
Meanwhile, her sister Natalia Hess Kopfler went in a different direction, working with her husband, chef Matthew Kopfler, to run the catering business Enfant Terrible New Orleans. She also bakes a lot of cakes on her side.
Elizabeth Hess said her husband Justin started his own business, Opossum Woodshop, a few years ago and encouraged her to do the same. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was ready,” she says.
But once you step into the airy, bright café, she certainly seems to be on top of things. I am baking.
The menu changes regularly, but there are always sweet and savory options such as scones, muffins, cookies and tarts. Their offerings change with the seasons, and most recent offerings include zucchini and tomato tarts, parmesan squash with rosemary scones, spiced pear tarts with garam masala and tamarind, and hand pies stuffed with brie and honey. It contains. Bagels come from Flour Moon Bagels and are served with fancy cream cheese or Aleppo and smoked paprika whipped butter.
A changing cookie selection includes hit experimental raspberry and brown butter chocolate chips. Quiche is gluten-free because it has a potato base, like the Spanish torta. The Double Fudge Brownie is also gluten-free.
Instead of a regular pastry case, the baked goods are displayed in a glass pedestal cake holder on the countertop. “This is easier for us to keep up with.”
Hess says she’d never made pastry dough until last summer, but the flakes of her puff pastry and the soft crumbs of her baby scones prove she’s a quick researcher.
“We had a place ready, so we practiced,” she says. “I was good at cooking and mixing flavors, but pastry was my worst. I had to get over it.”
Breakfast and lunch snacks are available daily from 7 AM to 3 PM. Most items are priced under $6. Sweets served in mismatched antique ceramics are popular.
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A refurbished Simonelli espresso machine provides a steady supply of small-batch micro-roaster coffees such as Cherry, Morning, Colas Girls and Pretty Coffee. Locally sourced South of Eden Kombucha is also available.
The café is awash in warm terracotta hues, and the refurbished space features custom opossum woodwork cabinetry and benches accented with white and blond wood. The walls are decorated with Hessian geometric patterns. In the back is a shelf of children’s books and a community bulletin board. A set of glassware that Hess got at a thrift shop is for sale.
“We wanted it to be a quiet, welcoming space for people to relax and work,” says Hess.
Hess’ brother, Lenny Hess, is at home most days. When her mother died in 2008, her two sisters, who were in their early 20s at the time, left her brother Jacob, who attended Tulane University on an art scholarship, and Renee, now 25, who has special needs. was adopted. “He’s usually a happy guy,” she says.
Not far away, Hess and Vaughan will start a dinner series, perhaps once a month, in the cafe in the evening.
Baby’s name is a tribute to New Orleans’ cozy custom of using “baby” as a term of endearment on a daily basis. “I love it,” says Hess.