Skip To Content

This Bagel Shop Is So Hot You Can Only Buy 3 At A Time

At one of the country’s hottest new bagel shops, the big influence isn’t Montreal or New York. It’s Pizza Hut.

“In high school, that’s where I learned the assembly-line approach to making sandwiches!”, laughed Nate Mathews, the Richmond, VA artisan-bagel sensation who just opened his first brick-and-mortar location after years of selling at farmers’ markets and pop-ups.

Nate’s Bagels, his airy shop in the city’s hip Fan District, has been selling out of bagels “daily” since its opening, Mathews told the Forward – more than 900 bagels per diem. Mathews has even restricted quantities in hopes of serving frustrated latecomers. “We cut off sales of half-dozen or dozen bagels,” he said. “Three is the most anyone can take home.”

The shop gives a Richmond spin to the traditional appetizing shop. House-whipped cream cheeses come in flavors like lox, blueberry, olive, and scallion; a signature schmear is infused with honey and Wildfire, a locally produced hot sauce. An expansive vegan menu includes house-made carrot lox, cashew cream cheese, and vegan sausages. “They make a great lox-with-the-works sandwich,” he said. Mathews predicted he’d move 20 pounds of cream-cheese spreads a day; his kithcne has been going through 50-80 pounds daily. “It’s all been a huge surprise,” he said.

In a city like Richmond, where Einstein Bros. Bagels routinely tops “Best Of” lists, Mathews high-touch approach feels game-changing. But Mathews insists that simplicity is his only secret. “We mix the dough, which is based on a very simple recipe,” he says. “Once the dough gets fluffy, we hand-roll it. The rolled dough ferments in a walk-in cooler for a while. It gains strength and flavor that way, and fermentation makes it a little bit healthier. Then the bagels are proofed, boiled, seeded, and baked.”

With no culinary training, New Hampshire-born Mathews started baking bagels two years ago “because they make people happy, and I really love them. I’d seen them on trips to New York as a kid. But we ate store-bought, grocery-brand bagels at home.” His itinerant bagel business, launched in 2016, became a huge hit, but also a slog. “We baked on awful equipment in a commissary kitchen with no a/c,” he said. “We had to bake, pack up the car, clean up the kitchen, which alone took 90 minutes, and get to the markets. But having a shop was the plan from the beginning. We just had a lot to learn.”

Now, his biggest challenge is keeping up. Everything bagels have been the most popular flavor, Mathews reports; sea salt/rosemary and golden cinnamon raisin are close seconds. A mysterious “Nate’s Bagel”, based on his own proprietary recipe, has also gained fans. “It’s a different dough, a little fluffier with a little more sweetness,” Mathews says. Edgier flavors like olive/zaatar and – God help us – blueberry and chocolate chip are on tap, too.

Next for Mathews and Nate’s: Catering, delivery, and “an evening concept with pizza bagels, pretzel bagels, and light dinner fare,” he said. “But we’re just in a foot race with hiring and training. And trying to bake and prepare enough food every day.”

Image by Michael Kaminer


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.