For months, Dallas awaited the opening of a Shug’s Bagels & More, a New York bagel shop promising to deliver “the bagel that Dallas deserves.”
Dallasites have long lamented the lack of “real” bagels in the city, with chains such as Einstein’s accounting for most of our bagel options.
Shug’s officially opened in June, and if you’ve seen the line outside the new spot in the Park Cities Village shopping center, you know the hype is real.
Owner Justin Shugrue is a Westchester County native who moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University, which is just a short walk west of Shug's today. He graduated with a degree in finance, but after a couple of internships in the field, Shugrue realized a typical finance desk job wasn’t for him.
All of the time Shugrue was at SMU, he and his friends from the Northeast complained there were no good bagel shops in Dallas.
“Why can’t I do this?” he thought.
“I have restaurant experience,” Shugrue says. “I don’t have a girlfriend, mortgage, commitments. This is the time. ... I’m the person to get it done.”
Growing up, Shugrue worked in restaurants around Westchester, New York, including The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges and Topping Rose House.
Shugrue maintained connections he made at these establishments in New York, including Joe Nilsen, who is now co-manager of Shug’s. Nilsen, who trained Shugrue at the Inn at Pound Ridge, moved to Dallas in December to help Shugrue open the bagel shop.
Miguel Garcia, who moved to Dallas to run back of house at Shug’s, worked at Lenny’s, a bagel shop in Rye Brook, New York.
“I would eat Lenny’s onion bagels toasted with butter religiously,” Shugrue says. “It’s insane I have someone working the kitchen that’s actually from the bagel shop I grew up eating at it.”
Though he had worked in restaurants, Shugrue didn’t have specific experience with bagels outside consuming them regularly, so he went back to New York and worked the baker shift at Bagel Place Cafe & Deli in Hampton Bays to learn.
Shugrue also got in touch with other bagel shop owners, including Emily Winston of Boichik Bagels in Berkeley, California, and Scott Campanozzi of Wholy Bagel in Austin.
“I learned a lot by being curious and asking for help,” Shugrue says. “That’s the most endearing part of this business; everyone is so willing to help.”
Shug’s makes kettle-boiled bagels using refurbished equipment.
“A lot of places use steam-injected ovens, like Einstein’s and Panera,” Shugrue says. “It’s franchisable and idiot-proof. We do things the ‘old school way.’ It’s more labor-intensive.”
At Shug’s, the dough is made in-house. Bagels are boiled for 15 seconds in a kettle to get moisture on the outside. Then they go into a revolving tray oven, where they’re flipped mid-way so they cook on both sides.
“There’s seasoning on both sides of kettle-boiled bagels,” Shugrue says. “That’s how you can tell if they were kettle boiled versus steam injected.”
Shug’s serves bagels that one would usually find in New York (and not usually in Dallas).
“I tried to emulate bodega bagels the most, tri-state cuisine more than traditional Jewish bagel culture,” Shugrue says. “I’m not Jewish. I’m familiar with the purist bagel shops in New York, like Russ & Daughters, Ess-a-bagel, H&H Bagels that only do bagels and cream cheese.”
But Shugrue wanted to focus on what he grew up loving, bodega bagels.
“What Shug’s really is to me is a representation of the cuisine of the whole tri-state area,” Shugrue says. “Chicken cutlets, Kaiser rolls, Arizona iced teas, so many things other than just the bagel. Obviously the bagel is the focal point and center of this business, but there are many things we offer that Dallasites are starting to appreciate more.”
In opening Shug’s, Shugrue’s goal was not to force New York culture on the city of Dallas.
“I want Shug’s to be Dallas’ bagel shop,” Shugrue says. “Whatever they want this concept to turn into ... I just want to make people happy.”
When we visited at lunch on a Friday, the line had six people standing outside the door, about a 20-minute wait. But come on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and the line wraps around the building.
“I didn’t expect to be this busy,” Shugrue says. “The whole plan was centered around students and commuters. I thought we were going to take a huge hit with the pandemic.”
Shugrue chalks up Shug’s popularity to a couple of reasons: the void of bagel shops in Dallas and its business model.
“There was a void in the market. And when you address that void, people flock to it,” Shugrue says.
During the pandemic, many people are preferring takeout options versus sit down restaurants.
“For those who are willing to venture out right now, something that’s super grab-and-go like a bagel shop is an approachable option,” he says.
Shugrue’s favorite menu item is the eponymous Spicy Shug ($8) — bacon, egg and pepperjack cheese with a hash brown and hot sauce on a roll. He also still loves his childhood favorite, an onion bagel toasted with butter.
Shug’s has seven additional classic sandwiches, including a Reuben ($11), chicken salad bagel ($9), grilled cheese ($8) and a pizza bagel ($8). They also offer breakfast sandwiches ($7) with a variety of meats and cheeses and have three types of bagels and lox ($14) — classic, gravlax and pastrami lox.
Bagels are $10 for a half dozen, $18 for a baker’s dozen or $2 for a single bagel. The day we visited they offered poppy, salt, whole wheat, onion, sesame, egg, egg everything, everything and plain. But a flavor is gone for the day once it sells out.
Cream cheese options include plain, scallion, veggie, lox spread, vanilla-walnut, strawberry, blueberry, spicy Southwest, jalapaño, jalapeño-cheddar, bacon scallion, scallion and garlic and herb. A bagel with cream cheese is $4, and a half-pint of cream cheese alone is $6.
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Shug’s also offers traditional deli items such as meat, cheese, lox, salads and spreads, available by the quarter-pound or half-pint
Coffee is served in the classic New York City Anthora paper cup ($2 for a small, $3 for a medium, $4 for a large). Other drink options include iced coffee and iced tea.
Shug’s is currently only doing retail business, but they are soon adding delivery options and curbside pickup.
Shug’s Bagels & More, 3020 Mockingbird Lane. 469-526-5050. Open for takeout 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.