Story by: Eric Sandler, CultureMap Houston
For years, local bagel enthusiasts have looked to the three of the best retail outposts to satiate their cravings: New York Bagel Shop on Hillcroft, the Hot Bagel Shop on Shepherd, and Bagel Express in Sugar Land. Soon, one of Houston’s highest profile coffee purveyors and a passionate food enthusiast will bring another option to Houston’s hottest dining neighborhood.
Katz Coffee owner Avi Katz and local attorney Gregg Goldstein are preparing to open a new bagel shop called Golden Bagels & Coffee. The new cafe will serve a full menu of bagels, bagel sandwiches made with in-house cured ingredients like pastrami and lox, pizza bagels, Katz coffee, and more. News of the project first circulated a couple of weeks ago, but only now are Goldstein and Katz ready to share details of their plans.
The duo, who first met as investors in Hugs & Donuts, developed the idea for the project based on Houston’s limited bagel options and a desire to provide the Heights with a bagel shop of its own. A 1940s era building on White Oak provided an ideal location thanks to its proximity to a popular hike-and-bike trail and the building’s inherent good looks. Their goal is to provide the city with a high-profile bagel shop that becomes a neighborhood staple.
"Honestly, if you look at cities around the world, they all have bagel shops," Katz says. "If you talk to the average eater around here, not the guys who go to restaurants like we do, when you talk to them about bagels, it’s Einstein. Nobody knows about Hot Bagel Shop or New York Bagels."
Nationally, a trend towards upscale bagels has arrived in places like New York (Black Seed Bagels) and San Francisco (Beauty’s Bagel), and even Austin, thanks to pop-ups like Manley’s Bagels and Rosen’s Bagels, but Golden Bagels plans to focus on traditional New York-style bagels without a lot of frills.
“I think our bagels are going to be simple and good. We don’t envision fancy bagels,” Goldstein tells CultureMap. “The goal is to have the best bagels in town.”
To achieve that goal, Goldstein and Katz have been testing recipes and working with a local baker. They’ve also obtained the proper equipment to make bagels the right way.
“We went and found a used Cutler oven. These are classic bagel ovens,” Goldstein says. “They don’t make them anymore. You can’t get ‘em. This thing has been refurbished from top to bottom.“
Noting that they had to purchase the oven in New York and have it shipped to Houston, Katz jokes that “there’s no used bagel ovens in Texas, Louisiana, potentially not even Arizona.”
With both indoor and patio seating, Golden plans to encourage coffee shop style lingering that’s different than the traditional grab and go style of service at most bagel shops.
“We want to build a place where people can come and hang out with their kids,” Goldstein says. “Hot Bagel Shop is not a place you can sit down and hang out for an hour. They have great bagels, but we hope to have a place you’d actually want to hang out.’
“It’s the fundamentals of hospitality: a nice place to come with friendly staff. It’s a clean establishment; it’s good, fresh food,” Katz adds. “I think the price point is reasonable. I don’t think it (will be) fancy-schmancy.”
Although Katz Coffee has retail clients all over Houston, Golden will represent the first retail outpost where Katz has direct control of how his company’s coffee is prepared and served. Expect a full range of espresso options as well as Katz’s signature cold brew.
“We have never done our own initiative on coffee,” Katz says. “We’ve helped hundreds of people over the years, but we’re super-excited to control our own destiny behind the bar. That’s going to be a big factor for us. For years, people have always made their assumptions about who we are based on where they’ve had our coffee, and we’ve never controlled that.”
Construction continues on the space. If all goes according to plan, the cafe will open in the next couple of months, but Goldstein and Katz emphasize that they want to make sure their recipes are dialed in and the staff is trained before opening the doors.
After all, the Heights has waited this long for a bagel shop to call its own. A few extra weeks won’t make much difference, especially if the results live up to its owners’ expectations.