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Martini Brunch

A Story of Love, Longing, and Endurance, part 2

In part 1, we follow Charlie and Brooke through their meeting to opening their restaurant, Martini Brunch. This month, we'll find out what they're doing and making, and why.

"Focusing on the process is important to us," says Charlie. "Pickling, aging, smoking. People feel that love. It's the reason I do this. I want people to eat what I've made and go, 'ahhh, I want more!' Maybe it's the narcissist in me." Brooke adds, "We want to feed you as if you came to our house for breakfast. It's whatever we're feeling/vibing, using local products. Local is the biggest thing for me. Skagit Valley offers so much, and we want to support the little guys. We get produce from Wax Wing Farms which is three minutes from the restaurant. It's family owned and sustainable/organic. Right now, we're visiting butchers like Andal's Meats, a three-generation family owned and operated institution in Mount Vernon. We've also moved away from big beverage distributors because we want to promote places like Skip Rock and Fremont Mischief." Charlie adds, "We're developing relationships and by end of next year we want everything we use to be from local people, including our proteins."

Photo by Tom Mehren

While their regular menu is delighting people, they feel they really shine on specials. "There's a solid core of people who keep coming in and it's so cool to meet them," says Brooke. "They appreciate the specials where we get to exercise our creativity. One of the big hits was our salmon breakfast bowl with salmon, sticky sushi rice, Yum Yum sauce, a soy-cured egg yolk, pickled cucumbers and more. Our heart and soul go into the specials. Our summer drink menu is very fun, with a real Mai Tai. We've been infusing vodka with strawberries-it's bright red with a little strawberry aftertaste. We'll have a Mojito, Chili Bloody Mary, and a Fluffy Gin & Tonic, where we put xanthan gum in a whipped cream cannister. I've also played around with a drink that tastes like banana runtz candy."

As they headed into Tulip Festival this year, they expected big crowds. They cut the menu back, keeping favorite items that were fast to produce and added a few new ones for diversity. One of the items that came off was their chicken and waffle. As it turned out, they were busy but not inundated. "We think it was because Tulip Festival is such a family thing and we're a 21 and over place, plus we don't take reservations," explains Brooke. "A lot of locals stayed home to avoid the traffic. But now, chicken and waffle is coming back in the fall!"

"We want to stay true to who we are and what we want to do," explains Charlie. "As we get nearer to what we want the place to look like, people will understand, they'll get it. We'll build a bookshelf bar, with glow-y bright colors that shine up through the bottles. The current floor will be replaced with a black painted floor with sparkles and stars. Ceiling tiles will come down and we'll paint the ceiling and add clouds. We want it to look like a drag queen's dream. We're loud, weird, and fun. We're not a "normal" country-style cafe. We're essentially a bar; we call ourselves a "breakfast lounge." I think the community accepts us; we've been treated kindly. People who know us know how we are, accept us for who we are."

"Our friends are not quiet, they're here for a party brunch," notes Brooke. "I'm thinking about making signs to hang up to remind people who we are and what we won't do, like, 'Don't ask me to turn the music down.' We've had people say, 'This is just what the Valley needed, and we didn't know it.'"

When it comes to ideas, the future is full for Charlie and Brooke. They have numerous concepts they'd like to try out, like a totally vegan burger place; Martini Lunch, a later-in-the-day spot than Brunch; a date night place, possibly handmade pasta (a Charlie specialty) and craft cocktails. They're currently working with a company to produce two of their items for retail sale at their restaurant and in groceries: Fairy Dust spice, and Fu Sauce. They plan to expand happy hour at Martini Brunch, Friday-Saturday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. offering $1 off drinks and local wine, and super limited finger food like truffle popcorn with tomato butter and polenta bites, all under $10. As Charlie says, "Salty, fatty, delicious!" If demand grows, they may stay open later in the afternoon and on into dinner. Time will tell, especially because they're still learning. "I have huge pride in my work," explains Brooke. "I'm a control freak and never take my hands off the reins. I've had to learn a lot, like employee taxes." And, very importantly, they bought the business. Now they are in the process of buying the building. Being part of the community is a long-term plan for them.

"I have always loved how Charlie cooks for me, so opening this place means I'm sharing Charlie's cooking with others," says Brooke. "We're giving our love and energy to everyone, even if it means Charlie doesn't cook for me as much anymore!"

As Charlie explains, "We're no longer in it for the money. There's not all that much money in it anyway, and we've found that this is where we love to reside. We choose who we work with, like Caty Craft, front of the house. She is so good and really rolls out the red carpet for people. Like me, she feels that whether you come in for a good time or a bad time, we'll make sure that happens!"

Longing is satisfied and love endures. When's the movie coming out?

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Martini Brunch.

Read about Brooke's and Charlie's backgrounds here.

Click here to read part 1.

Connie Adams/August 2023

Martini Brunch
1300 S 2 nd Street
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

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