Photo by Terry Kirts
If you noticed a few more cars parked around 11th Street and College Avenue the past few days, it likely meant one thing: lots of happy carb lovers picking up the croissants, chocolate tarts, and coffee-hazelnut praline sablés during opening week at Leviathan Bakehouse (1101 N. College Ave., 317-493-1879). Local pastry legend Pete Schmutte’s new bakery and sandwich cafe has been turning heads on social media this summer and, lately, turning cars toward Chatham Arch, luring customers in with decadent brown butter chocolate chunk cookies, slices of many-tiered classic cakes, and hearty artisan loaves.
At his long-awaited venture in the former home of R2GO, Schmutte pulls off all the painstaking details his devotees have long enjoyed at such culinary heavy hitters as Beholder and the late Cerulean. And while you can find his glossy entremets and Technicolor layered tortes in the cases at Leviathan, Schmutte also brings things down to earth with comforting brownies and cookies, as well as sandwich pan loaves and hot dog buns.
Fans got a taste of things to come at a preview bake sale in late June that raised over $3,000 for Bakers Against Racism, a global effort to raise funds to help end systemic racism. But last week, the bakehouse unveiled its full menu, with highlights like a chimichurri-marinated roast beef sandwich with roasted peppers, savory-sweet apple-fennel chutney, and brie. It pairs nicely with a side of perfectly chewy, slightly sweet wheat berry salad enriched with lima beans, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. Follow that up with a thick and chewy milk-chocolate cookie with warm undertones of ginger.
To pull this off (especially at a time when other food spots are suffering the effects of a pandemic), Schmutte enlisted some of the hottest young baking talents in town, including “Croissant Queen” Jess Kartawich, pasty instructor Matt Steinbronn, gregarious frontman Jesse Blythe, and bread specialist Sam Blythe. He also leaned on local design talent to give the airy storefront an idiosyncratic look and feel. For a sleekhewn-wood tabletop, Schmutte hired Kris Himstedt of Himstedt Improvements, who also installed stylish bread shelves behind the counter. Indy artist C.S. Stanley (whose work can be seen at the Madam Walker Legacy Center, throughout local neighborhoods, and as far afield as galleries in Vienna) created a wall-sized mural of the bakery’s namesake, a mythical sea creature who looks nearly as ravenous as you might be for Leviathan’s caramel-hazelnut “travel cake,” a buttery, beautifully crumbed financier topped with chocolate mousse and enrobed in more chocolate.