Since firing up the engines of a converted Airstream food truck in 2009, Spork has been breaking culinary barriers in Bend. The restaurant's unique blend of global dishes and eco-conscious methods led to the establishment of a brick and mortar location in 2013. With the addition of classic cocktails and local flair, Spork quickly became a Bend staple. That success recently allowed co-owners Erica Reilly and Jeff Hunt to break another barrier: the wall next door.
Spork recently expanded into the adjacent building, which has allowed the restaurant to add more tables, a more open dining space, and new architecture and artwork. Returning patrons will quickly notice new seating options, including a stylish side bar table and three booths carved into the far wall like tiny, comfortable caves. The new space is accented by a "cloud fan," an installation of iron wood beams that accentuate the acoustics and lighting.
"I would say we spent about four months designing it. There were a couple things that came pretty quickly in the design, and the cloud fan was the last thing to come about," says Reilly, who is also the general manager. "It just kept evolving. Originally, we thought it was going to be done sooner, but once we got in there we were happy to extend the project so that we were really happy with it."
Reilly says the main goal of the expansion is to alleviate the confinement patrons often experienced during Spork's busier hours.
"When we were in full swing and during our peak meal period and season, we started to feel like Spork was a festive environment but it was kind of a chaotic environment as well because it got so tight," Reilly says. "We all agreed that the guest experience was suffering a bit because of that."
The previous tenant, Woof Neighborhood Dog Wash and Grooming, vacated in July for a new location. Acquiring the space was a no-brainer.
"Everything is more spread out, and the line now forms along the north wall instead of winding throughout the entire restaurant," Reilly says. "The feedback that we've gotten, as well as my own experience in there, is that it's a much more peaceful experience, even when it's busy."
Along with the roomier dining area, the new space also allotted Spork a much needed extra storage room and office. Reilly also saw another opportunity with the new space.
"We were really excited to take another crack at the design of the space," she says. "We definitely were excited to bring a more elevated style and design to the space while still retaining an organic feel—using materials like metal and wood throughout. We wanted it to be really cool but still feel approachable, like it could exist in any country anywhere."
Since it worked so well when they opened, Spork once again employed local designers and builders to help realize the new space. Reilly credits designer Piper Lucas and architect Gary Holbrook for their stellar work on the original concept, and "the incredible" contractor Chris Vaetch of Basalt Holdings who completed the construction in five days. Also, Matt Korish, former owner of Pakit Liquidators, and Billy Burks fabricated a new divider out of recycled materials.
"All of this stuff is cool because when people walk into the space, at first they're like, 'Wow, this is really cool,' and then they always ask, 'Is this local?' Reilly says. "That feels good to us because we love to offer something that makes people feel like they're not in Bend, but super proud to have done all of this in Bend."
So far, Reilly says customer feedback has been positive, and Spork plans to use the larger space for a handful of special events throughout the year. And in case patrons still can't get enough Spork, the team is already hard at work on their next project: Reilly says they are currently refurbishing the original Airstream, with plans to have it roaming the streets of Bend again around early February.
Foodies and design gurus can relish in both by visiting Spork at 937 NW Newport Ave., 11 am-9 pm on Sunday through Thursdays, and 11 am-10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.