Classic Cookie by day; Wild Rose Bistro by night. Two dining concepts will share the same space in Waldo as Chef Bryan Sparks builds a new menu — and business — from his obsession with food and growth.
“It doesn’t really make sense for us to get another brick-and-mortar spot,” said Sparks, who launched the rebooted Classic Cookie breakfast and lunch restaurant and bakery in 2021 at Wornall Road and Gregory Boulevard. “This place isn’t being used at night. So how do we get everything we can out of it?”
His recipe called for an answer: Wild Rose Bistro, a dinner companion to the popular Waldo shop that brings internationally-inspired dishes to the table with locally-sourced ingredients.
“Since the pandemic, you’ve seen people start to get super crafty and clever on what they’re doing with their businesses,” Sparks detailed. “Traditional doesn’t really work anymore. You have to be kind of able to think outside the box and pivot really quickly.”
A soft opening for Wild Rose Bistro is planned for Friday with a grand opening Sept. 1. Reservations are now being taken for both.
It marks the third pandemic restaurant project for Sparks and his fiancée, Hailey Allen. In 2021, they launched Beloved-On The Go meal preparation and catering company, before later taking ownership of Classic Cookie.
The duo came up with the concept for Wild Rose Bistro about two months ago after another project fell through.
“I seem to be — to my fiance’s chagrin — obsessed with more,” he added. “I can’t seem to stay quiet for more than eight months at this point.”
‘Think globally, act locally’
The new project will allow Sparks, Allen, and Jade Zivalic, chef for Wild Rose Bistro, to return to their upscale dining roots. Sparks came from Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, Bluestem Bistro, and Rye, while Allen and Zivalic were at North Italia.
“Dining, the old-fashioned way — where you get your appetizer and then you get your soup or salad, then you get your entree — it’s boring,” he said. “It works for some people. But for me, dining is an experience, and the experience is best had when you’re talking about food and sharing with others. The conversation and the food itself kind of flows naturally over a two-hour period. So we kind of built the menu to be similar to that.”
Most dishes on the 14-item menu will be small to medium plates, he said.
“You’re meant to grab two to five plates per table and kind of share,” Sparks added.
The best way to describe the style of cooking for the Wild Rose Bistro is found in a concept Sparks heard in a documentary about French Chef Alain Ducasse, he said.
“[Ducasse] said something in there that kind of struck home with how I think a lot of cuisine is going nowadays — but kind of how we wanted to focus on building our menu — it’s ‘think globally, act locally,’” he continued. “So while the inspiration can come from anywhere across the globe, we’re using products that we can (find) here.”
For example, Wild Rose Bistro is expected to serve a miso and maple glazed salmon with a barley risotto and summer roasted vegetables that will come from Crum’s Heirlooms out of Bonner Springs. Other dishes include a cold crab salad with slightly pickled cucumbers, basil oil, and caviar; cassoulet; and sourdough dinner rolls with three types of compound butter.
“We’re using local farms and local producers and high quality ingredients and we’re just sourcing ideas from kind of whatever inspires us and trying to make it cohesive on a plate,” he explained.
Something new, something old
A lot of the restaurants in the Waldo and Brookside areas offer bar-and-grill type food, Sparks said. He hopes to bring a lighter and fresher option to the neighborhood.
“We don’t have a fryer,” he said. “We use grapeseed oil in everything. We focus on minimal ingredients in our dishes so that we can be as healthy as possible.”
The small size of the space — 33 seats without the patio — will allow the team to pivot quickly when it comes to menu options, he said.
“What you see on the menu on Friday, two weeks from now, there’s probably going to be two or three different options on there,” he added. “And I think that’s going to be fun for the neighborhood.”
The bistro will also offer up a bit of nostalgia as customers will be eating off plates from the Plaza III restaurant, a former KC staple.
“I think the best thing about being a business owner so far — and the thing that I most enjoy — is being able to tell stories and connecting generations together,” Sparks said. “I guarantee you we’re gonna get some customers who, if not consciously, subconsciously recognize the Plaza III plates from when they went to prom there in the ’90s and that’s cool. We get to keep memories alive, keep making new ones, and refurbish old ones.”
New concept, new chef
Sparks and Allen will be handing the reins of Wild Rose Bistro to Zivalic. Allen became friends with Zivalic when they both worked at North Italia in Leawood. Zivalic — who Sparks said is wildly talented and is going to be better than him — was also the sous chef at MOD in Bentonville, Arkansas.
“She’s exceptional,” he continued. “She has an amazing eye for plating, attention to detail. Her palette is probably one of the best in the city. She’s going to be one of the chefs that I give the resources that I can to and then stand out of the way and let her succeed.”
Zivalic hails from Los Angeles and the Wild Rose Bistro name is a nod to her California roots and to the daughter of Sparks and Allen, Esme.
“The California wild rose is said to be one of the most indestructible varieties that exists,” Sparks explained. “It survives droughts and wildfires. So I’m hoping to get a little bit of good karmic magic from the history of the name. And my daughter’s middle name is Rose. She’s currently in her 3-and-a-half-year-old terrible, wild stage.”