Brotha Dudes is a family-run restaurant located in Bellingham, Washington that offers a unique culinary and social experience. Specifically, they have named many of their menu items after references from cannabis culture, such as the “Dudes Blunt” and the “Cali Spliff.” While there is no actual cannabis in their recipes, they do have a food truck which they occasionally park outside local dispensaries.
Since its opening, Brotha Dudes has been enthusiastically received by the community and has found early success. We interviewed three of the co-owners of the business about their menu and the ideology behind their restaurant: watch our micro-documentary below and scroll down to read the backstory!
Brotha Dudes was founded by Briana and Julius Stoker in 2016 with the mission to create healthy, affordable, delicious food. The true origin of the business, however, came prior to that when their son, Duncan Stoker, was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Briana and Julius provided Duncan with homemade food to eat along the way that Duncan would share with his fellow hikers. Due to his generosity and general dude-ness, Duncan was assigned the trail name of “Brotha Dude” by his fellow trekkers and was frequently told that his parents’ trail food recipes were so delicious that they should open up their own restaurant. When Duncan finished his journey, he took the stories home to his parents, who were indeed interested in opening up a restaurant, and the name “Brotha Dudes” seemed like the perfect fit.
There are a lot of things that make Brotha Dudes unique, but most noteworthy is the menu. First of all, the food is locally sourced and fresh. The menu is broken down by “vegetarian” and “carnivore,” and items can be customized to one’s liking. For example, a “Hippie Bowl” (tofu salad bowl) can be served “Blunted” (in a wrap). The carnivorous version of the “Cali Spliff” contains two types of meat, chicken and corned beef, while the vegetarian version contains tofu and falafel. You can also order a side of falafel “nugs” or “baked” chicken. Julius and Duncan Stoker, the dynamic father/son duo behind most of the restaurant’s recipes, both have stated that a lot of their dishes were in fact conceived while the two of them were high.
While many mainstream businesses are hesitant to acknowledge that they work with companies in the legal cannabis industry, and most banks still won’t even serve them, Brotha Dudes has taken a chance by embracing the culture and community surrounding cannabis from outside the industry itself. That might seem like a risky business decision to some, but the fact is, over 61% of people in America now approve of legalizing cannabis, and in Bellingham, where cannabis is already legal and very much a part of normal society, that figure is probably closer to 90%.
More importantly, by backing up their playful cannabis references with undeniably delicious food and contagious good vibes, Brotha Dudes has created a memorable experience, and the word has quickly spread. When it comes to mainstream companies embracing cannabis culture and getting over the negative stigma, Brotha Dudes’ Marketing Director and Co-Owner Theo Radke said, “We’re kind of entering a whole new era… and we’re on the frontier.”
Although the popularity of the menu has definitely played a role in the restaurant’s success, the message behind it is not just about marketing. A few years ago, Julius was prescribed painkillers, to which he eventually became addicted. The doctors told him he would simply have to keep taking them as prescribed, and that there were no alternatives. It was not until he discovered medical cannabis that he was able to break the addiction; he now enjoys better health and a better quality of life. Because he has personally seen the benefits, Julius hopes that the menu at Brotha Dudes will get people talking and help more people become open to the idea of cannabis medicine.
A Culture of Kindness
The vibe at Brotha Dudes is exceedingly welcoming and community-oriented. Just inside the door, there is an oil painting of an olive with the caption “Olive You,” right next to a poster for an upcoming Metal Yoga class. When you place your order, you have the option to “shoot your receipt” at a basket behind the counter for a chance to earn 10 or 20 percent off your next meal. Dana Donovick, the owner of Bellingham dispensary Western Bud where Brotha Dudes’ food trailer is occasionally parked, admires the way the restaurant has created an atmosphere where “everyone is like extended family.” The staff is outgoing and friendly, and frequently you can find Julius walking around, chatting up his patrons and getting to know them.
Brotha Dudes has already received inquiries from hopeful investors and franchisees, but the co-owners have stated they ultimately want it to be an employee-owned business, to provide their staff an opportunity for long-term involvement in the company. They’re not quite there yet, but with a second location already in the works, it appears that this goal may be closer than they ever would have imagined.