Tucked in the middle of historic Hilton Village is Indulge, a European-style bakery and bistro. “I chose the name because it means ‘allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of…,’” says owner Michele Smith. I love Hilton Village,” she adds. Her home is near the restaurant. Smith has a “team” of 10 employees.
The dining room is cozy and there is an outdoor eating space. Grabbing a diner’s immediate attention is the display case featuring mouth-watering pastries: croissants, cinnamon rolls, mini cakes, chocolate espresso “clouds,” pound cakes and “monster” cookies. “The macaroons come directly from France,” says Smith. Favorites are pear frangipani tart and carrot cake.
Smith’s son Greg is a culinary school graduate and uses his skills to design a unique and delicious menu, which are available at breakfast and lunch. Tempting one’s palate for lunch are shrimp ceviche, pumpkin miso soup and seared ahi tuna. Everything is prepared “from scratch,” using only fresh food. Vegan substitutions are available as well as gluten-free choices. No frozen items are used. “We use the highest quality ingredients with no preservatives or artificial flavorings,” says Smith.
Another major part of Indulge’s business is catering. Smith will create a custom menu. She provides sandwich trays or box lunches for business meetings. The restaurant closes at 3 p.m. and can be rented in the evening for bridal or baby showers, Christmas parties and other special events. “It’s fun to share these occasions with my customers,” says Smith. “I really love working with everyone.” She also has a concession trailer which can be set up at weddings as a cocktail bar or dessert display. Every third Thursday is “wine and tapas” night at Indulge.
Smith prepares the custom cakes herself. “I have always enjoyed baking,” she says. Her mother was French and loved to entertain. She was always in the kitchen. “When I was young, she let me bake a cake if I made straight A’s in school,” Smith remembers with a smile. “That was a special treat,” says Smith.
Smith has had some unusual custom cake requests. “For the Virginia Living Museum I designed a rattlesnake cake,” she says. And, there have been cakes created to resemble a Gucci purse, a golden doodle dog for a groom’s cake, a dragon and a submarine. “A lot are school themed,” she adds. One memorable cake was for an engagement. A young man arranged in advance for a special cake to be in the display case. He brought his girlfriend in for a treat to find a beautiful cake with lettering that said “Will you marry me?” And, she said “yes.” He had invited her parents and had brought champagne. “It was very sweet,” says Smith.
“Yes, the restaurant is hard work and long hours,” says Smith. “I am grateful for my loyal customers,” she adds. Her daughter Izzy also works with her. “It’s very special to have both of my children with me,” Smith says.
The most popular breakfast item is biscuits and gravy,” says Smith. “We serve it all day on Sundays. Sometime my son chooses a special European country to feature. French and German dishes are favorites.” There are weekly specials. One unique sandwich is “the beast,” which is bacon, egg, avocado, spinach and tomato, a popular item among the regulars.
“I love to travel,” says Smith. “Aruba is a favorite location of mine. I also especially like Italy. I enjoy traveling throughout Europe.” Smith also enjoys gardening.
Smith was born in New Jersey and graduated from high school in Germany. She attended the University of Maryland for two years with two more on the Munich campus, majoring in business. “I started decorating cakes as a hobby. I really enjoy food. It nourishes our bodies and it nourishes our relationships,” says Smith.
TO THE POINT:
Indulge Bakery and Bistro
Address: 10359 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Michele Smith, owner