That was immediately apparent upon pulling into the soft opening of the Bagel Union(8705 Big Bend Street, Webster Groves), the new effort from Ted Wilson and Sean Netzer, the beloved owners of Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery. Arriving just 15 minutes after the 8am soft opening start time, I found the line to get to the corner convenience store stretching down the block and around the corner.
“Do I want bread that much?” I wondered out loud, and my husband didn’t reply, a sure sign that the answer must be obvious. However, she jumped out of the car and ran to the back of the line while he was standing.
My classmates and I lined up in St. Louis in the cool damp under a gray sky, and at 8:20 a.m. a woman at the front of the line told me she’d been there since 7:40. I grinned and went back to our place in the back. So, maybe I thought foolishly for 30 minutes.
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I always thought people who enjoyed queuing were crazy. But after being in line for 90 minutes in 30-degree weather, I get it. Almost immediately, we made friends with the woman behind us in line, and we chatted amicably. Sheet Creek and potential ghosts in their new home. Then we chatted to the guy in front of us, who lived in Indianapolis and asked about an Indy Marathon beanie. Half an hour later, we realized that the guy who kept running out into the street to take phone pictures was a Pulitzer Prize winner. after sending Photographer Robert Cohen said hello.
People who like to wait in line for bread obviously love the food, and in no time we started exchanging recommendations. Favorite coffee shop? Striped, swamp, northwest, mud house and coffee character. pretzels? Nathaniel Reed Bakery, Missouri Baking Company, La Patisserie Chouquette. Cajun? sister cities. This continued.
A person wearing an inflatable dinosaur costume walked by. We stared enviously at the customers walking by with stuffed paper bags.
So the 90+ minutes it took to get our bread, helped both by a Good Samaritan who stopped by and reassured us that the supply was good, and by inviting fountains of air wafting from the front door as customers left.
Walking into the little shop was a relief for our cold numbers, as was the do-it-yourself coffee. The decor inside is modern and simple. At the front of the venue is a bakery box filled with merchandise, two registers, and a paper ticket system. The customer space is L-shaped and will someday have a small amount of seating for the dine-in option although the setup is mostly for takeout.
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Setup within the Bagel Union.
For the soft opening, Bagel Union only served bagel and smear (although they were out of the latter by the time we made it). When the shop is fully operational, it will also serve bread sandwiches. We left with a paper bag filled with Baker’s assortment of gentlemen, sesame, poppy and all, salt and cherry tablets, and one new friend’s phone number. A dozen bakers cost $27, and breads ranged from $2.50 to $3 each.
Impatient to wait for the 15-minute drive home, we dug into the cherries in the car. Here the bagel dough was twisted and filled with loads of juicy red fruit and slightly glazed, reminiscent of a babka. It was so tender, and still warm, it crossed the line into pastry, despite the emaciation of the dough. And it’s not like the traditional sad bread with fruit.
At home we cut others. Although the crust was hard and chewy, it was also quite thin, kind of a delicious middle step between East Coast-style bread and an upscale roll. The inside was meltingly tender with a light, airy crumb that soaked up the butter well.
We each had at least two and plan to go back when it officially opens sometime next week. I am particularly interested in the sandwich bread.
All in all – it was worth the wait in line.
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