The funky, industrial decor at Spade & Spatula.
Naum will greet you at the door or behind the bar.
Mom had the sumptuous BBQ burger and a basket of hand-cut fries that was almost bigger than she is.
The vegan avocado tacos and a glass of California chardonnay.
Come for the food – stay for the show
Spade & Spatula in Blue Jay
By Julianne Homokay
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
Have you ever been out walking in a city, passed by a “gastropub” and wondered what the heck it is? Do they serve blood sausages, roasted swan and grilled beaver tails? Will Henry VIII be dining in there amongst his court?
According to Merriam-Webster, a gastropub is simply “a pub, bar or tavern that offers meals of high-quality.” And we have one right here on the mountain.
When you walk into Spade & Spatula in Blue Jay Village, you’ll step into an industrial, funky Echo Park atmosphere with high ceilings, open seating and brushed concrete floors. You may be greeted by Naum, a charismatic and affable native Venezuelan who was doubling as host and server on the night my mother and I went to try it out.
The fun continues when you get a look at the menu, which “offers meals of high-quality” in spades. (See what I did there?) No bowls of stale Goldfish or Buffalo wings that fell off the Sysco truck here. Spade & Spatula offers a rotating wine selection, craft cocktails, sumptuous sandwiches, a host of mouth-watering burgers, unique appetizers and desserts, and several delectable vegan and vegetarian options. There is most definitely something for everyone, including the kids.
The owner and chef behind Spade & Spatula’s culinary excellence, Beverly Eskew, moved up to Running Springs in 2016, at a time in her life when she was working two to three jobs and going to school at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. She worked her first job up here on the mountain for Mary Anne and Jim Whitesell at Hot Shots Coffeehouse, the business that was in the space before Spade & Spatula. Given her 20 years in the restaurant industry and all her culinary experience, the job felt like a step backwards at first. But an opportunity soon presented itself.
“I fell in love with the community here,” Eskew says. And the Whitesells noticed her talent and work ethic straightaway. After one month, Mary Anne sat her down to tell her that she and Jim would not be renewing their lease, and encouraged Eskew to take advantage of this. “It was always part of my five-year plan to open a restaurant,” said Eskew. So, she put everything she had into it and, despite COVID, opened Spade & Spatula in May of 2020.
Eskew does not stop at providing an amazing dining experience in a hip atmosphere, however. “I want to be open to whatever builds culture and community up here,” she says. So, she has been hosting events at the restaurant as fundraisers for various charities. “Ramen and Anime Night” benefitted SOFA, the Save Our Forest Association; and “Community, Not Conflict,” a game night fundraiser co-sponsored by the Dandelion Society, raised funds for refugee relief, local businesses, mountain LGBTQ communities and the ACLU.
An event that is on its second outing now might become a flagship show for the restaurant. Eskew says, “I see comedy as a way to build bridges and start a dialogue.”
Enter Janeva Zentz, a mountain resident, who is certainly not short on charisma herself. Zentz is a writer, comedian and filmmaker who produced the first “First Dibs Comedy” at Spade & Spatula back in August. She is producing and hosting the next “First Dibs” evening on Friday, Oct. 14.
“I’d been wanting to do a comedy show,” says Zentz, and “I was drawn to what Bev is doing. I was already a fan of the food!”
Zentz’s philosophy is that “comedy can’t exist in a vacuum.” Zentz is as committed to creating a dialogue and building community as Eskew is. “Is this going to be a shell of a resort community or are we going to build a culture?” Zentz posits.
Zentz’s vision, and the impetus behind “First Dibs,” is that the show can be a go-to for local talent. So that comedians, storytellers and community members who might want to try stand-up have a safe place to do it. “Our community gets ‘first dibs’ to be in the show,” she says.
But the vision doesn’t stop there. “I also hope that it could be a place that bigger names might come and test out new material, ” Zentz says. Which, of course, would be exciting for mountain audiences and, in turn, draw tourists up to our mountain communities and provide them something exciting to do. The lineup for Oct. 14 includes Nathan Hazard, Tracey Ellert (featured in The Alpine Mountaineer dated March 31, 2022), Kristy Baltezore and headliner Sofiya Alexandra.
So, are you craving an amazing burger, a signature cocktail or some zesty vegan tacos? Are you invested in our community? Do you want to see some great comedy? If the answer is “yes” to any of those questions, treat yourself to dinner and a show on Friday, Oct. 14 at Spade & Spatula.
Tickets for First Dibs Comedy are $5 at the door; the show begins at 8 p.m. A taco menu and bar service will be available during the show.
Follow Spade & Spatula on Facebook, Instagra, and on their website at spadespatula-cagastropub.com. Follow First Dibs at firstdibscomedy on Instagram.