Sun's out, buns out

Famous East Coast bun brand slides into Houston grocery stores for first time ever

Famous bun brand slides into Houston grocery stores for first time

Martin's Famous Potato Rolls and Bread
Martin's Famous Potato Rolls are now available at H-E-B. Martin's Famous Potato Rolls and Bread/ Facebook

Every grocery shopper has brand loyalties. Mid-Atlantic transplants sparkle when they see Utz Crab Chips tucked in next to Lay's on convenience store shelves and Southerners can have Capulet-Montague divisions over whether one is from a Duke's or Hellman's family.

But few supermarket staples have attracted such international adulation as a Pennsylvania potato roll company launched by Lloyd and Lois Martin in 1955.

Now, Martin's Famous Potato Rolls and Bread are finally coming to Texas shoppers. According to a release, H-E-B locations in Houston and Austin now offer a wide assortment of Martin's carbs, including long rolls (aka hot dog buns); real butter bread; and whole wheat bread. Although the buns have been available to restaurants and foodservice venues since July 2015, this is the first expansion to Texas retail outlets.

Still branded with distinctive '50s-era typography, Martin's turmeric-yellow buns have become a modern phenomenon, aided in part by their use in Shake Shack locations worldwide. Though nostalgia no doubt fuels some of that zeal, chefs also routinely wax poetic about the bun's pillowy softness and the flavor profile's balance between savory and sweet.

That owes plenty to the company's standards. The release makes hay out of consumers' increasing turn towards all-natural ingredients, boasting that Martin's eschews high fructose corn syrup and other cost-cutting ingredients in favor of unbleached wheat flour, real milk, and pure cane sugar.

The components give the potato rolls an uncommonly brief shelf life of only three to four days on average. To accommodate, the Pennsylvania-owned company hired locally based sales employees to service the stores.

Whether that will convince Austin customers to swap Martin's for Texas' ubiquitous Mrs. Baird's remains to be seen. Given the temperate forecast for most of February, it might be time for a backyard burger taste test — arguments about which mayo to use notwithstanding.