Six Months in, Can Common Bond Live by Croissants Alone?

Common Bond really does bake some of the best breads in the country—if you can stand the wait.

By Robb Walsh November 30, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

If you’re reading this on an empty stomach, please accept our apologies in advance.

If you get to Common Bond early enough in the morning, the croissants will blow your mind. Crisp on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and buttery enough to make your fingers greasy, the crescent at the Montrose bakery/eatery will shower your plate with flaky crumbs as you eat. It’s the best croissant I have eaten in this country—and better than a few I’ve had in Paris.

Common Bond’s transformative croissants come in several varieties, including almond and chocolate, and usually sell out by noon, which is a good thing, as the croissant I had at 10:45 one morning wasn’t nearly as shatter-iffic as the ones I’ve eaten closer to 7 a.m., when the bakery opens. Houston’s humidity, it seems, can turn a perfect croissant gummy in a matter of a few hours, no matter how talented the baker may be. 

Before it even opened in May, Common Bond was already being billed as the best bakery/café in the country, and while the claims were wild, they weren’t without some basis in reality. Owner and head baker Roy Shvartzapel—a Houston native who graduated from the University of Houston and, later, the Culinary Institute of America—has worked at such legendary establishments as Pierre Hermé in France, elBulli in Spain, and the now-closed Bouley Bakery in New York.

But while the baked goods are dreamy at Common Bond, the logistics are a nightmare, especially if you want more—something from the breakfast or lunch menus, for instance. After a half-hour wait in line on a recent Sunday morning, our meal was served in four stages. First, the cashier handed us the croissants and a number. My kids had devoured their chocolate and almond croissants before the milk even arrived. 

Fifteen minutes passed before I finally got my toad in the hole, a seasonal special consisting of a huge breakfast sandwich of tender braised brisket between two slices of Common Bond toast with a poached egg nestled in the top slice, all covered with bacon gravy. While I was eating this wonderfully hearty egg-and-brisket dish, my cortado finally arrived, nearly 20 minutes after I’d ordered it. Sorry, but this is a ridiculous way to serve customers. A hostess suggested that I order brewed coffee next time—the expensive espresso machine is evidently not built for speed. 

Common Bond may well become one of the best bakery/cafés in the country someday, but only if they can figure out a better way to get their excellent food and beverages to the table. 

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