So often when a literal hole-in-the-wall joint upgrades to a comparatively posher space, the quality of the product ironically declines in the absence of that rough-around-the-edges je ne sais quoi atmosphere.
Not so at The Hot Bagel Shop, which moved from its tiny, weathered, standing-room-only shop to a significantly larger, brighter space just a few storefronts down in the same plaza. In the months following this relocation, the shop has continued to churn out terrifically fresh bagels in a startling number of varieties (banana walnut, whole cinnamon raisin), including my favorite, the marvelous Supreme bagel bespeckled with all manner of seeds, grains, and seasonings. The cream cheese selection continues to be solid and an extra refrigerated case is out and center for customers to take home their favorite flavors in single-servings as well as tubs.
And that’s just the traditional stuff. If you can wean yourself off of your go-to bagel and cream cheese of choice, it is worth trying their deli sammies and their unctuous bagel dogs, plump juicy kosher beef hot dogs wrapped in bagel dough and garnished (if you want) with melted cheese.
It should also be noted that Hot Bagel Shop remains one of the very few places in Houston that offers bialys on a daily basis. After reading Mimi Sheraton’s wonderful monograph The Bialy Eaters, which details her journey to explore the roots of bialy production in New York and Poland, I became certifiably obsessed with this carbohydrate and its fascinating history. Having completed my own miniature bialy tasting quest in which I sampled varieties in New York, Boston, and Chicago, I can say with certainty that Hot Bagel Shop’s bialys are the real delicious deal.
The expanded quarters not only allows for a handful of tables so patrons can enjoy their well-constructed breakfast or lunch bagel sandwiches outside the discomfort of their home (hey, not everyone digs their digs) but also provides more room for the long lines that inevitably form on weekend mornings. This latter feature is especially welcome in the summer, when queuing up in the heat when you’re starving and not yet caffeinated is more than most of us can bear.
Besides the consistent churn-out of well-executed chewy, flavorful New York-style bagels and other related edible accoutrements, what also hasn’t changed at Hot Bagel Shop is friendly service from its laidback staff and eclectic consumer base—which on any given Saturday can comprise of octogenarian couples, seriously tatted millennials sporting ironic cat shirts, multi-generational families, well-heeled businesswomen, and weekend warriors looking to refuel. Oh, and this writer, who loves that she doesn’t even have to ask anymore for her "as is" bagels to be sliced because the employees recognize her as a regular.