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Setting Sail With Captain Cream Cheese

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Two months ago, a new Short North eatery quietly opened their doors at 1030 North High Street, and if you’re not paying close attention, you may have already walked right by it without realizing it’s there.

“Bagels by Captain Cream Cheese” operates during the daytime out of the same side-of-the-building shack where Mikey’s Late Night Slice serves up pizza after hours.

We recently caught up with Zach Henkel, the entrepreneur behind this new business, to find out more.

Walker Evans: First off… where did you dream up the idea for a Nautical-themed Bagel Shack?

Zach Henkel: The idea stemmed from a Facebook group started by a friend advocating that Kickstart get bagels in early January: “1 Million strong for bagels at KickStart“. I said, “Hey why don’t I just make some bagels and give them away to people there?” So that night, I made plain, egg, and invented the Big Italian which is a 6.5oz bagel stuffed with some South African peppadew peppers and topped with a nice sharp aged provolone, red pepper flakes, garlic, and Italian Seasoning.

People ate them the next day and the next day and the next. I was talking to Mikey one night and he mentioned how he would like to have a daytime tenant in the Late Night Slice hut. I told him my bagel idea and made him an improvised bagel on the spot using some pizza dough and water from an airpot to boil the thing. He dug it. The place already had its Food Operation Permit, Health Inspection passed and an potential audience. I got some equipment together and in few days, Captain Cream Cheese opened.

The Nautical Theme comes from one of my nicknames in the northern portion of the Short North, “The Captain” which is from my wearing of a Greek Fishermans’ hat with a shipwheel emblem sewn on. The hat I borrowed/stole/inherited from a friend of mine from Vermilion which is Ohio’s “Home of Ship Captains” on Lake Erie. I think my girlfriend and assistant chef Lindsay “laChewla” Ciulla came up with the name “Captain Cream Cheese” and went along with an established image which sounded fun and connected the place to bagels, which cream cheese most often ends up on. Plus, people say Columbus needs an Ocean or Mountain…

We were briefly going to call it BagelStarr since it’s close to Starr Ave and would develop some kind of goofy bagel-celebrity motif… but that was stupid. Like a scenester bagel place. An undeveloped idea, maybe for a different product.

WE: Tell us a little bit about your bagel-making process.

ZH: Bagels start as a dough that proofs about 15 hours, then is cut and formed, boiled, baked, and topped and baked again for a minute to melt cheese or adhere toppings, then cooled. The menu is a mix of traditional bagel flavors like plain, poppy, egg, salt, everything, sesame, etc. Then a personal addition of some of my favorite cheeses like Edam+onion which is a bagel with a bed of sauteed onion with Edam cheese melted over them. I like gouda cheese too. The apricot was laChewla’s idea, it currently serves as our only sweet bagel. The three cheese and spinach is kind of pizza inspired and the Big Italian is a new invention and a real winner.

The rest of the menu which includes soup, sandwiches, and sides is a mix of deli goods, Italian-American stuff like ditalini, farfalle, cannellini based soups and salads. We also currently offer seasonal ramps which are used in ramps cream cheese, as a garnish an a topping on our egg sandwiches. The egg sandwiches are made with an egg pan-fried in butter. Cheese, bacon, and other toppings can be added. We can make double, triple, and quad stack egg sandwiches. Whatever the customer likes. Some customers just tell me how much they want to spend and I whip something up. You can order that way too! We also make fresh bagel chips on demand.  We also offer 23 flavors of Faygo!

WE: January is always a tough time to open a restaurant business, and I have to imagine that one that operates out of a walk-up window has to be a little tough in the colder months. How have things gone so far?

ZH: Its been disappointing. We have many regular customers, but the northern Short North is pretty unpopulated in the daytime, and an absolute graveyard in the morning. Fridays and Saturdays bring the most traffic. White Castle, UDF, and Northstar are the only places with much vitality in the morning. We are not on a commuter route, near an interchange, or in an employment area.

WE: Which menu items seem to be standing out as customer favorites?

ZH: The Big Italian has a fan base, its really like nothing else. People look at the menu for a menu and say, “Just give me the Big ITALIAN!”

The Everything seems to bring great excitement, and it seems like I am the first person to bring Edam cheese to Columbusite’s palate because most don’t know what it is and pronounce it as edamame, which is something totally different.

WE: In addition to the walk-up service, you’re also doing deliveries, correct?

ZH: Its more of a personal delivery thing now to local businesses and friends within a three block radius. I haven’t really developed a real delivery system yet. We don’t even have a phone. We do take special large orders for meetings, parties, or events.

WE: So, what does the future hold for Captain Cream Cheese? Personally, I’d love to see a second location set up on the deck of the Santa Maria. Put that boat to good use.

ZH: I went to the Santa Maria two weeks ago and it was looking pretty rough, much like our shack. In the future, we’ll probably see some new bagels, lunch meats, and maybe quesadillas. We also plan on having live music on our patio on Saturday’s. Captain Cream Cheese and Late Night Slice want to use our parking lot for a festival in the future complete with circus acts, tasty food, beer, and music.

Bagels by Capt. Cream Cheese can be found at 1030 N. High St in the Short North. Hours are Mon-Fri 10am to 5pm and Sat Noon-6pm.

More information can be found via Facebook and Twitter.

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