Soft Pretzels and Pretzel Dogs Have Appeared at the Edge of Chinatown

They’re inside Jolene’s Market at HB Baking—and there are cheese skirts involved.


Hbbaking Pretzels Spread Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


If I were to trace my obsession with soft pretzels to its origin, I arrive where many others might—at a mall. Windward Mall, to be exact. I happily tagged along on my mom’s errands for a chance to sink my teeth into a steaming, buttery, salty pretzel from Pretzel Maker. Tearing pieces off its knotted body and dunking them into cheesy sauces made everything right in the world.


I still seek out soft pretzels at carnivals, breweries, ski resorts and anywhere else I can find them. So when I heard that David Lukela was cooking up his version of the chewy treats at Slice by HB Baking, I ran over to Chinatown to check them out.


Hbbaking Pretzels Case Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


The pretzels share a space with HB Baking’s ice cream pies and cakes inside Jolene’s Market in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. On Fridays and Saturdays you’ll find a lineup anchored by house original pretzels brushed with butter and sprinkled with ala‘e salt ($4.50 for a ring-shaped pretzel, $5 for a generous portion of nuggets). And the specialty selection: pretzel dogs featuring wagyu sausages from Butcher & Bird, jalapeño and pepperoni versions in full size or as nuggets draped with melted cheese atop crispy cheese skirts (five to an order). There’s even a dessert version—an extra soft and chewy ring stuffed with apple compote ($7.50).


SEE ALSO: Ice Cream Pies by the Slice Are a New Thing in Chinatown


The pretzels come with a sauce; you can buy more for 50 cents. Snuggy Sauce ($10 a bottle) is a sweet and zesty tomato jam whose moniker comes from the nickname given Lukela by his wife, HB pastry chef Heather Lukela. She is also responsible for the divinely deep and perfectly bitter caramel sauce, tangy German mustard, marinara, and Cholula cream cheese. Yup, that’s a thing. Also, call in your order early to guarantee your pretzel.


Hbbaking Pretzels Pepperoni Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


Lukela’s recipe uses quick-acting yeast, meaning he makes everything fresh. In contrast to thick-skinned, dark brown German pretzels, these have a soft outer skin. Lukela’s inspiration for creating the twisted morsels was his own childhood love of mall pretzels, so the pillowy texture is identical, as is the slightly sweet finish, in this case from the brown sugar he tosses in with the yeast.


SEE ALSO: Find Detroit- and Brooklyn-Style Pizzas at Chinatown’s New Slice Shop


Also, cheese skirts! Once you have one it’s hard to imagine why everything cheesy isn’t donning one. I could munch on these all day, crispy and toasty with just the right amount of sharpness. Pro tip: At home, heat these up in an air fryer to bring them back to their crunchiest. With no gaps between the tightly wrapped pretzel dough and the beefy wagyu frank, the pretzel dog is a heavy hitter. A few dollops of mustard, some Snuggy Sauce for dunking and I’m a happy luncher.


Hbbaking Dessert Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


Of all of Lukela’s creations, the one I can’t stop thinking about is a surprise—it’s the only one that’s not salty. The sweet pretzel is filled with apple cinnamon compote, which makes it even fluffier thanks to the steam created by the apples. Cinnamon crunches left from making HB Baking’s cinnamon toasts are sprinkled on top. I know I mentioned the caramel sauce, but seriously, whether you get the apple stuffed pretzel or a slice of ice cream pie or cake, get an extra order of the fresh caramel. You’re welcome.


100 N. Beretania St. Unit 105, (808) 202-8601, @slicebyhbbaking