We all know that it’s the people that truly make the place, and when it comes to residents of Auburn Washington, this rings especially true!
One such individual is Donel Brinkman, owner of Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill. Donel has lived in Auburn most of her life: she moved to town in the 1st grade, left briefly for college and returned home three years later.
Donel originally returned home to help with the family business, but she soon stumbled upon her calling. Starbucks coffee was new on the scene, and Donel noticed the bitter taste the popular coffee left in her mouth. So she took matters into her own hands, lightening the roast and adding more caffeine. In the end, she created a delicious cup of joe without the acidity – now how’s that for problem solving!
She soon borrowed money from her brother, Jimbo, so she could build her own espresso cart. Uncertain with what her next steps should be, Donel turned to advice from locals.
“I was definitely feeling intimidated at the start, especially as a woman in business, so I turned to other successful local female-led companies for advice,” Donel says.
While she initially set out seeking guidance, she ended up getting lucky and finding a space to briefly park her espresso cart with Judy Syverson at Judy’s Salon.
As the popularity for her delicious beverages grew, so did her need for more space. She eventually settled on a small café that sat 22 people, and the Spunky Monkey Café and Juice Bar was born.
“When we first opened the cafe, we really brought a flavor that nobody had before. In 1992, people weren’t cooking with roasted garlic and pesto, like they do now, for example. We were really one to experiment with taste which is why I think we did so well,” Donel says.
Building on the theme of innovation, Donel successfully opened the first drive-through espresso bar in the U.S. and also created her trademarked secret motion potion, the Zipperdoodle.
It wasn’t long before The Spunky Monkey Bar & Grill was established, opening its doors in 1997. Since then, they’ve been making it hard for diners to pick just one dish! Their Caesar dressing, for example, is a staple for locals, but also popular all over the world. Check out their menu for yourself to see if you can land on just one item – it’s easier said than done. Which is precisely why Donel suggests making the trip with a group of friends, so you can pick, pair and share some delicious dishes.