Sort-of Secret: Pretzel Logic, a soft pretzel pop-up in Little Italy

Sort-of Secret: Pretzel Logic, a soft pretzel pop-up in Little Italy

Simon Kou (left) and Dylan Frankland of Pretzel Logic. Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

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The sort-of secret: Pretzel Logic, a soft pretzel pop-up at Houndstooth
You may have heard of it if: You’re a fan of Toronto bands Tallies or Gloin. (Dylan Frankland, guitarist for the former, and Simon Kou, drummer for the latter, started Pretzel Logic during lockdown)
But you probably haven’t tried it because: It usually takes place just once a month

“Pretzel logic” refers to reasoning that’s faulty, illogical, twisted, full of holes. Pretzel Logic is also a 1974 album by Steely Dan, featuring the hit song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and the name of a Toronto-based nine-piece Steely Dan cover band. But, most importantly for hungry Torontonians, Pretzel Logic is a soft pretzel pop-up at Little Italy watering hole Houndstooth. “We just thought the name was funny,” says co-founder Dylan Frankland. “For us, it refers to how it’s just logical to eat our pretzels.”

Before baking, the dough is dipped in an alkaline solution called lye (yes, the same thing used to make soap, but totally safe to eat when prepared properly). This kicks off a Maillard reaction, which gives the pretzels their colour, sheen and flavour. Photo courtesy of Pretzel Logic

During Covid lockdowns, Frankland and co-founder Simon Kou each had a fair bit of free time to fill. They’re both musicians—Frankland strums the guitar in the dream pop band Tallies; Kou bangs the drums in the noise rock band Gloin. So, when the pandemic put the kibosh on indoor gigs and touring, the duo put their creative energy into making the perfect soft pretzel.

Why pretzels? During a recent tour in Germany, Frankland had some wickedly delicious ones at a bar called Swamps. “It was late, we’d been drinking a bit and I was hungry. I had a pretzel and it was amazing. Then I ate another and another,” he says. “I thought it was awesome to have that kind of bar snack. And I said to myself, ‘These should be at every bar.’”

The pretzels are baked in an industrial oven behind the bar at Houndstooth. They’re cooked for about 10 minutes, with a lot of airflow, at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Photo courtesy of Pretzel Logic

So, in the summer of 2021, Frankland and Kou gathered as much information as possible from the internet, reading up on the history of pretzels. They bought flour, yeast, salt, malt and lye. They studied a book called The Bread Bible, picking and choosing their favourite recipes. Ultimately, they learned by trial and error.

“It turned out to be harder than we ever imagined, so we just kept practising and practising,” says Frankland. “Every weekend, we were making pretzels. It got to the point of being overkill.”

Around that time, they brought a bunch of freshly made pretzels to Houndstooth, their favourite bar in the city. They’re good friends with owners Matias Rafael Marin and Alex Earl Gray. When Earl Gray tried one of the pretzels, he suggested that the dough makers try doing a pop-up at the bar. Frankland and Kou were ready to rock.

The bread is scored using a razor blade to make little slits in the exterior. Stretch marks occur naturally as the dough expands during baking. Photo courtesy of Pretzel Logic

For their first pop-up, in the fall of 2021, they made 100 pretzels by hand, mixing the flour, water and yeast and kneading the dough. “Our arms were jacked from doing it,” says Frankland. The pop-up was a hit, with friends, staff and bleary-eyed patrons praising the new salty and savoury late-night offering.

“The reception has been pretty amazing,” says Frankland. “Most people eat two pretzels, which is pretty good. Some people eat three. We don’t recommend eating four, though—that’s just too much bread.”

“I don’t drink anymore, but when I have a fresh pretzel out of the oven, it makes me want a beer,” says Kou. “There’s just something about it.”

Since then, the pop-up has been a monthly event. Each pretzel goes for $5. For an extra $2, customers can add a special beer-cheese sauce made with Burdock Deluxe lager.

On a good night, Frankland and Kou can sell 100 pretzels, putting 100 per cent of the profits back into the business and allowing the operation to slowly expand. To showcase the pretzels, they bought a $150 display carousel, like one might find at a baseball game or in a bodega.

Photo courtesy of Pretzel Logic

They also bought a $300 KitchenAid mixer, but it can only make enough dough for 12 pretzels at a time. The machine is also prone to overheating. “Sometimes we’ll have to finish kneading the pretzels by hand,” says Frankland. “When you’re working with dough by hand, you can feel when it’s ready—it has some pull, the gluten develops and builds strength.”

Moving forward, they plan to buy an industrial mixer, which will cost roughly $1,300. With that, they’ll be able to make 50 pretzels per batch, speeding things up significantly. They also plan to buy more carousels and set them up at other bars across the city, expanding the scope of their enterprise. And they’re looking into making sausages too.

“The big goal is just to feed people late at night,” says Frankland. “There’s a lack of late-night food in the city. I don’t really count big chain places. We want to make more organic food. Maybe we’ll eventually be able to start our own bakery.”

Frankland and Kou remain busy working other jobs—on top of being musicians, Frankland is a sound engineer and Kou is a foreman at a custom iron rail shop—so the pop-ups are sporadic. Ideally, they happen once a month, typically on a Saturday, but the schedule varies depending on the duo’s availability. They’re trying to figure out how they can devote more time to Pretzel Logic.

“If you’re going to start a new business from scratch, you have to be there all the time, so maybe we’ll have to quit our jobs,” says Frankland. “We’re thinking of really stepping it up. People want more, so we’ve gotta make more.”