SHERIDAN — Long before he worked under Michelin-recognized chefs and even longer before he opened Birch in Sheridan, Travis Sorenson worked as a dish-washer at the Rawbar in Chico, California.
In that formative job, Sorenson developed some of his key relationships. His future wife, Heather, was a server there, and one of his best friends, Grant Dobbie, was a line cook.
The group pursued different opportunities after leaving the Rawbar, but always kept in touch, according to Dobbie. And even from a distance, Dobbie and Sorenson continued to cheer each other on.
So when the Sorensons were offered a chance to expand to a second restaurant in Sheridan, they knew with whom they wanted to partner.
“We didn’t want to do it alone since we already have Birch, and a family as well,” Heather Sorenson said. “We needed someone we could trust and we’ve known Grant since we worked together 20 years ago in California. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we do this together?’”
The Sorensons will serve as co-owners and operators of the new fine-dining restaurant, Spruce, with Dobbie and his partner Meg Ryan. Like one of Birch’s signature meals, the new collaboration brings together different ingredients in order to create something truly unforgettable, Dobbie said.
“The best part about this group is that each person brings the same desire for service and perfection from completely different angles,” Dobbie said. “Heather is an expert on cocktails. Meg is in charge of the technology and the administration side of things. Travis knows food. I can manage, but I’ve also been inside the kitchen. Bringing all those skills together should result in something pretty special.”
Spruce, which is set to open this fall, will be located at 1 E. Alger St. The building most recently housed Uptown Shabby Eatery, but it has a long history in the community and was once the home of the Cady Opera House.
“I’ve always liked the building and, prior to being approached with this opportunity, I told Heather, ‘If it ever comes up on the market, we need to snag that,’” Travis Sorenson said. “I just think it’s a beautiful building with a lot of history. The outside is really cool and, by the time we’re done remodeling, the inside should be cool, too.”
The building is currently “gutted down to its studs,” Travis Sorenson said. The Sorensons are taking their time on the project, and addressing structural issues in the old building while remodeling.
“We’re taking our time, but it will look really nice when it’s done,” Travis Sorenson said. “We’re really excited to show it to people.”
Once the renovations are completed, the Sorensons expect it to have double the seating capacity of Birch, including a dining area, bar and ceviche bar.
The Sorensons are thinking of Spruce not as a clone of Birch, but as its own unique entity. They intend to continue what Birch did well — the same flavor profiles and the same levels of quality and service —while focusing on meals not served at Birch. They’re positioning Spruce as a go-to lunch and brunch spot, which will also offer tapas and cocktails in the evening.
“I’ve missed cooking lunch food and brunch food,” Travis Sorenson said. “I think the Spruce menu took me maybe two hours to create. There’s a lot of stuff I’m really excited to try.”
“For everyone who loves Travis’ food, Spruce will be a fun way of watching his creative mind work in a different way,” his wife said.
Birch will continue to operate in its current location with no changes as the Sorensons split their time between the two restaurants.
Travis Sorenson said he has already heard from locals excited to try the new restaurant, and promised it would be worth the wait.
“I think it’s going to be a memorable occasion when you walk in there — whether it’s for lunch or a drink or a bunch of small plates,” he said. “We’re really excited to share it with the community.”