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Back to Blackbirds
Twisp eatery evolves

photoThe new sign on Highway 20 in Twisp.

Blackbirds Café and Event Center in Twisp is open for business with new staffing and expanded hours and expectations, according to owner Mitch McKinney.

“I got really really lucky,” McKinney says of his employees and the community support he’s received since first moving to Twisp to open Dos Amigos restaurant with Franky Mendoza in early 2013. “The whole community is saying, ‘I hope you guys make it.’ “

In its “Amigos” incarnation, the vacant Blackbirds site was open for breakfast and lunch only and about half of what was offered was Mexican food. Mendoza was the cook. However, he needed to return to Mexico after learning his father was “declining rapidly…Family comes first,” McKinney told Grist.

After a one-week closure, during which McKinney got a crash course in cooking from experienced valley chef Ed Sellers of Twisp, the restaurant re-opened as Blackbirds Café and Events Center.

“He taught me how to flip an omelette,” the grateful McKinney says in reference to the culinary skills he lacked. “He just wanted me to succeed.” He says Sellers, and others, pitched in to help him through Mendoza’s sudden departure.

photoThe crew working at Blackbirds Café includes, from left, Mitch McKinney, owner, Rachelle Lasater, Derik Curley, Priscilla Densmore, Miranda Glenn, James Stutheit, and Lorrie Hammer. Mitch and Rachelle have a short commute to work—they live directly above the cafe.

The revised Blackbirds’ menu keeps only a few Mexican dishes. Thanks to its liquor license, beer and wine are being served and cocktails are being planned. One major change is the addition of dinner, which is being served weekends only from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The site, which has outdoor patio space and a stage, also is available for special event rentals.

As for the new name, McKinney says, “Everybody called it Blackbirds anyway,” while Dos Amigos implied it was a Mexican restaurant.

McKinney says he continues to have a month-to-month lease with building owner Craig Bunny, and although he’d love to buy the building someday, for now he is focusing on building a successful restaurant.

His new kitchen manager is Lorrie Hammer, who once cooked at the Antler’s. Priscilla Densmore, who formerly worked in the deli at Hank’s, is waiting tables. Derik Curley is the floor man. Miranda Glenn is learning to be a cook, and doubles as dishwasher. James Stutheit, owner of Mr. J’s Barber Shop, has relocated his business to the back of the building. He works the bar in lieu of paying rent.

As for McKinney and his girlfriend, Rachelle Lasater, both are doing whatever it takes to succeed. “Of course we aren’t paid anything,” McKinney says, “but we get a place to live.” The couple lives upstairs. “We don’t mind,” McKinney says, adding that his goal is to succeed and see to it that “everybody leaves happy.”


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