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Bistro 120 Adds Dining Option To Downtown Oakdale
Newly opened Bistro 120, located at 152 N. Yosemite Ave., Oakdale, has become a welcome addition to the downtown area and features the restaurant entrance off North Third. Photo Courtesy Mindy VanTil

Dining options continue to grow in the Oakdale community. Now thanks to the vision and hard work of Kelly and Matt Budine, the area has one more option when it comes to lunch or dinner.

As the owners of newly opened Bistro 120, the Budines are both excited and proud to bring a little something different to the community they call home.

“One of the things we felt was lacking was variety in dining,” Kelly shared. “We travel a lot; we see a lot of really cool ideas and we were trying to come up with a business that we could do together. Obviously, something local would make sense, at the time we didn’t think restaurant but we were always thinking we’d like to have more restaurant options in town.”

Presented with an opportunity in late 2020, the couple dove in. Both busy with Matt’s primary business, Progressive Dairy Solutions, a dairy nutrition and consulting business, their initial vision was to be more behind the scenes and less hands on. As the key financial backers of the project as the work progressed, the couple became aware that their presence and business knowledge would become paramount. Eventually this led to a parting of ways with the initial partner and the Budines continued full steam ahead.

Partnering with well-known names like Rich Murdoch as their builder and Cindy Stafford as their designer made the transition from the former Café Bliss space a bit easier. As progress on the building continued, the couple shared Murdoch helped them get creative with morphing the initial small space into their vision. As their relationship grew with the building owner, the couple was approached to also consider taking over the adjacent Oakdale Hobby Shop space.

According to Kelly, the building owner had shared the Hobby Shop owner did not intend on renewing his lease as the business had changed. Initially the couple declined. After several months of going back and forth with how to make the space fit, they considered the idea and were re-approached by the building owner after a few potential prospects fell through.

“I feel like it was the perfect timing once we felt like we could open,” Kelly shared of the resurgence and beautification of downtown Oakdale. “Our goal has always just been to be a part of this great downtown.”

Yet the couple recognized as the project progressed that they might just benefit from an outside consultant. Close to a year and a half ago they enlisted the help of Newport Beach-based business Synergy Restaurant Consultants, turning to the experts to guide them in terms of staffing, menu selection and every day business needs.

“In my world of training dairies, producers, their employees, their teams you’ve got to educate everybody on the whole system,” Matt said of turning to Synergy. “We educate them on parameters on efficiencies in dairies, so from a business stand point there’s got to be efficiencies in restaurants.”

Tapping in to an outside source for guidance was key.

“We’re doing this and truly there’s got to be somebody who could come in and say these are the right parameters,” Matt stated, coming from the mindset of a consultant himself. “What is average and what is the best. We want to be the best.”

As the couple partnered with the consulting firm, they gave it both the time as well as the attention that would be needed to give them a product and business they truly felt was “the best.”

“We never wanted this to be the identity of one person. We wanted the Bistro to be ‘The Bistro’,” Kelly shared.

“We wanted to keep things, a sort of California taste,” she continued, noting items they both like personally, as well as what they know to be popular locally. “Synergy helped us develop this. We told them the things that we liked. They actually pitched 60 something recipes to us. We went down for a three-day tasting, tasted everything from the drinks to the appetizers. It was yummy and filling. It was three almost eight-hour days of eating and taking notes and sending things back.”

Yet the work has proved to be well worth it. While the couple is not part of the day to day, Synergy also helped them secure hiring a qualified staff of 40 as well as General Manager David Snider; Executive Kitchen Manager Thomas Forsythe; and Restaurant Manager Matt Way.

“We think the menu overall is excellent and people are excited about it,” Matt said. “But any menu needs to constantly evolve with what’s going on. We think there’s opportunities to make unique specials and tweaks to fine tune it.”

As a seven day a week, lunch and dinner business, the Budines shared they have been thrilled by the community excitement and support. Bistro 120 is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn away people who don’t have reservations, but we look at that as a win/win,” Kelly said of their early success, noting that when that has happened, they’ve learned that clients have kept their business downtown going to such alternatives as Redwood Café or House of Beef.

“It’s just been awesome,” she said.

The couple shared the existing dining space can accommodate between 90 to 100 people at a time. An additional banquet space will be opened up where much of the Hobby Shop used to be. The banquet space is considered ‘Phase Four’ of the three-year endeavor. It will be able to accommodate an additional 70 persons in the event space.

“This was all for indoor/outdoor seating. We thought the city owned this,” Matt said of the extension seating area of the business, which faces North Third Avenue.

Unbeknownst by the building owner and after a little investigation by Murdoch, the couple learned the once limited sidewalk space was in fact property of the building owner.

“But at the same time, we wanted to decorate it very nicely and that’s all her,” Matt continued.

“It was a collaboration,” Kelly said of the overall aesthetic design. “We didn’t sit back and draw this thing out. Every month we were making the next round of decisions.”

“We” being Kelly and her right-hand designer Cindy Stafford. The duo had worked together previously on the Budine’s home, which made the connection all the better.

“It worked out really well. It definitely was Kelly’s vision to have it look unique in a way that it elevated our dining experience here in Oakdale,” Matt said of the overall interior outcome.

Now with the business all abuzz and the couple stopping in on a regular basis, they both shared their overall pleasure with the outcome. From staff, to menu offerings to overall community feedback, the husband/wife team are thrilled.

“I look at it as we really accomplished something fun for the community,” Matt said. “I feel really good about it. Obviously, she (Kelly) did all the hard work to make it come out the way it did. But I think it’s really something special.”

“The response that we’ve gotten,” Kelly added, “just seeing that. Just feeling like, success, people are enjoying it and even just to come down here ourselves and see people enjoying their experience.”

“Oakdale has been good to us, Kelly and I, and we really, really appreciate that support,” Matt concluded.

Bistro 120 owners, husband and wife team, Matt and Kelly Budine. Photo By Teresa Hammond
The most popular of desserts and an item that sells all day long, the Butter Cake at Bistro 120 does not disappoint. Photo By Teresa Hammond