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Spudistro buds in Sparks
by Cortney Maddock
Jun 26, 2008 | 1303 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Cortney Maddock- Chris Lopez, co-owner of Spudistro, applies the toppings necessary to make a plate of potato nachos.
Tribune/Cortney Maddock- Chris Lopez, co-owner of Spudistro, applies the toppings necessary to make a plate of potato nachos.
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Tribune/Cortney Maddock- Chris Lopez, co-owner of Spudistro, holds a plate of potato slices.
Tribune/Cortney Maddock- Chris Lopez, co-owner of Spudistro, holds a plate of potato slices.
slideshow
An idea that took root at the Los Angeles County fair has sprouted in Sparks, filling a unique niche with a diverse menu of potato-centric delights and pastry cases filled with homemade confections.

Located in the McCarran Plaza shopping center on the corner of McCarran Boulevard and Prater Way, Spudistro opened its doors more than a year and a half ago. Three women have partnered to keep the ideas fresh at the potato-based café.

“It’s about as close to a mom and pop shop as you can get,” said partner Chris Lopez. “Except pop stays at home.”

Lopez, her mother, Carol, and friend Denise Helmstetler opened the café when they decided it was time for a new type of food. Lopez said they came up with the idea for Spudistro when they saw children eating large baked potatoes at the L.A. County fair and thought it was a healthy alternative to fast food.

“We said, ‘I’m tired of the same old food,’ ” Lopez said. “Here, we don’t use any frozen or canned vegetables and we don’t use bagged lettuce.”

Lopez explained that part of the business approach to Spudistro is the urge to limit waste, which starts with fresh veggies.

“All of our produce is Nevada-based,” Lopez explained. “We get our potatoes from Winnemucca.”

Lopez said that Spudistro tries to use all locally grown produce but if the café owners cannot get what they need, they will resort to using local wholesalers. She said with recent the weather crisis in the Midwest, buying local will help keep costs down since the ruined crops and limited supply caused by floods will send produce prices skyrocketing. In addition to local produce, Lopez and crew use local dairy products from Model Dairy.

“We go to the store every day and hand pick our produce,” Lopez said.

She explained that buying only what will be used each day helps eliminate food waste. Predicting what customers will buy each day can be difficult, what with a diverse menu of baked potatoes, potato cheddar soup, potato nachos and a variety of desserts.

“We try and cater to a bunch of different groups,” Lopez said, explaining that the menu caters to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike.

Lopez said that before opening the café, they had more than 50 ideas for the baked potato menu, a number that has since been whittled down to 19. She said that the Ponderosa is a hot seller. The potato is loaded with sirloin steak, sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese, but is not a wallet buster at only $7.50.

Spudistro is more than just baked potatoes. The menu includes a full selection of salads, wraps and desserts.

“Usually people can get out of here for less than $10,” Lopez said. “We try to keep it reasonable.”

Lopez said that Spudistro is an original concept and the three partners have no intention of franchising anytime soon, but she hopes that the future will include a few more Spudistros in the region.

“It’s really not a restaurant but it’s not fast food,” Lopez said. “People come up and order but we clean the tables."

As part of the not-quite-fast food and not-quite-restaurant experience, Lopez encourages costumers, many of whom are familiar faces, to call orders in before getting to Spudistro.

“We try to give everyone as close of a restaurant experience that they can get,” Lopez said. “They can come here, order and enjoy their meal.”

It doesn’t take long to make a meal and Spudistro and is a great place to grab lunch. Most people can be in and out in less than an hour.

Lopez contributes Spudistro’s success to the Sparks community.

“We’ve had a really great response from the community,” Lopez said. “Sparks is very supportive.”

For a full menu and prices, visit www.spudistro.com.
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