The outdoor setting is one of many elements that co-owners Justin Quinton and Shawn Plunket hope will make B Street Café stand out as charmingly different.
“’Where’s the building? Where’s the food?’ We get a lot of those questions,” Quinton said. “That’s kind of what we wanted – to bring a different option to Sparks.”
And different it is. Sandwiched between Cantina Los Tres Hombres and Victorian Saloon in the heart of Sparks’ events district, the hostess station, patio furniture, stage and grassy area that make up B Street Café constitute the Rail City’s first completely open air dining venue. What’s more, B Street boasts organic, locally sourced menu options and a family friendly atmosphere — even providing games for kids to play on the lawn.
Quinton says it’s all in an effort to create a restaurant environment that locals can be proud to call “uniquely Sparks.”
“It’s not an Olive Garden, it’s not a BJ’s Brewery, but it’s like, other people have those in their towns too. They want to see what we have,” he said. “At B Street you really see the spirit of the town. That’s something that we really wanted to show – we really care about Sparks and its people. You don’t have to go to downtown Reno to find that good local atmosphere.”
The idea for B Street came about as a result of a brainstorming session on how to attract more people to the Victorian area. During events, Quinton — who also co-owns Cantina Los Tres Hombres — couldn’t help but wonder if the “eye sore” presented by a couple of empty city buildings next door was keeping Victorian from its full potential. After a few years in property and funding negotiations, a decision was made, the buildings were toppled, and Spark’s first seasonal open air restaurant was erected in their place.
“I just kind of wracked my brain, and what we came up with was tearing down the buildings and either building a parking lot or a patio, and a patio just seemed to make more sense,” Quinton said. “I really just gambled and ultimately decided that I was going to do what I wanted: build a place where I wanted to go and hang out.”
So far, Quinton has seen his gamble pay off. Although B Street has a limited menu to ensure the quality of ingredients and preparation, and limited hours due to heat exposure, it seems to have attracted more customers every week since its opening on June 3. Owners hope the trend will continue through late September or early October when weather will force the restaurant to close for the year.
“Really, we get a good reception from everyone we get down here. There’s just nothing like it in this area at all,” Quinton said. “As we get more confident and comfortable it’s like we’re ready to rock – and we do. Breakfast gets busier every week.”
The infrastructure of B Street relies heavily upon the resources of Quinton and Plunket’s other two restaurants, Cantina Los Tres Hombres and Cantina Del Lobo at UNR, for its success. Food for B Street is stored and prepared in the back kitchen of Cantina Los Tres Hombres before being brought to the café, staff migrate seasonally from campus to B street during the slow summer months and back again when the restaurant closes in the fall, and the relatively low cost of the Cantina’s Mexican food subsidizes the organic ingredients that go into B Street, keeping patrons from having to pay what Quinton refers to as the “category price.”
Although the restaurants share resources and management models, Quinton and Plunket strive to differentiate their new venture from the Cantina style eatery — using the family atmosphere, limited menu and outdoor setting to draw in a different clientele.
“Over at B Street it’s the atmosphere and environment that we’re selling mostly … It’s really an extension of Cantina in that we try to provide the best service and the best food quality, but we found the rare opportunity to expand and do something different for Sparks,” he said. “We really wanted it to feel like you can get out of your house, and come down here and enjoy good food and good drinks, but still feel like you’re at home under an umbrella. It’s just a little more comfortable.”
According to the owners, B Street is still in an experimental phase. Down the road, Quinton fully anticipates changes to the restaurant, including a structure around the seating area, a possible outdoor kitchen and an annually revolving menu. For now, the experimental venture seems to be resulting in success.
“It’s a project. It’s something I’m testing to see how people will respond,” Quinton said. “We’re flexible and fortunate in being seasonal. We can re-invent ourselves every year, which is kind of neat, and we anticipate doing that as well.”
Sparks local Josh Novick and his family were among the newcomers to B Street’s brunch crowd this past weekend. Initially, they were a bit surprised by the practice of ordering food at the counter and pouring their own coffee, but their hesitation dissipated when the food arrived.
“We were surprised by the serve-yourself set up, but the food is really good and the portion sizes are great,” Novick said. “It’s nice to see this part of town being revitalized … if anyone can pull it off, it will be these guys.”
Indeed, Quinton’s primary goal is that B Street will be one step closer to a better downtown Sparks.
“We just wanted something for Sparks. This is our territory, our area,” Quinton said. “If you go to any bigger city, you see neat places, inspired by someone’s bright idea, that really work. Basically, I just wanted to do that and bring something different to Sparks – and that we did.”