Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 20, 2017

Hoo’s killing diets at Douglas Heights Bakery

Alyssa Hoo, already a veteran restaurateur at age 25, is now tempting tase buds at Douglas Heights Bakery. - Photographs by David Laprad

Douglas Heights Bakery is only a few hours old when I walk into the adjoining restaurant – 2 Sons Kitchen – on a Monday morning to buy a breakfast sandwich. After spotting the fresh baked goods artfully arranged behind the glass display at DHB, I hesitate. I need the protein my breakfast sandwich will provide but cinnamon buns are calling me from the other space.

Even from my vantage point at 2 Sons, I can tell these cinnamon buns are something special. Sitting on top of a mountain of a sweet, fresh baked dough is a thick swirl of cream cheese icing dusted with more cinnamon.

The lady at the register at 2 Sons eyeballs me patiently, which makes me think she’s been through this once or twice already. I reward her staying power with an order for a breakfast sandwich.

As I wait, I drift through the opened garage door that separates the two eateries to familiarize myself with DHB’s fare.

Oh my. Delicious-looking blueberry, blackberry and lemon poppy seed muffins fill one glass cake stand, while a selection of bacon cheddar quiches and quiche Lorraines ring a pile of freshly baked croissants on a nearby wooden cutting board.

Triple chocolate chip cookies the size of a small Frisbee are fanned out like playing cards on another cutting board while big, rounded loaves of Artisan Sourdough Boule are propping each other up close to the end of the display.

The selections don’t end there. On a rack near the door, I spot baguettes, rye, ciabatta, white and multigrain loaves, and hamburger buns – all baked in-house that morning, I later learn.

There was just one problem: I’d already ordered breakfast. That’s OK, a young lady tells me from behind the counter; they’ll be open for lunch, too. Their specialty for the noon meal is hand-made artisan pizza by the slice. I suddenly wish it was lunch time.

I wind up glad it isn’t because the breakfast sandwich – called 2 Eggs on a Roll – is scrumptious. When I ask the cashier where the bun was made, she points to DHB. I love the symbiotic nature of the relationships between many Chattanooga restaurants.

Hours later, I return to DHB to taste test their pizza. It’s a tough job, I told the guard as I was leaving the James Building, where I work, but someone has to do it. He looked up from his Lunchable and scowled.

DHB has three pizzas ready to eat: pepperoni; sausage, mushroom and bell pepper (with sausage from Main Street Meats); and spinach, squash and feta. I choose one slice each of the latter two. At six-and-a-half inches per slice, I know that will fill me up, and at only $3.75 per slice, lunch won’t empty my wallet. (14- and 16-inch pizzas are also available for eating in or taking out.)

Pizza is a tricky thing to get right because everyone likes something different. But I enjoy the mild sausage and hearty mushrooms on the one slice and the mixture of feta and mozzarella on the other slice not only satisfies my hunger, it feeds my soul. Best of all: the crust is thin and crunchy under the toppings and thick along the edge, providing a nice snack after I eat the rest of the piece.

While the first bite of each piece is soggy, the rest of what I eat is oven-baked perfection.

Before leaving, I ask to speak with the talent behind all of this artisan-crafted goodness: 25-year-old Alyssa Hoo (pronounced “who”). She was more than happy to accommodate me between directing her staff and serving the occasional day-one customer.

Hoo got her start in the food business at age 16 at Blue Orleans in Chattanooga. By 17, she’d already worked her way up to sous-chef at the seafood restaurant. After spending two years earning an associate’s degree at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, she briefly returned to Chattanooga to run the line and serve as brunch manager at Chato on the North Shore.

A two-year stint as executive sous-chef at a Louisiana-themed restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama, was followed by another return to Tennessee to work at Blackberry Farm, where Hoo mastered fish and grilled meats.

Hoo and her husband longed to return to Chattanooga, though, so when Scenic City restaurateur Rob Stickley (owner of Bones Smokehouse and Greyfriar’s Coffee & Tea and part-owner of Hennen’s and 2 Sons) offered her a job creating the menu and building the staff at DHB, she jumped at the opportunity.

Hoo says she hopes to lure the foodies who have been congregating at restaurants downtown and on the North Shore to Martin Luther King Boulevard, where exciting things are happening. In addition to 2 Sons, which is the brick and mortar version of Famous Nater’s World Famous Food Truck, OddStory Brewing Company has taken up residence on the avenue, as have a number of other breweries.

DHB is located at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Douglas Street, which cuts through the campus of UTC. While there’s metered parking out front, free parking is available in the rear. Hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Hoo and Stickley are easing into their business model. They’re planning to expand the menu soon with additional pizzas and house-made granola and test the waters during dinner the hour. Pizza delivery is also in the works.

Quick, friendly service and nice touches like warming up the cinnamon buns in the pizza oven before serving them are already in place.

All it’s going to take to lure me back are thoughts of their mouthwatering baked goods and appetizing pizzas. Chattanooga has its share of quality bakeries, but there’s always room for one more, especially when it has the passion and quality of DHB.