By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Folks have been watching the transformation of what had been Hot Shots in Blue Jay to the newest restaurant on the mountain – Spade & Spatula ca. gastropub.
The restaurant has been the dream of chef/owner Bev Eskew, who had been the chef at Hot Shots. When Mary Ann Whitesell turned her thoughts to selling the restaurant, in hopes of retiring one day soon, she knew Eskew was the person to keep a restaurant going in the space.
“Bev had always dreamed of opening her own restaurant,” Whitesell said last September. “I decided she was someone who needed the opportunity. She had the talent.”
Eskew, who has been in the food industry since 2004, felt it was important to offer people healthier options. To that end, many of the menu options are vegetarian and some are vegan. But there are plenty of offerings for those who enjoy eating chicken or beef.
Eskew opened her doors for takeout only on May 22. “I was happy with the turnout,” the Running Springs resident said. “I’m grateful for the community support.”
Once the county declared in-person dining an option, Eskew made that transition. “I’m grateful people can dine in now,” she said.
The restaurant is currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with hours extending to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All menu items are available all day long.
Those who love breakfast at any time of day can choose from pancakes, served with maple syrup and fresh fruit; Blue Jay blueberry bread, topped with apple butter; eggs in purgatory – poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce over a potato-kale latke; a latke topped with sautéed onion, bell pepper and diced ham, fresh spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce; or breakfast sandwiches, one with egg, bacon and cheese, one with avocado, lettuce, tomato and vegan aioli.
Lunch items range from the bella cheesesteak – thinly sliced portabella mushrooms sautéed with bell peppers and onion, topped with munster cheese – to a pastrami sandwich on rye. There’s also Mad Mac & Cheese, topped with barbecued chicken; a quarter-pound burger, chicken sandwich, tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, and a vegan sandwich made of hummus, avocado slices, red onion, cucumber, carrot, coleslaw and fried shallots.
There are a variety of salads – which can be enjoyed with or without chicken – avocado tacos and a hummus plate.
For those who would like to stop in for a cocktail and a small bite, there are plates of fried cheese, Mad Mac balls and barley risotto balls. Eskew also has a menu for small appetites – grilled cheese, chicken breast and side salad, mac and cheese or eggs with fruit and toast.
As for the favorite dishes on her opening weekend, Eskew said she sold a lot of the bella cheesesteaks. “People are curious about it,” she said. “It’s a good vegetarian comfort food.”
The strawberry sunflower salad also proved popular, as did the burgers and chicken sandwiches. As for the Mad Mac & Cheese, Eskew said that “the flavor combination is great. We make the sauce to order. It has simple but quality ingredients.”
Eskew is not alone in the kitchen. Sous chef Sean Cleaves has joined her there, bringing with him years of working in kitchens around the world.
“He is well traveled,” Eskew said. “He is my right-hand man.”
The menu items are Eskew’s recipes. But she plans to collaborate with Cleaves on seasonal offerings.
“We’ll have daily specials,” she said. She plans to offer steak and seafood on an occasional basis.
“I want to give Sean creative freedom,” Eskew said. “Give him the ability to flex that muscle. I want to push that as much as I can to keep things fresh and new.”
The same will apply to her bartenders, who will be creating seasonal drinks. The drinks menu (available on the Spade & Spatula Facebook page, as is the regular menu) includes the S&S Old Fashioned, a Strawberry Flats Sunrise, Stars at Night Cosmo, Deep Creek Freeze, Cardamom Pina Colada, Heart Rock Fizz, S&S Bloody Mary and other specialty drinks. They also offer beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks.
Eskew did much of the work getting the restaurant ready herself. “I tried to repurpose items as much as possible so they wouldn’t go to the landfill,” she said. “I want to be more environmentally conscious.”
Shelving came from Hot Shots. Some of the tabletops came from a bar called Timbers.
She redid the kitchen, bringing everything up to code. Eskew added a deep fryer and a charbroiler, put in another prep sink and a hand sink. She also added a walk-in cooler in the back.
As folks approach Spade & Spatula, they will notice a cupboard out front marked “Seed Exchange.” The idea, Eskew said, is for folks to take a seed and leave a seed. She had put in arugula, sunflower and peppers.
“I encourage the public to bring their own seeds to exchange. This is a free service to the community,” she said.
Inside, on evenings from 4 to 7 p.m., Spade & Spatula will become a cabaret, with themed classic movies. Rather than being a movie theater, Eskew said the films will serve as background as folks enjoy some food and drink.
“The movies will set the ambiance for what is essentially happy hour,” Eskew said. “There will be rotating themes each week.”
Spade & Spatula is located at 27214 Highway 189 in Blue Jay, next to Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty. Call them at (909) 744-8686, visit them at www.spadespatula-cagastropub.com and like them on Facebook.