Monica Dimas knows something about fervid fans. She’s already opened restaurants devoted to Mexican street food and Charleston-style fried chicken in Seattle. Nothing, though, could have prepared Dimas and Molly Westman for the reaction they got announcing a café devoted to great bagels and coffee.
“It got crazy. Everyone had something to say,” says Westman, who previously worked at Macrina Bakery and is heading up the baking and operations of Dimas’s new enterprise, called Westman’s.
People weighed in on what style of bagels they should bake. (Lofty, with a good chew and a hole that isn’t so big the cream cheese falls through.) Schmears were clearly crucial: “We have cream cheese interviews this week,” Dimas says during the run-up to opening day.
Cuppa joe? Caffè Vita. “We’re trying to provide something that’s community-based,” Dimas says. “It didn’t make sense to bring in an outside roaster.”
The public excitement didn’t faze them. After all, they both love bagels too. And, “Being Mexican, I’m totally used to everybody having an opinion about food. It’s very similar culturally,” says Dimas, who, at 32, owns a small restaurant empire including Neon Taco, Tortas Condesa, and Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches.
Westman’s Bagels and Coffee came about because Dimas was fond of the teensy storefront at 1509 East Madison St. that once housed Little Uncle and then Manu’s Bodegita. “It’s a difficult space, but it’s a cool space, and I’ve always really wanted it,” she says.
She thought bagels, coffee, and New York breakfast sandwiches filled a perfect niche, both logistically and in the daily lives of passersby. A friend introduced Dimas to Westman, a Florida native and rabbi’s daughter with Seattle Culinary Academy’s pastry program on her résumé and a dream of opening her own place. Their personalities and goals fit together like corned beef and rye.
Their days were soon filled with research trips and test bakes and crucial decisions, like serving unsmoked gravlax and smoked lox so that the flavor comes through better. For starters, they expect bagel types to include sesame, salt, pumpernickel, everything, and a fifth option that will probably be sweet.
They’ll do challah on Fridays and seasonal options like hamantaschen. And they’re already overwhelmed with requests for wholesale bagels.
Both women want Westman’s to stand on its own, not copying a classic New York place — or the many different images people have about what makes a classic New York place. “It reminds me of taco stands,” Dimas says. “Every one is so different. Everyone has an idea of what [it] should be.”