Jan 24, 2023 - Food and Drink

Some of Charlotte’s best bagels are made in a South End ghost kitchen. Here’s how to get your hands on them

Crust punk bagels

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

You might’ve ordered his bagels from Undercurrent Coffee at Optimist Hall, any of the Nightswim Coffee locations or Central Coffee Co. Jeff McElwee’s Crust Punk bagels are in coffee shops across the Charlotte area.

McElwee, the former chef at Town Brewing Co. in Wesley Heights, just opened his own kitchen in South End.

Driving the news: Town Brewing made the announcement of McElwee’s departure about two weeks ago on Instagram. “Our entire community is so grateful for some of the lasting effects and influence that Jeff will always have here,” the post read. 

  • If you’ve ever had one of Town’s flatbreads or their gourmet popcorn, you know this is huge.

My thought bubble: I still dream about the dino nugget flatbread they had on the menu for a short while during the pandemic. Dino nuggets on flatbread — it was as delicious as you’re imagining.

  • When Town Brewing announced McElwee’s departure, I had to find out what was next for him.
  • “More dino nugget flatbreads, perhaps?” I asked him in an email.  Sadly, no. But he agreed to show me around his new kitchen.
Crust punk bagels
Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Why it matters: McElwee’s bagels are a pandemic success story. He started making bagels at Queen City Grounds in 2019, but perfected his bagel-making skills during the pandemic while working at Town Brewing, as our news partners at QC Life recently reported.

  • While experimenting with bread-making, he simultaneously started a fundraiser for unemployed service workers called “doughnations” when the world shut down. He raised about $6K for local restaurant workers.
  • “I just got really good at baking and bagels were the runaway thing,” he said.

Context: McElwee has been in the restaurant industry for about 17 years and has worked as everything from a busboy to a chef.

  • Before bagels, McElwee was making waves for his “Waffle-Wiches,” as seen on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which he says he might bring back at Crust Punk Baking.

By the numbers: McElwee’s bakes anywhere from 144-432 bagels on any given day.

  • Bagels take about 24 hours to prep and he makes them in batches of 24-32 dozen.

Details: Crust Punk Baking has about 12 different bagel flavors and just released bagel sandwiches, which come with a side of home fries.

Crust punk bagels
From left to right: The vegan bagel with diet cheddar, roasted garlic aioli, impossible meat sausage and just egg; The everything bagel with pepper jack cheese, smokes jalapeño aioli, scrambled egg and liver mush; The plain bagel with American cheese, bacon and scrambled egg; and the spicy-garlic crunch bagel with roast garlic aioli, jimmy dean sausage, scrambled egg and sharp cheddar. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

What’s next: “This is the beginning,” McElwee said.

Crust punk bagels
Stop by South End Eats and order through a tablet at the front. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios
  • He envisions opening small brick-and-mortar shops around Charlotte in every neighborhood from NoDa to Plaza.
  • He also hopes to be an agent of change in the restaurant industry, offering livable wages and healthcare to his future employees.
  • “I want to take care of these people up front,” he said.
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