It's Always A Party At Dave’s!
My Midwestern family loves sushi. I never thought that would be a sentence I could truthfully write. Had I been writing this article a year ago, I couldn’t begin this way. Growing up in Iowa, you don’t get a chance for much sushi. Not only does living in a landlocked state make it very difficult to find good, quality sushi, but growing up in a small farm community doesn’t exactly make it a menu staple at the hometown diner, Red’s Café if you’re ever in the tiny little town of Hartley, Iowa. So, our sushi experiences were next to nothing, which had created somewhat of an aversion in my family.
Fast forward ten years, and lo and behold, my family can’t visit Bozeman without eating sushi. But, it’s not just any sushi. It has to be Dave’s sushi. My brother and I were a bit more adventurous eaters than our parents, so it has been a tradition for him every time he visits. My parents, however, always avoided it. Also, consider the time they were standing in line at Albertson’s thinking someone was handing out samples of cake that turned out to be sushi. Just imagine their horror when they thought they were eating a sweet, sugary confection and it turned out to savory sushi. That’s a tough experience to come back from.
So, imagine my surprise this past December when my parents decided to adventure beyond steak and potatoes and try sushi. My brother and I took them to Dave’s on the condition that we order for them, because they felt a bit out of their element. We also requested silverware instead of just chopsticks for them, to which the staff happily obliged. One bite of the Gobbler and my dad was hooked.
That’s the way it goes with Dave’s Sushi. Whether you’ve always loved it or never tried it, your experience at Dave’s will always be story-worthy. It goes beyond the excellent food though. Dave’s is a vibe. It’s a fun, casual gathering space for everyone. It’s woven into the very fabric that makes up Bozeman. Even when it’s packed full of people on a Saturday night, you never feel cramped or out of place. It’s all part of the fun experience of sharing good food with good people, some who are strangers and some who are friends. I was so excited to get a chance to talk to Dave Weiss, owner of Dave’s Sushi, and hear what he had to say about his restaurant.
CM: Dave’s has become a Bozeman icon. Tell me how Dave’s got its start though.
DW: Well, it came to be almost 15 years ago, in 2002. The building that we are in now was actually a fish market. Serendipitously, I was able to lease the corner of the fish market, just a little cottage business, serving sushi to go. And, it really just kind of took off. That was the way things worked for about nine months, and then the fish market moved across town. I took over the lease and started doing sushi just four days a week for a few months so that I could use the down time to work on the building. Then, I could finally open up a sit down place, being the sole business in that building. That was February of 2003.
CM: And you’ve remodeled recently, haven’t you?
DW: Well, how time flies! We actually remodeled in January of 2014. We closed in November of 2013 and took some time to really work on the space, so we could fully reopen in January as what everyone knows now.
CM: Wow, time really does fly! So, what made you want to get into the restaurant business?
DW: Well, I was working as a software engineer, but food had always been a passion of mine and I’d always thought about opening a restaurant, which is a terrible idea! It’s a really hard industry, as you probably know. It can be tough to survive your first year of opening and it is really tough work. But, I always had it in my head that I wanted my own business. I thought maybe I could just ease into it, which made the deal with the fish market so perfect, that I could grow a restaurant into a success. I could dip my toes in and allow it to happen slowly. And to quote from the Peace Corps, it has been the toughest job I’ve ever loved.
CM: What do you love about being a part of Bozeman, both in general and as a restaurant owner?
DW: This is such a great community, and I really just wanted to provide a great place for the people of this community. I moved here in 1994, sight unseen. I had a friend of a friend who lived here and I just needed a change. I fell in love with the town instantly. It’s so connected as a community. Somehow, Bozeman manages to maintain that small-town vibe while also having the cultural opportunities of some place more urban. Even with all the growth we’re experiencing now, it really is a good balance. We are still a small mountain town where people know each other. It’s always friendly and fun. You can’t get that in some place bigger. Bozeman is just a great little town.
CM: It definitely is! So in this community, what do you think Dave’s offers? What makes Dave’s so unique to Bozeman?
DW: Of course, it will always be good food. That’s number one. But, it is also about the atmosphere. I modeled Dave’s Sushi after my own dinner parties when people would come over to hang out in my living room, bring their drink of choice, and eat really good food. That’s what I wanted Dave’s to feel like for everyone. It’s always a party at Dave’s! We’ve mimicked that vibe with really good food but also exceptional service. We want your experience there to be great in all aspects, not just the food.
CM: So what do you want people to experience when they go there?
DW: Overall, being able to make people happy is our number one goal. We want them to get high-quality food every single time they come. We want them to feel great. We want to be a part of that experience for them.
CM: I’m curious to hear about this one. What would you say is the best-selling dish at Dave’s?
DW: Historically, it’s been the Widespread Panic and the Gobbler, which isn’t even on the menu. But recently, it’s been more focused on our specialty rolls. When we put something up on the board we’ve created, people want to eat it. We’ve even actually seen more people put themselves in the hands of the sushi roller and have them create something completely unique to eat. That’s actually been one of the beauties about the remodeled space. We have more room to do things like that. We’ve been able to add more staff and we have an extremely talented staff right now. Some people will come in with a few guidelines, what kinds of fish they like or other ingredients. And some people will just say that the sky’s the limit. I’m really lucky to have such a talented staff that can come up with things on the fly like that. It offers a really unique experience to our customers. I really encourage people to try that.
CM: Any special events in the near future?
DW: Honestly, it’s summertime and we are so busy that we’re just trying to keep our heads above water. We’re always working to provide the best experience for the people there, so we won’t be doing anything special outside the restaurant. We’ll just work to continue serving you good food.
The experience I had with my parents at Dave’s is just one of many for people who live, play, and visit Bozeman. Dave’s is an icon in this town. People share special moments there, first dates, anniversary celebrations, birthdays, the list really is endless. It’s a place to go to gather with friends and soak in the atmosphere while ordering those classic, favorite sushi rolls we all crave the minute we step through the door.
As for me, it sounds like I’ve got my next Dave’s experience picked out: custom rolls from those talented sushi rollers!