I can’t recall exactly when I first saw a coffee shop inside a supermarket, but I do know it made my eyes bug out, my mouth drool, and my arms flail wildly. I may have knocked down an entire display of bagged pistachios. Who's to say?
Since that day, grocery stores across the country have been adding not just coffee shops, but fast-food counters, fast-casual concepts, lounges, and playgrounds. Now more than ever, you can spend (waste?) a half-day inside a supermarket. I love supermarkets, but I give myself 40 minutes each time. If I’m there any longer it’s my fault and I should’ve planned better.
The new H-E-B in Bellaire, which is nearly indistinguishable from a mall-adjacent Target, doesn’t have all that crazy stuff, but it does have The Roastery, which comes from the Four J group—chefs Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, Joey Campanaro, Jason Giagrande—and is open now beside the market’s main entrance.
The Roastery has that clean, bright, co-working space interior you’d expect from a modern coffee concept. It’s calming, and contrasts nicely with the colorful, labyrinthian H-E-B. Those wanting to sip or nosh outside can take it onto a patio, where you’ll forget you’re about to place six La Croix packs into your cart.
The coffee, sourced from the big coffee-producing countries, has strong flavor and bite. I detected very little water in my cold brew and got plenty of roasted bean notes. It stacks up well with some of my in-town favorites, including Blacksmith, Greenway, and Revival Market.
The tea was as impressive, though I happened upon it by accident, as the cold brew dispenser mistakenly held the wrong stuff (which I ascribe to first-week jitters). The tea was perfectly balanced and flavorful, sweet without being sugary and bright without needing lemon.
As for the food, I tried the roast beef sandwich, which included a creamy horseradish spread and arugula inside a pretzel roll. It's a good sandwich with a moderately peppery kick. I really appreciated the slightly salty roll, though a little crispiness would’ve really elevated it. Nonetheless, it’s the kind of sandwich my Pennsylvania-made father would appreciate, and a quick bite that does the trick for lunch.
There’s more to try at the Roastery, including a chicken cutlet sandwich, grilled cheese, toasts, and salads, but oh will there be opportunities. The coffee concept will be in the new H-E-Bs opening across the city, including San Felipe (winter 2018), the Heights (early 2019), Buffalo Heights (summer 2019), and Meyerland (fall 2019). Yes, Houston shopper, you’ll be able to sip good coffee, eat a solid sandwich, and search for peace before pushing a shopping cart through the corn maze that’s about to invade your neighborhood. I suppose adding another 20 minutes to my supermarket visits isn't that big a deal.