First look

What to know about Clarksville's sweetly reimagined all-day restaurant and cafe

What to know about Clarksville's sweetly reimagined all-day cafe

Swedish Hill patio
A cozy patio greets customers. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill dining
An expanse of marble dominates the dining room. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill dining
Swedish Hill is part neighborhood market and part all-day cafe. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill grocery 2
Coolers and shelves are stocked with artisan food products. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill bagels
Bagels are among the dozens of baked goods on display. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill Sweets
A cold case offers an array of tempring sweets, Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill counter
Salads and sides are dished out to order. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill exterior
The exterior was given a fresh new look. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill board
Charcuterie boards will be popular during happy hour. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill dining
Saltillo tile is the only dose of color in the dining room. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill chicken
Rotisserie chicken is among the more substantial fare. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill Breads Dining Room
A bread display doubles as artwork in the dining room. Courtesy photo
Swedish Hill patio
Swedish Hill dining
Swedish Hill dining
Swedish Hill grocery 2
Swedish Hill bagels
Swedish Hill Sweets
Swedish Hill counter
Swedish Hill exterior
Swedish Hill board
Swedish Hill dining
Swedish Hill chicken
Swedish Hill Breads Dining Room

McGuire Moorman Hospitality can certainly set a scene. From the self-consciously ramshackle vibes of Pool Burger to the louche Parisian steez of June’s All Day, each one of the group’s restaurant evokes a specific time and place, and is more often than not a totem of midcentury American prosperity.

With Swedish Hill, the reincarnation of Clarksville’s iconic Sweetish Hill Bakery, the group had a much more difficult task, finding glamour in the mundaneness of 1990s Austin. Although the cafe only opened on August 12, it’s easy to forget that the details are all new. The Saltillo tiles clashing with the mulberry counters are not original. Neither is the expanse of marble on top.

In some ways, this Swedish Hill manages to feel more permanent than the first long-running incarnation. Of course, the original eatery was painted a saturated, Friends-era blue.

Wisely, MMH kept the restaurant’s first impression close to the original. Upon entering the space, guests are greeted with an eye-popping assortment of treats from pastry director Jen Tucker and baking director Alex Manley, including bagels, croissants, flaky kouign-amann, cookies, and tarts. Minimally decorated cakes preen in coolers, just as they have always done.

And the menu is still anchored by artisan bread sandwiches, albeit ones conceived by former Emmer & Rye chef Page Pressley. From hot pastrami to smoked turkey to tuna, the choices could have been plucked from former owner Patricia Bauer-Slate’s menu — only she didn’t confit the tuna, and the prices have since doubled.

The cafe, however, sharply veers from there. Guests who let their eyes wander from the carb overload will find cold cases stocked with smoked fish and caviar, a selection of cured meats and pate, and sides like roasted broccoli rabe or a Caesar specked with Parmesan bagna cauda merchandised as carefully as Fendi Baguettes.

Shelves and coolers behind the counter are stocked with Jacobson’s salt; bundles of herbs from HausBar Farm; Mill-King dairy; and grab-and-go containers of lasagna, bone broth, and pozole. It’s all redolent of another ‘90s icon: Dallas’ Eatzis.

Around the corner, guests can enjoy a proprietary June’s sparkling rosé and a prix-fixe dinner of dry-aged ribeye and peach crostata in an austere space spotted with custom furniture from Dwell-approved South Texas maker Garza Marfa.

It’s all upscale, of course. Even when MMH opens a food truck outside a dive bar, it simply doesn’t do downmarket. But for the first time since Lambert’s, the restaurant feels organically Austin. Swedish Hill might have been inspired by concepts like New York’s Russ & Daughters, but there is obvious affection for what can be found in its own backyard.

Clarksville has, of course, become considerably tonier than when the Sweetish Hill first settled there in 1991, and Swedish Hill is a neighborhood cafe for the neighborhood's current iteration.

Old Austin may not be able to go home again, but it can build a foundation for a new generation.