Like the millions of other Americans who attempted to bake sourdough during the pandemic, Texas-born Jake Carter and West Seattleite Daniel Blagovich have spent much of the last two and a half years in the kitchen. It started with a love of bread, quickly shifted from pipe dream to actual business plan and a popular pop-up, and, finally, is ending in a storefront at 5421 South Tacoma Way for Howdy Bagel, their new, very gay bagel shop that’s scheduled to open this summer — with a logo that features a cowboy wearing only a hat and boots lounging in a bagel.
Howdy Bagel’s origins began with a bagel versus donut debate (the bagels won, mostly because they don’t require a deep fryer). After baking furiously in their West Seattle kitchen for five roommates in early 2021, the Carter and Blagovich transitioned to running a subscription service, Bagel Club, and found a commercial catering kitchen in SoDo in April (“I was like, ‘Hey, not to be presumptive, but I imagine you guys don’t have a lot going on right now,” Carter says). Then, in June, the pair moved to Tacoma, which kickstarted a summer of driving back and forth, often in the wee hours of the morning, scrambling to keep up with orders and deliver to both cities at the same time.
“At that point, we had gotten into the Proctor Farmers Market, but we were still baking in Seattle,” Blagovich says. “So we were getting up at 2 a.m. to drive to Seattle, then driving the bagels all the way back to Tacoma, and it just became too much. And everyone was asking us, ‘Do you guys have a storefront in Tacoma? Where can we get more of your bagels?’”
August marked a turning point for Howdy Bagel: Carter and Blagovich found a commercial space in Tacoma, started doing more pop-ups in addition to the market, and got engaged. A storefront wasn’t really part of the plan — at least not before the wedding — but when they stumbled across the perfect spot in South Tacoma, they couldn’t say no.
The first thing Carter and Blagovich point to at the storefront is a blank wall, soon to be filled with a colorful, illustrated history of the bagel. Neither of the two is Jewish, but bagels were brought to the U.S. by Jewish Polish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century; it’s a history that they take seriously and want to honor.
And each bagel from Howdy Bagel is a masterful balancing act between a chewy, fluffy inside and a crisp outside. Unlike many traditional bagel shops, though, they aren’t given an egg wash, so the bagels are vegan. Seasonings like sesame, everything, poppy, and za’atar are baked on top, while two special flavors — the rosemary sea salt and the black pepper parmesan — have ingredients mixed into the dough.
At the farmers market (and soon, at the storefront), sandwiches come open-face style and are affectionately called bagel tartines, with names like Brokeback Mountain Goat (scallion schmear, tomato jam, and herbed goat cheese) and AB & J (crunchy almond butter and Maury Island jam).
With the opening of the bagel shop, Carter and Blagovich plan to expand the bagel menu and also will brew coffee with beans from Olympia Coffee, among other soon-to-be-decided roasteries. The space, a former pizza parlor, is being designed by Roussa Cassel of Artisans Group, and the gay cowboy branding is by Austin-based artist Keith Davis Young.
“[Davis] was sending us thumbnails of ideas, and he sent us this pinup girl inside a bagel, and we were like, wait a second. We’re gay. Can we get a dude in there?” Carter says. “Like, gimme a mustached naked man!”
In a food world that can often be extremely serious, Howdy Bagel is intentionally the opposite. Carter says it’s all about knowing who you are.