The secrets to a successful restaurant are the food, the ambiance and, if everything works, a little magic.
Diners have been finding all three at Dowleen Rhodes' Gallery Restaurants.
Her cosy, lunch establishment, called the Snug and located upstairs
at Brian Scott Gallery, and Art Alley Grille, on the lower level and
accessible from Art Walk Alley, offer some of the best food in town,
thanks to the artistry of Chef George Rhodes, the proprietor's husband.
Attentive, friendly staff serve dinner at the Grille Wednesday
through Saturday, from 5 to 9 p.m., while Horst Wolf, at the keyboard,
provides dinner music. The menu includes unusual specialties, such as
osso bucco, and standards such as prime rib.
The Snug is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, serving homemade soups, specialty salads, and made-to-order sandwiches, plus sweets.
The Brookings restaurants are not the first experience in food service for either Dowleen or George. In fact, their introduction came about through an association in a restaurant at the Vineyard House Bed and Breakfast in Coloma, Calif. Dowleen was working as a waitress in 1990 when a partnership in which George was involved purchased the business.
While George was involved with supervising repairs to upgrade the Vineyard House building, he and Dowleen became friends. "Yes, we fell in love," he said. Within seven months they were married, combining two families. "We have three boys and a girl," George said. "Her two boys were grown when we married. My son lived with us and my daughter lived with her mother. We've been married 18 years."
George, who grew up in Tampa, Fla., has served in the U.S. Air Force, worked in construction and design, been an entrepreneur, and spent 27 years in the food service business.
"I worked in fast food when I was young, and decided to try out as a chef in San Francisco in the '70s."
His restaurant experience includes managing a T.G.I. Friday's Restaurant in Marina Del Rey, Calif., with more than 120 employees. He said, "I always enjoyed cooking."
In addition to her experience at the Vineyard House, Dowleen said she also ran a full dinner and lunch cafe on the main street of Placerville for eight or nine years.
"We're having fun working together again," George said. "We enjoy having such a wonderful staff. We're really fortunate to have such great people working with us.
"There is great fun to be had in a restaurant. It can be artistic, creative and you meet some wonderful people. We've had clients from all over the country, even from France and Italy. We act as ambassadors."
George said he fell in love with the Brookings area the first time he passed through in the mid-1980s and he and Dowleen spent a lot of vacation time camping and fishing around Brookings over the years. They had already decided to move to Brookings to retire when he was offered the position as manager of the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, making it possible to move much earlier.
They have high hopes that three of their children will join them one day. Keith, who is 35, lives in El Dorado County, loves to cook, and wants to be in the restaurant business. Lauren, who is 22, lives in Hawaii and also likes the restaurant business, and 23-year-old Jordan, who is in the U.S. Air Force, is toying with the idea of wine-making. Joe, who has his own business in Grass Valley, Calif., wants nothing to do with restaurants.
Rhodes talked about his involvement with the restaurant and had a few things to say about juggling two activities andndash; chef for the Gallery Restaurants and as Curry County commissioner.
"It's her business," he said, adding, "My only aspect is ordering products and menu development. Dowleen couldn't afford to pay a chef, so I'm the chef." Of course, he said he will also happily accept comments or suggestions about the specials on the menu that he will change on a regular basis, using his own gourmet recipes.
As for George's main position, he said, "I am a commissioner on a full-time basis. I don't see it as only a 9-to-5 job. I put in the time required, including Saturdays and Sundays when necessary."
And indeed, "My constituents are welcome to find me in the kitchen any Wednesday through Saturday night from 5 to 9 to talk about county business," he added
"I will continue to make decisions based on my constituents and which I believe are right. It's a challenge and an opportunity."
He also said that he feels an important part of his job as commissioner is economic development and the restaurant is contributing to the economic development of the county. He indicated that he believes that the more successful fine restaurants there are in the county, the more the tourism will grow.
"And, it gives me a different perspective on what the businesses face and the struggles they must survive, first hand knowledge of the day-to- day challenges."
Dowleen admittedly doesn't talk as much as George, but she said she looks forward to meeting and greeting those seeking a little magic upstairs and downstairs at the Gallery Restaurants.