Even though it has only been open for two weeks, the Manila Bakery & Café has had a steady flow of people since its grand opening last Thursday, giving testament to the fact that the food is so good that they keep coming back for more. Sizzling plates of sisig, lechon kawali, lumpia shanghai, pork adobo, and baboy are consistently coming out of the kitchen, feeding the hungry lunch crowd who have a penchant for hot, authentic Filipino food on an overcast day in Sparks.
Located at 970 South McCarran Boulevard, in the spot that used to be Dee’s Bakery, co-owners Lorry Shirey and Ryan Weeks thought that Sparks was the perfect place to get re-established as a Filipino cuisine restaurant and then possibly grow into other locations.
The two met at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas in 2018 when Shirey was working at her Filipino food truck- Bubba Q’d- and Weeks stumbled upon the business.
“Lorry grabbed me as I was walking by…come and try my food!” he says. “It was the most delicious Filipino food I had ever had,” he adds. Weeks was from Sparks and involved in commercial real estate /development; Shirey and her husband were looking to move to Northern Nevada and open up a business, so the two started talking. They originally discussed opening up a commissary for Bubba Q’d and other food trucks, but then Weeks caught word that the previous owners of Dee’s Bakery was selling the business. He invested money into it and they opened Manila Bakery together.
“I know (Lorry) can run this place well on her own. We use all high-quality ingredients and she makes sure that all of the food is to her standards before it goes out. (A dish) has to be good by her name otherwise she won’t serve it to customers,” Weeks says.
Born in Quezon City right outside of Manila in the Philippines, Shirey moved to South Lake Tahoe when she was four years old and then went to college at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She graduated with a degree in psychology, but then started working in social services which was too depressing for her. Therefore, she picked up the craft of Filipino cooking from her parents and opened up her first restaurant and karaoke lounge, which she ran for 10 years. Shirey and her husband Todd vacationed in Northern Nevada and really liked the area, so they decided that they wanted to pick up and move.
“We flew up here twice a month (from Las Vegas) to look at bars, spots, and houses,” Shirey says. The couple almost bought 3rd Street Bar in Reno, until she met Weeks and the Sparks location fell into their lap.
The partners did a soft opening two weeks ago and have since worked on refining their menu offerings, wait times, and how to best handle the demand. Shirey also says that she can’t cook everything she wants in such a small kitchen and eventually wants to expand.
“We opened with eight items on the menu and this place only seats 40 people, it was an hour-and-a-half wait. So, I tweaked the menu to be able to make items that can be served in 10 minutes,” she says. Shirey attributes their quick success to Weeks’ marketing skills, saying that many of their customers found out about the café through Facebook.
“I told Ryan to slow it down a bit,” she laughs. Around 500 people showed up to the bakery at their January 24 Grand Opening, and Shirey says that they all came back the next day. As the 180th restaurant to open up in Sparks, the owners just hope that they’ll come try the food.
“I just want to keep regular customers coming back and I want people to taste real Filipino food,” she says about the authentic soy sauce and vinegar-based dishes that she serves as opposed to the sugary Hawaiian Filipino dishes more common at other places in Northern Nevada.
“We’re very proud of this place and Todd is even learning Tagalog,” Shirey says of her husband.
“I’m beaming with pride; being here makes me so happy,” Weeks adds.
Manila Bakery & Café is open 8am-4pm Monday-Friday and 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Shirey hopes to soon implement a “kamayan” style dining experience one day a month where one long table is set up and people eat with their hands in a family-style setting. Manila Bakery also offers a variety of desserts and espresso drinks, including ube cakes and Halo Halo. To see the menu, visit www.manilabakerycafe.com.