New York-style bagel cafe hits downtown Nashua

NASHUA – Offering dozens of unique muffin, bagel, sandwich and wrap items, a New York-style bagel cafe opened last week in the vacant Sal’s Pizza storefront at 24 E. Hollis St. in Nashua.

Run by Kyriakos Kousakas and his wife, Lisa, the What A Bagel Cafe is just completing its first week in downtown Nashua after its grand opening Wednesday, Sept. 7.

“It’s been good, we’ve had good support,” Kyriakos Kousakas said, speaking from his shop Monday morning. He said while they haven’t done any advertising yet, they had a visit from Great American Downtown Director Paul Shea, who helped get the word out on their new business by announcing the grand opening on social media.

“I’m glad we got them a little love,” Shea said in a Monday afternoon phone interview, adding that he picked a couple items off the menu to try.

“I got to try the cinnamon sugar bagel – I was in the mood for something sweet. I got that with strawberry cream cheese. And I got a raspberry poppy-seed muffin,” he said. “Everything on the menu looks fantastic.”

Shea said it’s part of the Great American Downtown mission to welcome new businesses to the city.

“It’s always exciting to see new businesses come into town. I hope they have great success in the years to come,” he said.

Kousakas said over the years, he has owned five bagel and doughnut shops, and with What A Bagel, he wanted to focus more on the bagel business.

“I had it in mind to do just a bagel store, and I have been looking for a location. We looked everywhere, and we always liked Nashua,” he said.

What A Bagel occupies a storefront a couple blocks off Main Street on East Hollis between Spring and Quincy streets, and shares a building with Meineke. The entrance is set in from the busy road and shielded by some hedging, giving it a surprisingly quiet feel.

“We got what we think is a good location, we have good parking and exposure; East Hollis Street is a really busy road,” he said. The shop features outdoor and indoor seating, and a wide selection of rotating bagel, cream cheese and muffin flavors, along with sandwiches, wraps, coffee and teas.

“I’m a big believer in the old-fashioned New York-style boiled bagel,” Kousakas said, noting many bakers have switched over to steamed bagels. “That’s just a personal preference. A steamed bagel will proof the bagel and be soft and doughy, and a boiled bagel is chewy with a crispy crust.”

Kousakas said his favorite bagels on the menu are between the cinnamon raisin bagel and the Asiago.

“We’ve got some different twists; the bacon cheddar is very, very good, and the jalapeno cheddar,” he said.

What A Bagel will also be introducing the “rainbow bagel” this weekend. Which is, quite literally, a rainbow bagel.

“It’s just a plain bagel, but it looks like a rainbow. You’ll see lines out the door, it’s a pretty popular bagel,” he said.

The muffins also offer something unique – raspberry with cream cheese; lemon poppy seed with raspberry; cinnamon chocolate chip coffee cake; banana chocolate chip and a jalapeno corn muffin.

Cream cheese flavors come in a dozen varieties, too, including honey walnut, bacon and scallion, feta spread and vegetable.

When asked about the cafe’s proximity to longtime bagel cafe Bagel Alley at 1 Eldridge St. in Nashua, Kousakas said it shouldn’t be a problem.

“I don’t view it as a negative, I view it as a positive because it gives people more to choose from in the area,” he said. “It’s a city of 80,000; there’s enough for everyone.”

He said a more vibrant downtown helps all the businesses anyway, saying “the more coming into an area, the better for the area; it draws more people.”

Kousakas said for their first week, they saw a good deal of business from the local neighborhoods and City Hall.

“My wife and I are very excited to be in the Nashua area, and we look forward to serving our customers the best we can with the best quality,” Kousakas said.

What A Bagel is open seven days a week, 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. The business is also planning to launch a delivery service to local offices and businesses within the next 10 days.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, or @Telegraph_TinaF.