Outstanding house-made bagels are slathered with flavorful cream cheeses and form the basis of mostly excellent, scratch-made sandwiches at this fashionable newcomer
When the Lox Bagel Shop opened in December, you might have guessed its impressive team leaders — which include Silas Caeton, the former executive chef at Cosecha Cocina, and Kevin Crowley, a former partner at Northstar Cafe — would be a guarantee that Lox was destined for excellence. If that was your guess, you have been proven correct.
Occupying the modest-sized space that once housed sedate eateries Homefare and L'Antibes, Lox has rapidly become a buzzy Short North sensation. Call it a hot spot with a cool veneer.
Launched with credit-card-only counter service (I was informed the payment policy is currently being rethought), Lox is a trendy, tasteful and modern operation awash in pale and soothing neutral tones. Light-colored wooden tables — most are two-tops, a couple are communal — provide seating above a concrete floor. Light-colored wood decorates the walls, too, along with graphic depictions of wave and crystalline forms against a muted-blue background. Windows filter natural light into the stylish room. A pleasant indie-pop soundtrack cements Lox's ambience, which I'd sum up as “this could be a hip cafe in Brooklyn.”
So if you find yourself facing a deep line in Lox — expect this on weekends — at least it's a relaxing place to hang out. Besides, in my experience, lines move quickly and the food arrives in a timely fashion.
The scratch-made bagels ($2.25 each), which are boiled and baked the old-fashioned way, would be worth a wait, anyway. All four varieties — plain, sesame, everything, sea-salt-and-herb — taste great and offer crinkly exteriors that lead to delightfully chewy interiors.
Bagels can be topped with several thick cream cheeses. My favorite is the one generously speckled with house-cured lox ($4), but even the plain ($1) is rich and tangy. Add a flavorful coffee ($2.50), made with Cat & Cloud beans (from California), or a zippy bloody Mary made with Watershed vodka ($7.50), and your day will be heading in a good direction.
About a half-dozen pick-your-bagel sandwiches dot the small menu. If breakfast flavors are calling, the egg & cheese ($8) is a high-quality crowd-pleaser that flatters an omelet disk with melted cheddar and “egg sauce” — a perky mustard-mayo-chipotle-honey aioli. Add a sage-scented sausage patty from the Butcher and Grocer ($2.50), and it's even better.
The outstanding pastrami sandwich ($10.50) stars hefty slabs of warm, outrageously juicy and tender house-cooked meat that can stand up to garnishes of aggressive pickled onions, mustard and melted Swiss. It's the best sandwich here — in fact, it's one of the best new sandwiches I've sampled this year. A chive-flecked potato croquettes side-dish special ($2.25) was so beautifully prepared, I hardly cared it was oversalted.
Although good, the signature lox sandwich ($12.50) could use some retooling. The skillfully cured, rather subtle fish — it's not too smoky or salty — isn't generously applied, is too thickly sliced to be silky-tender, and is overwhelmed by Lox's intense pickled onions.
Roasted, pickled, raw and marinated plant matter is vibrantly showcased in a veggie sandwich ($8.50) loaded with broccolini, mushrooms, beets and shaved carrots, plus beet-and-thyme cream cheese whose shocking-pink hue belies a mild taste. It's an unwieldy assembly that falls apart, but I still applaud this colorful, creative, healthful and flavor-packed option.
Neatly sliced avocado slivers, plus a kicky, if not saucy, salsa verde with cumin and chile notes, make harmonious partners for slow-roasted, spork-tender, juicy pigmeat in the highly recommended pork sandwich ($10). If a Mexican gordita bound in a bagel sounds odd — it initially did to me — it's a testament to Lox's talented kitchen crew that, after a few bites of this, it seems like a perfectly sensible combination.