Lyndi Stein has thought of the establishment we always needed but never knew we did until now: a storefront that is a bakery, bar and late-night hang out spot all in one. Ever since she incorporated her brand Littlest Love in 2013, Lyndi Stein has been working tirelessly on making her dream of a bakery – and passion for entrepreneurship – into a reality by honing her skills and creating a business plan to open a brick-and-mortar storefront in Germantown or East Nashville in 2016. Littlest Love will be open from happy hour until late at night, with the added bonus of a light brunch menu offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I sat down with Lyndi to learn more about this incredible concept and what she hopes to bring to the Nashville food scene.
Spoon: You started as a food blogger. What gave you the push to move from food blogging into this concrete concept?
Lyndi: When my husband and I moved to Nashville, we wanted to open a food truck. We came up with a menu, and we came up with a business plan and name for it, and had this whole concept – neither of us having line cook experience, or anything remotely close to kitchen experience. As we started working on recipes, I kept bringing up dessert recipes, and he said “Do you want it to be a dessert truck?” and I said “Maybe.” I was more excited about the dessert combinations – coming up with something that no one had ever had before, that’s what I wanted to do. Eventually, we decided a food truck wasn’t good for our lifestyle at the time – we were working in totally different fields. I was still in engineering, and he was in finance and accounting, which is obviously very different than what either of us does now. Then he said, “Well, don’t you just want a bakery then?” and I was afraid to say it, but I did, and in 2013, I incorporated Littlest Love. It became this kind of small, online bakery. I think I sold maybe $300 worth of stuff in my first year, which is nothing, but I was just excited that people wanted to order from me. It was friends, and friends of friends, but I was so excited that I didn’t care. In the beginning of last summer, we were just shifting our mentality into what work meant for us. [My husband] started working for the Peach Truck, and I made cookies for their Mother’s Day in boxes. That was probably the biggest order that I’ve ever gotten, and it was insanely hard to do. I was so underprepared for that and so unaware of how much effort it took. I had incredible friends who rallied and stayed up super late with me. I think I went to bed at four o’clock in the morning, and I woke up at seven to go to work, and in that moment I realized that if I was ever going to expand into larger things that I would have to leave my job. I worked really hard that summer to build my brand, and the bakery and bar concept kind of formed at that time. Before that, it was always just an all-day bakery and shifted into this evening concept, and in August, I decided it was time. I was either going to have to take the leap, or not at all, and I did it. It was really scary, but I’ve said this a lot: if you’re not scared, your dreams aren’t big enough. It’s been great, it’s been an awesome journey so far. I feel like just now things are starting to form, and things are starting to come together, and that’s a testament to being able to dedicate all my time to it.
Spoon: A bakery and bar – that sounds amazing. Tell us more about the concept you’re going for here.
Lyndi: Right now, the idea is to have a space that has a romantic, modern, totally put-together feel to it. I want it to be somewhere where you can go and indulge with fancy cocktails that are simple, with basic, really fresh ingredients paired together in unique ways. The pastry side of things not fancy but just well put-together. Unique flavor combinations is where I get a lot of my inspiration and what makes me different from other bakers: pairing things that you wouldn’t expect to taste good together, or going out on a limb and taking something that might be savory and making it sweet – for example, I have an avocado frosting that people don’t expect, but it’s rich and it’s creamy and you have that citrus hint to it. It’s also about community – about pulling people in that just want to hang out after hours. They go to a restaurant for dinner, it’s 9 p.m. when they leave, and they don’t want to go home just yet, but they don’t want to go to a crowded bar – they want to sit down and talk to their friends and be treated well and feel good and have a good time.
Spoon: What is the balance between a bakery and bar going to look like?
Lyndi: The mix between bakery and bar is not both necessarily; for a lot of people it could be one or the other whether people just want to come have drinks or they want to just come have dessert. I’m even hoping to have a pick-up window so you can just grab and go if you’re not feeling social. Not everyone is, every day – sometimes you and your significant other or you and some of your friends just want to hang out at the house and drink wine in your pajamas, and we have something for you to take home for that too. As far as the bar itself, there’s going to be pairing offerings of cocktails and pastries, but it’s not strictly one or the other or both. It’s whatever you want it to be. Eventually, I’d like to do brunch on the weekends as well, and it won’t all be dessert based for brunch. It’ll be more of a lighter menu, something people can just feel good about eating. There won’t be biscuits on the menu – I love a good biscuit, and there are plenty of places that do it very well. I’m really just hoping to have something different to offer the community, maybe a little more California.
Spoon: Can you give us some examples of a cocktail and baked good pairing?
Lyndi: For a celebration, I think there’s a nice combination between a really awesome, elevated funfetti cake with champagne, or some kind of champagne cocktail. I have a lot of different things I’m thinking in my head – maybe a classic, fresh margarita paired with a banana cake with avocado frosting. It has to be fun. People have to be excited about it. The cocktail menu will be really limited. It’ll pair well with desserts, it will stand alone; I just want people to taste something fresh and different – something that they can’t get right now.
Spoon: Will you be offering more of the classic baked goods, like chocolate chip cookies, or more adventurous pastries?
Lyndi: I’ll have the range starting from a really good cookie plate – which itself will have a range from this great cookie that my grandmother made to something that you would pick up in a crazy New York bakeshop, something that people can really bite into with a lot of different things in it like pretzels and peanuts and dark chocolate chunks – all the way to a really basic sugar cookie. You can share it; I want something people embrace, people crave – something that they want to come back for.
Spoon: Where did you draw your inspiration for this idea?
Lyndi: My inspiration comes from a lot of places – I went to New York recently and just sat around in places to try to understand. Baked goods and bakeries in New York are really different than here; there’s a lot of variety because they have a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. I think Nashville’s looking to expand that variety. I’ve also noticed that a lot of bakeries in Brooklyn and Manhattan and are such a to-go item – there’s not a lot of space, people are just kind of rushing through, and they want to grab a coffee and a pastry to go – and I don’t think Nashville has many places like that yet. Sweet 16th is where I go when I want a coffee and a pastry to go. There’s no place other than restaurants that offers that late-night dessert option.
Spoon: Did you draw from any other bakeries or bars as a model?
Lyndi: I don’t know if I’ve modeled it off of anything other than my own desire to go somewhere. My husband craves diner pie and coffee – I don’t know if that’s something he saw in a movie once and loves the idea and loves it; there’s something to be said about how it is comforting. I think that appealed to me. I’m also not a person to wake up at 3 a.m., so I was trying to be realistic about my own boundaries. I’m a night owl and a morning person, so I don’t really sleep that much anyway – so waking up at 3 a.m. to bake…that’s my go-to sleeping time. It’ll be good to have something latenight that Nashville can find comfort and community in.
Spoon: Tell us more about how your family has inspired your food. I read up on your website that Oma’s cookies were the source of your baking passion?
Lyndi: Up until I was about 27, I hadn’t really stepped foot in a kitchen other than to make my grandmother’s cookies or make grilled cheese. I hadn’t really branched out that much. I learned to make stir-fry in college, and I thought I was such a chef to throw soy sauce in with frozen veggies and chicken and make a meal. I wish that I had learned to cook earlier – mostly because my skills would be a lot better by now. I just didn’t have a passion for it when I was younger. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t really tried creative foods. We stuck to the chain restaurants. We were all picky in different ways – I didn’t eat red meat until I was 21. My grandmother was always really interested in making things “just so.” The butter was at the perfect room temperature, the flour was measured with a cute accuracy, and that’s how she did everything. If she took the eggs out of the fridge too early or too late, she got frustrated. It’s funny to think about that, because she was so easygoing, but in the kitchen everything was “just so.” Even now, knowing that the temperature of your hands or the bowl can change a product. Knowing that makes me respect how intensely passionate she was about the quality of the baked good. Hopefully I uphold that side. She also never made anything really complicated – everything was really classic: for example, an apple pie with sugar cookie crust. Nobody’s apple pie was better, and everybody knew that. The cookies had sugar and sprinkles on them, which is not an elevated or upscale or mature thing, but it’s just so good. Everyone would race to the house to grab one, and so I hope I got some of her passion for integrity. My brother and sister are both great chefs. My sister’s a great baker – she doesn’t eat any sugar, but she bakes incredibly well. But they’ve all been extremely supportive. We all have a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit to us. My dad started his own business a few years ago, my mom has always owned her own businesses, she’s opened a few now – they just get excited when someone’s passionate and hardworking and they rally. My whole family has been great about rallying behind me and being supportive.
Spoon: How do you feel about the bakery scene in Nashville?
Lyndi: In Nashville, I just don’t think there are enough bakers. One thing that people don’t really talk about, but people shy away from eating dessert in public. There’s this fear that they’re unhealthy or not being mindful of their weight or whatever, and I think that there’s something healthy about enjoying desserts in front of other people. I don’t think you should be afraid to enjoy something in moderation. If you want to enjoy pie and a cocktail or pie and a coffee or pastry and coffee when you wake up, do it! Maybe don’t do it every day, but enjoy it and don’t shy away and eat dessert at home by yourself. Maybe everyone doesn’t crave sweets, but if you do, have it. Have something small, share it with a friend, it’s such an exciting thing – a party in your mouth. You should enjoy that with other people and not be afraid to appreciate it. Hopefully, I can educate people that it’s okay for people to stuff a giant piece of cake in their mouth and enjoy it.
I know I will be taking that advice to heart, and I’ll be waiting with bated breath for the grand opening of Littlest Love. In the meantime, stay updated on Littlest Love through their website and Instagram account.