It’s Tuesday morning, and a woman steps into the building at the corner of Cary Street and Allen Avenue. She clutches her purse and gazes around the shop, clearly looking for breakfast. Nate Matthews smiles, sets down his cold-brew coffee and tells the eager guest that, sorry, it’ll be one more day before doors officially open. Mathews locks the door behind her and laughs, noting that it’s happened “about every five minutes” since the Nate’s Bagels sign went up weeks ago.
Mathews, the engineer-turned-baker who’s been slinging small-batch bagels at pop-ups and farmers markets since 2016, is finally ready to open the Nate’s Bagels storefront. Breakfast will start at 7 a.m. Wednesday, and if the recent soft openings are any indication, Richmonders are ready for bagels.
“The line was out the door,” Mathews says of the quiet, surprise open hours he held last week. “We sold out of 300 bagels in about an hour and a half.” Customers who have been devotees of Nate’s Bagels since its humble inception as a once-a-week bagel club and catering business won’t be disappointed, and Mathews says they may notice some differences. With a kitchen featuring an industrial-sized mixer and an oven that can bake up to 600 bagels at a time, the process is more streamlined and results in a more consistent product.
“We were used to this little mixer that beat the dough to death, and then the rest of the dough’s life you’re trying to resuscitate it,” he says, adding that with the old setup, one batch of dough yielded 36 bagels. Now he gets a minimum of 250 bagels from a batch. “Now to watch that hook turn slowly and perfectly and not scrape the bowl, there’s a ton of joy there, just watching your equipment run and seeing the future. It was really neat to take out a lump of dough as big as the table instead of this little thing.”
The menu, which includes breakfast and lunch, will feature a regularly changing selection of bagels. Flavors like everything (which Mathews says is overwhelmingly the most popular), cinnamon-raisin, poppyseed and pumpernickel will be available every day, while others like chocolate-chip and olive will rotate in and out. There’s also the Nate’s bagel — a secret recipe Mathews describes as neither sweet nor savory, which he says is best enjoyed toasted with some butter. As for toppings and spreads, the cream cheeses are whipped in-house, with flavors including plain, scallion, blueberry and Wildfire hot sauce.
If you’re looking for something a little more elaborate than a bagel with cream cheese, the lunch menu offers more than a dozen signature sandwiches like the bagel bahn mi, smoked whitefish salad and reuben. Add on some chips and a homemade dill pickle for a $10 lunch.
As Mathews and his staff settle into the groove of a brick-and-mortar business, they’ll continue rolling out more goodies, like housemade sodas and specialty coffee drinks. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for future announcements.