First-time restauranteurs Berni and Cody Young are bringing traditional flavors of the Pacific Islands to Liberty Lake with their eatery, Big Island BBQ.
The restaurant, which opened March 1, features island-style, mixed-plates with a choice of four types of rice, six sides and seven to eight main dishes.
The regular mixed plate, which costs $11.95, consists of a scoop of rice, two salads and two main dishes, such as Huli Huli Chicken, Curry Coconut Roasted Cabbage Steak, Chicken Katsu or Chamorro BBQ Short Ribs. Customers can add an additional main dish for $1 more.
Big Island BBQ features four house-made sauces: Royal Teriyaki; Marianas Fina’denne’, a bold, tart and spicy sauce; Pineapple-Chili Watchout, a spicy, tropical sauce; and Miso-Ginger Osaka.
“This whole restaurant is geared around an island-style party where you come in, you walk down a table and it has all kinds of foods on it,” Cody Young said. “It’s very pick-what-you want-oriented from a fairly extensive selection of different kinds of foods.”
The Youngs, who spent most of their lives in the Pacific Islands, learned how to make traditional island-style foods from decades of family parties. Berni grew up in Guam and Cody was stationed there while in the Navy.
The Youngs most recently were living in Phoenix before relocating to Liberty Lake more than a year and a half ago.
Berni Young said when the couple retired last October, they decided to open a “nice, quaint, restaurant.”
“For both of us, food is a tremendous hobby,” Cody Young said. “We like to meet and greet and entertain people. It’s also about celebrating the island’s food culture.”
The couple chose Liberty Lake for a restaurant site because they wanted a central location between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
“We knew from the very start if we couldn’t do it in Liberty Lake, we didn’t want to do it,” Cody Young said. “We live here and love Liberty Lake. So, we knew it was either Liberty Lake or bust right from the start.”
Cody Young thought they would be introducing island-style food to people unfamiliar with the cuisine, but as it turns out, there’s hundreds of islanders living in the area that have embraced the restaurant and shared recipes with the couple.
The response from customers was overwhelming in the restaurant’s first two weeks, he said.
“We were so busy that it probably hurt us a little bit because the lines were long. We chronically were running out of dishes because we designed the restaurant to service between 170 and 200 people a day and we were getting 1,000 a day,” Cody Young said. “We had lines going out the door. At one point during the first weekend, I had people going back and forth between our store and Yoke’s with grocery carts full of meat because we were running out of meat.”
He said business is now steady and manageable.
The restaurant has launched a Big Island Breakfast Club, in which members receive a 2-for-1 meal at a brunch held every second Sunday of the month and free Kona coffee daily. People can join the Big Island Breakfast Club by donating $20 to Meals on Wheels through a portal on Big Island BBQ’s Facebook page.
The restaurant will experiment with new menu items at the brunch.
“We’ll see how people react to them,” Cody Young said. “There’s a lot of different food from the islands and we couldn’t possibly fit them all on the service line, but we do want people to be able to try them. We will add it in if it catches on.”
Berni Young said customers have enjoyed the food and they return to the restaurant, which is gratifying.
“When you go to a restaurant, there’s usually leftovers on the plate. Not here,” she said. “It’s rewarding watching people enjoy my mother’s recipes, my auntie’s recipes and sharing the food from Guam. It’s extremely rewarding and heartwarming knowing that people are enjoying the food.”
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