After nearly 20 years in the bagel biz, including owning a chain of 16 bagel bakeries in the Bay area, Tawn Dix returned to Santa Fe a couple of years back, "absolutely done with bagels."

The Pojoaque native and former hardcore speed metal band frontman was looking forward to opening a bagel-less café in Santa Fe, along with his cousin and silent partner Pete Boulton–the "Boul" in Boultawn's, and found the perfect turnkey spot downtown.

"I said I was going to open this place in one month and everyone laughed at me—especially the health department," says Dix. "In the Bay Area, I ran all my businesses, was a full-time dad and a musician. But this time around, without a whole chain to manage, and my kids staying in the Bay area, I had a lot more time on my hands than I was used to."

So, Boultawn's Bakery, Café and Gallery (105 E Marcy St., 983-9006) was indeed launched in a month. But the day before its grand opening, Dix realized he had more work to do.

"Santa Fe bagels were the worst things I've ever put in my mouth," he says with a laugh, "so, I said, 'I guess I am making bagels again.'"

And praise the food lords for that, because life has a hole in it without a good bagel. For those who have had the luxury of enjoying the crusty, chewy richness of a real East Coast bagel, you know what I'm saying.

Though Dix had perfected his bagel game under the tutelage of two bagel masters in the Bay Area, Santa Fe posed some problems.

"Those guys were hard on me. They were never happy with my bagels," says Dix. "So I worked really hard to perfect my bagels and ended up making the best bagels in the Bay Area. Once I set to work in Santa Fe, though, I realized I would need to come up with a new recipe dealing with the altitude."

"The first month I was like Bill Nye the Science Guy," trying to figure things out, he continues. "I threw so many batches away, [but] finally, after trying everything, I almost gave up. And then one day, it just started working. It has to do not just with altitude, but with barometric pressure, so every morning the first thing I do is check the weather."

Two years later, Dix's bagels are so in-demand that he's planning to expand into commercial production, supplying bagels to coffee shops locally, as well as in Taos and Albuquerque. He also plans to package Boultawn's Bagels for sale in
places such as La Montañita Co-op.

Dix is unconcerned that making his bagels available all over might affect his business at the bakery.

"We'll still have the best selection—we currently have nine styles and are planning to expand that number to 12, 15," Dix tells SFR. "I'm always willing to try anything, and am open to ideas for new flavors. Some of the favorites here are red chile salt and green chile cheddar, but I also like doing seasonal bagels, like biscochito during the holidays."

Dix also envisions more varieties of Boultawn's cream cheese choices, which currently include spicy yellow curry, veggie with ranch dressing powder as the secret ingredient, triple berry and sun-dried tomato. Beyond bagels, Dix serves up a full menu of scratch-made specialties, ranging from soups and sandwiches to pastries and ice cream.

Boultawn's boasts daily specials and really does have something for everyone, including early risers—Dix opens at 7am, almost unheard-of in sleepy Santa Fe; a creamy cup of potato bacon or red pepper gouda soup with a bagel and cream cheese ($6.95), breakfast burritos slathered in spicy chile ($8.25), personal-size quiche ($5.75) are available, and then … the ice cream.

Dix makes the flavors ($3.25) based on what's in season and what sounds good, so it's a great place for unexpected types. During one recent visit there was a zen dose of ginger, turmeric and honey, sweet-and-spicy mango red chile, pungent
banana rum walnut and a sweet tooth satisfying raspberry chocolate chunk.

Visitors to Boultawn's may also notice the paintings scattered around the space. Also created by Dix, one wonders if he never needs sleep, so I ask how he does it all.

"This is all I have to do," he replies. "Without 16 cafes, my kids full-time, and being a musician, things have changed for me. I have plenty of time now to just do this."

Because all the "this" could be more, Dix says he is pondering applying for a beer and wine license and acquiring a karaoke machine.