VACAVILLE — By day, it is Lynda’s Corner Cafe, a breakfast-and-lunch place at the corner of Merchant and Parker streets.
Three nights a week, on go the white cloth napkins, table linens, candles and wine goblets to change the restaurant into the BackDoor Bistro, with chef Lindsey Gilpin offering upscale cuisine that the 2002 Vacaville High School graduate creates mainly from local farms and produce stands.
“It is challenging, but also very exciting,” Gilpin said of running her own start-up restaurant and sharing quarters with the long-running cafe.
Two restaurants, each with a different menu and hours, sharing one location. A cafe that is closed during dinner time and a restaurant that is silent until mid-afternoon.
“In the metro area, it’s fairly common,” Gilpin said of the practice of having a traveling chef setting up a part-time restaurant in another establishment during times it is otherwise closed.
In the case of BackDoor Bistro and Lynda’s Corner Cafe, “so far it’s working out fairly well,” Gilpin said.
Deciding to run BackDoor Bistro during the hours that Lynda’s Corner Cafe is closed makes it easier for Gilpin to break into the business of running her own restaurant. It has lower overhead expenses and allowed her to learn the business on a small scale with less risk.
“We have to coordinate what we can and can’t do,” Gilpin said of working with Lynda’s Corner Cafe owner Linda Cheechov.
Gilpin got into cooking while attending Humboldt State University and went on to enroll in the small Napa Valley Cooking School in St. Helena, “which I loved.” She then worked for more than two years at the Solbar Solage Resort in Calistoga.
It was her father, John Gilpin, who came up with the idea to create BackDoor Bistro and start talking to Cheechov about using her cafe as a venue during the hours it is closed. Lindsey Gilpin then saved up her money and worked out her business plan.
BackDoor Bistro opened Oct. 11, 2012. Gilpin rents the restaurant from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with a prix fixe menu. She also pays a portion of the building’s bills.
In the three months it has been open, BackDoor Bistro has gotten a flurry of glowing reviews on sites such as Yelp and Gilpin has both created a following of regular customers and is making a small profit. Fridays and Saturdays are becoming full on reservations already.
“It has been crazy. We – the staff and I – are all learning together,” Gilpin said. “The experience is great, but it can be intense at times.”
Mondays are for doing all of the ordering and bookkeeping, and testing potential recipes. Tuesday is for preparation while Thursday through Saturday is cooking and serving customers.
The relatively new idea of restaurants sharing the same location works well for San Francisco’s popular nomadic chef, Eskender Aseged of Radio Africa & Kitchen, who for several years has operated what is called a “roving restaurant” that has offered ongoing engagements with establishments that would otherwise be dark.
It allowed Aseged to open a restaurant on a shoestring budget, removing the costly acquisition and certification process. As long as he maintains his own health and food safety certification, he can operate in any licensed place.
“People think you need to have a million dollars to open a restaurant and that’s not true,” Aseged said in a WorldChanging.com article.
Gilpin said she is enthusiastic about the future of BackDoor Bistro.
“I love this and I really love this space,” Gilpin said. She said it is cool to offer fare blended from locally produced food to Vacaville diners. “I am happy to be doing this and very lucky. It is such a good way to start.”
For more information about Gilpin and BackDoor Bistro, go to http://backdoorbistro.webs.com.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.