Bathed in a bright yellow and emblazoned with quotes of encouragement and positivity, Brightside Café is designed to be a light in downtown Sioux City. “From the beginning, the concept was to be a positive spot in downtown Sioux City, the heart of the city, where we can give back to the community,” recalls owner Juan Munoz.
Opening day for the restaurant occupying the iconic location at the corner of 4th and Nebraska streets was 3 short years ago – May 21, 2018. “My dad wanted to open a restaurant with his friend, a chef in California. My brother and I were just going to help out. Then two weeks before we were set to open, circumstances changed and we took over entirely,” says Juan. “Because I already have another business (he’s a chiropractor), my role was to set up the business end of operations, my brother Erik managed the day-to-day.”
The two brothers have managed to balance their talents and stay focused on the vision for Brightside. Today, Erik focuses mainly on marketing and Facebook promotion. This summer he will be responsible for the launch of their food truck. “Our goal was always to add a food truck, three years after we started, I guess we are right on track!” declares Juan. The food truck will feature the same burritos, breakfast items, and some sandwiches as the brick-and-mortar location. “The menu will be a little smaller, but it will be the same great food and positive experience,” adds Juan.
Starting a business, especially a restaurant, requires a bit of vulnerability. “You have to put yourself out there to really see a change or make a difference,” says Juan. “When we began, we knew we had this iconic location, that downtown didn’t have a place for breakfast or the types of lunch options we provide. We saw an opportunity there. Then we asked how can we make this a gift to Sioux City – that’s really what we want, to support and give back to the community.”
The answer to the question was the Feed It Forward program. The program allows any customer to opt to add $7.49 to their bill to purchase a meal for someone in need. The purchaser is given a notepad that details the menu items included and space to write a note to the recipient. Then when a person in need arrives, the note is retrieved, and a meal provided. “It took some courage to launch this program,” Juan says. “It hadn’t been done in Sioux City, but we felt it was needed. We educated the whole staff about what to expect. We might have people come in who had challenges, but we wanted them to feel welcomed.”
There is a zero-tolerance alcohol policy at the Café. Individuals receiving meals in the Feed It Forward program need to be sober. “We often develop relationships with the ones who are regulars,” Juan explains. “We have Richard who is usually across the street with a big shopping cart. We talk to him when he comes in, find out what he needs and care about him. We’ve been worried this spring because we haven’t seen him for quite a while.”
It’s that sense of caring that the Munoz family and their staff take carrying into every aspect of their lives. “We are all trying to better ourselves,” Juan and his wife explained. “Some of the staff have had hard lives. We’ve three or four who were felons, including one who was a regular Feed It Forward recipient. These are people trying to restart their lives and we want to give them a chance.”
That positive attitude literally surrounds you at Brightside Café. As you sit and enjoy a quality meal, you are surrounded by quotes of positivity and inspiration. “There were just collected over time,” Juan responds when asked about them. “Some are from people who’ve inspired us or favorite authors. Others we kind of stumbled upon. It continues to grow – we just added 4 more this year.”
What you’ll find at 525 4th Street every day of the week begins with bountiful, delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch and results in truly a little more brightness in your day. Be on the lookout for the Food Truck bringing the Brightside side to you!