High Rise Bakery brings the art of brunch downtown.
Ben Huhman knows fresh.
As owner of The Grand Cafe, he’s built his business on it for nearly a decade: fresh flavors, fresh ingredients, fresh ideas.
“That’s what we’ve always prided ourselves in,” says Ben. “Being homemade and just good.”
Now, he and his team have applied that same strategy in a new downtown space: High Rise Bakery.
Situated at 118 E. High St., the venture opened with much fanfare this June, but its concept has been in the works for years. Ben has long observed the city’s limited selection of bakeries and downtown brunch spots and realized there was an opportunity to branch out.
One of the location’s highlights is the array of made-from-scratch baked goods supplied by Candice Sheppard. Although High Rise is a full-service café, it originated as a spot for Candice to expand her baking operation. A Grand Cafe mainstay, Candice had developed something of a cult following, with foodies requesting trays of her famous cookies, pastries, and other treats.
But space was limited in the shared kitchen. When the chance to rent a space across the street came up, Ben sprang into action. As he and his team built out the business plan, new ideas kept coming, morphing the space into the hopping place it is today.
As Ben tells it, different pieces just came along naturally.
General Manager Kevin Thompson, a familiar face for those who frequent Grand, has a fine dining background and keeps things organized and running smoothly behind the scenes. Up front, patrons can choose from Candice’s macarons, scones, cinnamon rolls, sticky pecan buns, tart pockets, and other treats that fill the display case.
Behind the counter, Justin Duren runs the espresso machine, allowing guests to order everything from hot honey lattes to refreshing cold brews. Justin is known as a regional coffee connoisseur who can chat with curious customers about various caffeine options.
If diners fancy something a little stiffer, staff can whip up a variety of breakfast cocktails, including tangy mimosas infused with fruit flavor and spicy bloody Marys made from top-shelf pours.
Select salads, sides, and sweets — and even some premade drinks — are offered in the grab-and-go cold case.
And then there’s the hot menu. Ben takes pride in the restaurant’s premium ingredients, which come together in the galley-style kitchen as creative twists on brunch staples. Some are sourced locally, like eggs and beef from a nearby Jamestown farm.
It’s clear sous chef Anton Grothoff designed the menu with flavor in mind, with items ranging from waffles of the week to whiskey- and brown-sugar-marinated steak. Ben says the tacos, filled with warm scrambled eggs, homemade chorizo, avocado, cholula aioli, and cilantro, are a customer favorite and high on his own list of menu picks.
Another standout is the croque madame, which combines a gooey egg, salty ham, the crunch of arugula, and a savory cheese sauce for a sandwich that’s made for eating with a knife and fork. Additional crowd pleasers include biscuits topped with a stout-and-bacon gravy and the sweet and savory combo of chicken and waffles.
The building itself has received as much positive feedback as the meals have. With its exposed brick, pendant lighting, and wood flooring, High Rise Bakery provides guests with a chic vibe often limited to larger cities. Ben borrowed design inspiration from his travels to Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis, as well as his time spent in restaurants on the west coast. It took some elbow grease to get the building to its current state.
“If you were to walk in here originally, you’d see conference rooms upstairs and mirrors on the walls,” Ben says. “There hadn’t been any redecoration in a while.”
To help the restaurant get its current industrial modern feel, Ben enlisted the help of his brother, Craig. As an area contractor, Craig Huhman created the custom concrete countertops, which boast a weathered but sleek copper bottom, a detail that Ben says frequently captures attention from guests. During the renovation, dated plaster was scraped off the walls, revealing bright red brick that now stands glossed over in its place. Finishing pops of flair include aluminum chairs and visible pipes. The urban atmosphere extends itself to the patio area outside, where guests can eat and imbibe al fresco, watching downtown traffic and passersby.
“We’ve got a feeling for what we like and what other people are going to like,” Ben says.
Just a few months into the business, Ben says the Jefferson City response has been great (for the first few days, lines stretched about 12 feet past the register), and his team seems well prepared for whatever comes next.
As for the future, Ben is open to seeing what could happen. He’s already teamed up with other businesses, like the neighboring Sweet Smoke BBQ, which uses High Street Bakery cookies as part of their catering, and he’s looking for other ways to serve the needs of everyone. On any given weekend, the space is filled with families, couples, and friends grabbing grub and chatting, but it’s also a place to work, if needed: With its lofted second seating area, complete with complimentary Wi-Fi and no shortage of outlets, Ben sees it as an ideal spot for banquets and lunch meetings.
“The sky’s the limit,” Ben says. “There’s plenty of things we can do for this town.”
High Rise Bakery is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.