It's very kosher
Beloved Houston bagel shop rolls out second location in Bellaire
Houston’s newest bagel shop opens this week. The Bagel Shop Bakery, a sister location to the 45-year old Meyerland original, will begin service on Wednesday, December 30.
Located in a former pawn shop/drug store at 5422 Bellaire Blvd., the new Bagel Shop Bakery is one of three concepts that manager Michael Saghian is opening in the space. Houston Catering Concepts has already begun operating on premises, while a second location of the bakery’s companion New York Deli and Coffee Shop — both of which are co-owned by Saghian — will debut in late spring/early summer 2021.
While Saghian goes to great lengths to emphasize that nothing about the original location of the bagel shop is changing, the new outpost will offer a substantially different experience. For the first time, diners will have the option to purchase bagel sandwiches and other prepared items that can be taken to-go or consumed on a 40-seat patio.
“The biggest thing for us is the bagel shop has been around for 45 years,” Saghian tells CultureMap. “We want to take the warmth and the memories and the meaning behind who we are and open this location with all of that, but offering elevated sandwiches, giving a part of our community the opportunity to eat our bagels, bringing in the old and the new, and continue building on the multi-generational families that come in.”
To help realize that vision, the bagel shop turned to consulting chefs Matt Marcus and Roshni Gurnani, a Chopped champion who will also serve as the executive chef of the deli when it opens later this year. Taking inspiration from both Marcus’ lifetime of eating at the original location and modern Jewish concepts such as New York restaurants Russ & Daughters and Sadelle’s, the duo have crafted a fully kosher of both dairy and pareve (neither milk nor meat) dishes that meet the ultra-stringent standards of the Mehadrin Kashrus of Texas (better known as MKT).
Adhering to this standard, which is compliant with the dietary practices observed by ultra-Orthodox Jews, comes with a whole set of procedures that must be followed and products that must be used. For example, all ingredients must be checked in over video chat with one of the supervising rabbis. Additionally, the cream cheese used on prepared sandwiches comes from a MKT-approved producer and is different than the cream cheese the bagel shop makes and sells for retail-style to-go.
For those who either don’t keep kosher, the most practical manifestation of following those rules will be that the bagel shop will not serve any meat products. That means Marcus and Gurnani had to get creative to develop non-meat containing takes on classic sandwiches and starters such as matzo ball soup.
“We’re taking the traditional Jewish recipes and being able to offer them in a vegan environment. It’s elevating that menu, offering a lox and bagel and making it a wow factor,” Gurnani says.
In addition to bagels and lox, the menu includes a breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, cheddar cheese, and vegetables. Avocado toast is present and accounted for, along with a pizza bagel that can be topped with cheese or vegetables. Some of the more creative options include a housemade falafel burger, a pastrami salmon Reuben sandwich, and latkes topped with smoked salmon. Both dairy and pareve desserts will be available, which means observant Jews can enjoy a cake pop after a meaty meal. A full lineup of coffee and espresso beverages will provide customers with their daily caffeine fix.
“We’re hoping to do modern takes on Jewish food,” Marcus says. “It’s going to be something really cool and really special for the city.”
Those efforts at updating classics will continue in the new coffee shop and deli, which will seat 300 people in a massive, 5,000-square foot space. Saghian offers a few hints, including deli meats that are smoked onsite, tableside sliced nova and lox, and a full liquor license with cocktails. Construction on the space is currently underway, with the goal of opening around May. Unlike the bagel shop, it will not be kosher, so diners will be able to order a bacon cheeseburger. It aims to continue to raise the game for deli-style eating in Houston.
“We’re bringing new recipes to the deli, bringing new ways to present these things,” Gurnani says. “That’s where we’re going from here. Everything will be scratch-made. That’s my forte.”