BY KELLIE C. MORGAN
For the Journal
Regular patrons of Chamorro Village may have noticed a new food window called Booniez Local Eats next to Jamaican Grill. Nicholas J. Quinata and his business partner, James Opena, opened the business in late December. The pair has developed a menu of favorite local dishes, like loco moco, to include a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.
Booniez is the first and only restaurant owned by Quinata, but he is not new to the food industry.
“My grandparents owned a small café [in Umatac], Loling’s, so they kind of planted the seed for my love of cooking,” he said.
Cooking for fiestas and friends inspired him to bring his favorite dishes to the public.
“The best part of owning a restaurant is watching apprehensive people try our food and having them come back to the window asking for more. I love winning over customers and having them come back as regulars,” he said.
The initial investment to get his dream started was about $6,000, including renting a spot in Chamorro Village through the Department of Chamorro Affairs. The stall was already equipped with everything needed, so they avoided the need for any renovations or construction.
“The Chamorro Village offers an incubator program, so during your time here is when most people work out their concepts. For us, it was the perfect chance to start […],” Quinata said.
In order to save money and support the community, Booniez uses produce from local markets as much as possible.
The name Booniez was chosen for several reasons, Quinata said. “Having such a broad term not only gave us a lot to play with on the menu, but it also gave our designers a lot to play with too. We like to think what we do defines us, though, not the name.”
Working in an area of 200 square feet means less room to cook and store food, but Quinata does not view this as a disadvantage.
“We love having a small menu. It means we get to put all of our efforts into those dishes instead of trying to throw together 20 different dishes,” he said.
As much as he loves being part of Chamorro Village, his goal within the next year or two is to open a sit-down style restaurant so customers are able to enjoy their food in a more relaxed environment.
With his two employees, Quinata said he believes it is important that they have freedom to be creative. “Allowing people to be creative in a business goes a long way. If it wasn’t for my employees, I never would have thought of doing vegan dishes.”
“We don’t want people to eat our food just to be fed; we want them to enjoy it,” he said. Mbj
Business partners Nicholas J. Quinata and James Opena opened Booniez Local Eats in December at Chamorro Village.
Photo by Kellie C. Morgan