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A Lox to Love: Former Northstar partner opens Short North bagel spot

Did you know there’s a place in the Short North where you can find an Instagram-worthy cheese pull and parking? Sturgill Simpson and salmon? Bread dough but not dollar dough?

This enigma is not really an enigma at all, but rather The Lox Bagel Shop.

Cash-free and as delectable as can be, Lox Bagel is drawing crowds and pulling “likes” for its hand-rolled, boiled, and baked bagels with such gaily-colored innards as beet and thyme cream cheese, pastrami, cucumber, capers, avocado, and, of course, lox.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

The schtick and schmear is all courtesy of Cincinnati transplant-turned Ohio State Buckeye, then Italian Village resident, Kevin Crowley and his partner in crime Silas Caeton. The burgeoning bageler got his start at Northstar, a quick half-mile walk down High Street. From his more than five years at the environmentally-conscious cafe, Crowley gleaned the importance of exceptional food and service and treating people with respect.

Silas Caeton (left) and Kevin Crowley
Photo by Brian Kaiser

“We chose to put our employees as our top priority, even above our guests,” Crowley wrote in an email. “We do this because if we can have an engaged, happy, healthy, and balanced team, then the obvious next step is guests that are well taken care of, as well.”

And well taken care of we are.

What writing lacks in monetary benefits, it more than makes up for in freebies and invitations. I, along with another (614) staffer, was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of “Lox” a few days before it opened.
As soon as we got there, I took note of Crowley’s composure during the chaos that ensued on the eve of opening day. Crowley strode throughout the dining area and kitchen—signing papers and crushing inspections—with the one thing business owners who believe in their product are afforded: confidence.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

He took us back into the small and toasty kitchen to show us where the magic happens. The kitchen is small in a way that not even a petite, agile person would be able to navigate without the constant “Behind!” or “Ope, I’m just gonna slide right past you” warnings. Tall baking racks with peeled-back plastic reveal trays of post-boiled bagels in their proofing phase. The boiler itself which resembles an art classroom kiln, an assembly line complete with all the best bagel accessories, and tables covered with bread in various phases cluttering the kitchen.

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But, perhaps the biggest obstacle of all for the busy bakers is the massive Wood Stone oven. The glow of the XL-refrigerator-sized oven warms the faces of those keeping a watchful eye over the bagels, making sure each and every one receives a perfect tan and crackling crust.

Also in the kitchen are shiny metal tubs filled with the finished product. Crowley caught me eye-flirting with the bagels and encouraged me to try one.

“Don’t feel like you have to finish it, though,” he assured.

Crowley demonstrated by picking one up, tearing it open with his hands, biting off a mouthful, and discarding the rest in the trash.

My eyes bulged. That was a perfectly good bagel, I thought. Great,
in fact.

I followed suit by carefully selecting what I thought was the most blue-ribbon grade bagel in the bunch. But, instead of tossing most of it in the trash after one bite, I enjoyed it down to the last sprig of rosemary.

Great indeed.

As we left the kitchen, I gave one final glance to the fallen bagel that wasn’t worthy of Crowley’s time or appetite. Splayed open atop a mess of plastic wrap, latex gloves, and a slew of other kitchen-related garbage, I realized that despite my non-discriminatory palate, not all bagels are created equal.

“[The perfect bagel for us] is a product that has been cold fermented for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days, has a nice, golden exterior crust with a nice textural difference between the exterior and the soft, chewy interior,” wrote Crowley. “[It’s] well seasoned and well seeded in order to provide both a great sandwich making bagel but also a great bagel on its own.”

Starting out, Lox will offer four bagels: everything, plain, seasalt and herb, and sesame. These pieces of bread can be dolled up with several different spreads and jellies. The breakfast bagel is egg and cheese, but can be made your way with bacon, sausage, pastrami, or avocado for an upcharge. The Lox bagel is ready to go at breakfast and/or lunch.There are rotating sides and salads for sale and breakfast sandwiches like pork and veggie. For the featured sandwich, just ask.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

I was wiping cream cheese from my cheek with the corner of my fried chicken skin bagel sandwich (cute, Regina, real cute) when Crowley came over to hand me the “perfect bagel.” Browned to perfection, bubbly, full of body. To me it looked like every single one of the bagels coming out of the Lox kitchen. But who am I to argue?

The Lox Bagel Shop is located at 772 N High St Suite 106 in the
Short North. It’s open 7:30am to 2 pm Monday-Friday and 8 am to 2 pm on the weekends or until it sells out.

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