Ambrosia Bakery adds savory to sweet
In classic Greek and Roman mythology, ambrosia was considered the food of the gods.
But in Hot Springs, even mortals can partake in pleasing their palates by taking a trip to the newest space for all things fresh from the oven — Ambrosia Bakery’s expanded location at 307 Broadway.
This is the fourth building for owners Millie Baron and husband Mick Stoyanov, who started out on Airport Road in a tiny locale and were able to grow with each move.
“We had been looking for a long time to have our own building, and right here on the Greenway was just the perfect spot for us,” Baron said while sitting at a cafe table within the airy dining space.
Both breakfast and lunch can now be enjoyed in-house, and Baron said there’s been a good response from the public so far. “Lunch is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, because it’s kind of a unique thing that everything on our lunch menu is made in the bakery. It’s a nice complement that people can have fresh sandwiches made on bread that’s baked here.” And, of course, “While they’re here, they can get a little cookie for dessert or take home a cake or rolls,” she said.
So far, best-sellers have been familiar items, like turkey, ham or roast beef sandwiches, but, she said, “some people are adventuresome and are trying some of the new things that you can’t get other places,” including panzanella salad — made with fresh tomato, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper and grilled baguette, all tossed in a Kalamata olive vinaigrette seasoned with basil they grow themselves.
There’s definitely a Mediterranean flair to the savory side of things, with menu items like a chorizo and goat cheese pastry, a sandwich of roasted eggplant and peppers with a garlic tomato sauce, and a lemon feta orzo pasta.
A shareable item, either in the bakery or as a takeaway, is Egyptian-inspired dukkah, which is served as bread cubes that customers can first dip in olive oil, then into a nut and spice mixture of crushed pistachio, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin.
These new flavors, though, do nothing to detract from Ambrosia’s sweeter side.
Baron and her staff keep six flavors of large cakes ready for walk-in customers, along with four additional flavors in smaller cakes. Any can be decorated relatively quickly with a simple “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations,” easing the stress of last-minute needs, complete with party plates, napkins and candles that can be purchased for most any occasion.
For those able to plan ahead, cake and cookie orders can be completely customized. Baron said their decorated cookies have been ordered by people from
"some people are adventuresome and trying some of the new things taht you can't get other places"
all over the world, with local customers picking them up, repackaging and sending to such faraway places as New Zealand.
One year, a President Clinton cookie cutter was fashioned, and the treats were decorated to look like him, then shipped, in honor of his birthday.
Changes over the past 21 years in business include the customers’ access to the internet, with sites like Pinterest sparking imagination. Grooms’ cakes are increasingly popular, and can get as detailed as a complete sports stadium with logos on the field and fondant fans wearing team colors.
The wedding cake business has grown immensely, as the Spa City has become a nuptial destination. Trends she’s seeing now include “naked” cakes with little icing, that allow a rustic look and floral showcase. These go along especially well with the barn ceremonies that are en vogue.
Ambrosia supplies several local restaurants with bakery products, and takes huge orders for businesses like the Hot Springs Convention Center and Oaklawn, serving hundreds at a time, so an event’s size is not a problem.
Emotional connections with their goods abound, formed from generations of local family members delighting in birthday cakes and holiday treats from the bakery. Baron sweetly said, “You become part of their family celebrations.”
Even she has sentiment attached, by way of the Eastern European filled rugelach, made using her grandmother’s recipe — “Every time I eat one of those, I think about her,” she said.
Baron is also focused on the planet’s future. “Recycling is a big part of what we want to be doing here. All of our to-go items are in recyclable containers, and we’re recycling in the bakery, too, asking customers to help us with their cans and plastic. We’re trying to be good stewards for the community.”
The bakery is more than a job to Baron and her husband, it’s their family. She calls the business their “fifth child,” and takes pride in every dough, frosting and batter. “We have a really strong desire to get it right for the customer.”
Bakery hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Advance orders can be called in to 501-525-4500, and cakes with fondant work need more than a week’s notice.