Food & Wine magazine listed it as making some of the best bread in Texas. The Houston Press named it “Best French Bakery.”
Magnol French Baking seems to appear on every “best bakery” list that comes out.
Perhaps one of the most notable honors, as it came from a France-born food editor who did more than two years of research on the subject, was the Spring Branch District bakery being crowned for “Best Croissant in Houston.”
“I cannot fault its impeccable flake, its spot-on dislocation, its shimmering egg wash, its moist butteriness, and its delicate, lightly crisp exterior that gives in to tender flesh with one bite,” Emma Balter wrote in the Houston Chronicle.
With much fanfare, Magnol opened in Spring 2019 as a wholesale and retail bakery. When you come upon it, though, you might be wondering: “Is this it?”
Located in a nondescript business park near the corner of Hempstead and N. Post Oak roads, Magnol is creating beautiful things in that pretty plain wrapper.
And people — from everywhere — hear about it.
“It has gotten a lot busier. Word of mouth is a powerful tool,” said owner Chef Otto Sanchez.
He said he has never hired anyone to manage the baker’s publicity or social media: “It has truly grown in a very organic way, and we really like it that way. We let our products do the talking for us.”
And the products, which are organic, don’t stay on the shelves long.
Sanchez said his customers come from the store’s area and nearby Awty International School but also from The Heights, River Oaks, Galleria and as far as The Woodlands, Katy and Sugar Land.
“Business is great. We cannot complain,” he said, adding that the bakery also gets a lot of customers from the restaurants to which it sells bread, including Coltivare in The Heights, Bludorn in Montrose and Wolfgang Puck in the Texas Medical Center.
The business model at Magnol has stayed the same from the beginning — retail with a smaller wholesale arm.
Sanchez said they expanded their space during the pandemic and added indoor and outdoor seating with social distancing. They added coffee, which was something that the customers really wanted, Sanchez said. You can now order everything from a macchiato to a chai latté to matcha tea.
Magnol, which specializes in authentic artisan French bread and pastries, is the culmination of a long-term dream.
After what he describes on the Magnol website as a “self-imposed exile,” Sanchez said he told himself he would not come home to Houston until he had become the best baker he knew.
“After 10 years on the road, I made it back, and have spent every moment envisioning ways to elevate the bakery and pastry profile of the city of Houston,” he said.
Chef’s professional career as a pastry chef took off when he moved from San Salvador, El Salvador, to Houston in 1992. Eventually, he earned the role of executive sous-chef of pastry at Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse’s MIX in Las Vegas. He also held the position of executive pastry chef at La Table in Houston.
The concept for Magnol “really was just us understanding that the market needed a true French bakery with breads that are made with a lot of technique and great ingredients,” he said.
“Since I started my career here in Houston, we made use of the connections I have forged over the years with some of the most accomplished and esteemed chefs in the city to launch the project with their support, so we did not have to go door to door presenting our products, which gave us some confidence,” Sanchez said.
Recently, the bakery became a “100% French butter bakery,” importing butter from Brittany, France, to use in all products.
“For those that say that we’re pricey, we won’t refute that, but we are organic and use the best ingredients available and we will go to any lengths to pursue a better product,” the bakery said in a social media post.
On my recent visit, Chef Otto was in the back, preparing dough for one of the shop’s many delicious offerings. A spacious window into the kitchen area allows customers to watch the baking take place.
A cheery and helpful young man behind the counter expertly prepared my ‘flat white” coffee before moving on to serving lemon raspberry cake rolls on pretty plates for customers to eat in the cafe and then back to slicing bread for others to take home.
From artisan baguettes to chocolate croissants to fruit tarts, Magnol has everything you need to bring France home from right here in Spring Branch.
Or, maybe take a minute to sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and tear Houston’s best croissant while you watch the world class bakers prepare more.
Magnol French Baking
1500 North Post Oak #160
Open Tuesday-Fridays 7:30 a.m. to 5 pm., Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig