An internationally-famous bakery has arrived in Houston. 85°C Bakery Cafe, a Taiwanese restaurant named for the best temperature to brew espresso that’s known as “the Starbucks of Asia,” has opened its first Houston outpost in Chinatown.
The store, one of 30 locations in the United States, is the company’s 1,000th worldwide. Dallas already has three locations, and Houston will be home to at least two more. The next location will open in Spring Branch on Blalock near the Katy Freeway.
Word of the soft opening has already spread. On Sunday, patrons waited in line for 15 minutes or more before being allowed to enter. Expect an even larger turnout for Friday morning’s grand opening at 9 am, which will feature a lion dance and a mayoral proclamation for “85°C Bakery Cafe Day.”
All of the excitement stems from 85°C’s reputation for high quality pastries that draw from both Asian and European influences. Classic Chinese egg custard tarts sit on shelves next to French-inspired brioche and hybrid recipes like the signature marble taro, which is a purple-hued sweet roll filled with taro paste. One savory item featured a black, squid ink bun with a Swiss cheese filling, while another includes hot dog and cheese.
“It’s a very unique culinary experience compared to any other bakeries,” marketing director Emily Hu tells CultureMap. “Traditionally, at U.S. or American bakeries, you walk in, you go to the counter and pick your pastry and pay at the register. For 85°C, we want to provide a semi-self serve experience . . . When customers walk into our bakeries, they usually need a little bit of guidance. I tell them to take a tray and walk through the bread area and pick whatever they like, then pick a drink.”
The instruction to “pick whatever they like” may prove to be a little difficult. 85°C serves approximately 60 different breads and dozens of sweets, all displayed in clear plastic cases. Hu recommends that first time visitors start with staples like the marble taro and brioche.
“Most bakeries, they may bake a couple of times throughout the day. When they sell out, they’re sold out,” Hu says. “For us, we insist that every single hour there must be some type of rotation on the bread shelf. Especially, the popular ones are constantly baking.”
Despite the extensive selection and stylish interior, prices are extremely affordable. A substantial loaf of fluffy brioche costs just $2.25 and six French-style macarons are priced at $7.60.
Beverage options are similarly diverse, with a range of coffees — all of which are made with espresso — teas, and smoothies. In particular, 85°C is known for its sea salt latte, which utilizes a dash of salt in the milk foam to enhance the coffee’s flavor. On Sunday, patrons eagerly sipped samples of peach-flavored iced green tea.
Between 85°C and other recent arrivals like Los Angeles Sichuan restaurant Chengdu Taste and South Korean-based fried chicken restaurant Lims, Chinatown is rapidly establishing its reputation as every bit as attractive a destination for out-of-town restaurants concepts as any other neighborhood in Houston. Someday, maybe Austin chef Paul Qui will even follow through on his tweet to open a location of his Japanese street food concept East Side King there.
85°C Bakery Cafe: 9750 Bellaire. Soft opening hours 10 am to 8 pm; Regular hours Monday through Thursday 7 am to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday 7 am to midnight; Sunday 8 am to 10 pm.