The former Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts looks a bit different these days.

Rare is the food and drink operator who has opened anything new during the COVID-19 pandemic, but popular bakery and brasserie Common Bond is proving an exception with a concept that emphasizes pick-up and drive-thru service.

Common Bond On-The-Go is preparing to launch May 18 inside the former Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts at 601 Heights Blvd. The concept will focus on grab-and-go pastries and savory items, coffee, and all-day bites and light meals with beer, wine, and frosé. It'll also utilize the drive-thru window at the space.

The Common Bond team started discussing plans for an on-the-go concept in summer 2019. Owner George Joseph tells Houstonia he was inspired partly by Dutch Bros. Coffee, the Oregon-based private coffee chain that's popular throughout the West Coast and mountain states and specializes in drive-thru.

"The thought just came together," says Joseph, who in 2016 bought Common Bond, which has three dine-in locations, plus additional eateries opening soon at Downtown's Bank of America Tower and in Springwoods Village's CityPlace district. His team started dreaming up a grab-and-go concept with drive-thru service, and "when the Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts space came up it was a no-brainer. It just worked out, and (Sam's owner Michael) Sambrooks worked out a deal on the lease."

Common Bond has made changes to the 1,176-square-foot space on the corner of 6th Street and Heights Boulevard. The exterior got a fresh, turquoise paint job, and an expanded outdoor patio and close to 30 chairs will be installed. There'll also be three tables inside fitting about 10 chairs, and a bar counter with stools along windows.

As for the menu—with items made primarily at Common Bond's commissary kitchens in the Mid-West and Uptown areas—you'll see many favorite items, like the bakery's signature chocolate chip cookie and turtle brownie, plus croissants and pastries. But there are some tweaks, like breakfast tacos in the morning, and a focus on grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie during the afternoon.

Thus, Common Bond On-The-Go will be used in a bevy of ways. People needing their morning coffee can roll up and grab their Katz Coffee from the drive-thru window, and in the afternoon, they might stop by for a fast lunch or dinner option, or even a mid-day wine break.

"Our main thing is just to come, get your coffee and croissant in the morning," says Chris Fannin, president of Common Bond, who adds that the Heights, an active neighborhood with two hike-and-bike trails within a three-minute walk from the shop's front door, is the perfect place to open the concept. "It'll be a great opportunity for the community, and it's such a walkable community; people can just walk here from their homes."

The Heights already has one Common Bond, the instantly popular location at the Heights Waterworks development on 19th Street. But Joseph and Fannin say since that brasserie is positioned more as a dine-in experience, they're not concerned about the viability of either location going forward. In fact, they believe so highly in the on-the-go concept that it probably won't be the last; Joseph is thinking of the Heights Boulevard location as a proof of concept.

"I want to be throughout Texas," Joseph says. 

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