Brightside owners JJ and Ashlee Bright with their 12-year-old son, Brayden, stand in front of the locally-influenced beers on tap wall. Behind them is a modified poster from the TV show “Bob’s Burgers” with the Bright family as the main characters. Photo by Theresa-Marie Wilson
Six months into owning their first restaurant, husband and wife team JJ and Ashlee Bright have reunited family-fun and pizza with a nod to both the past and contemporary times.
Brightside, a sit-down pizza place seats, 92 people inside, has a bar that serves beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks and TVs showing sports or other popular events, with the audio off for dining pleasure.
The menu offers specialty pies, or diners can build their own by choosing from a selection of sauces, cheeses, meats and veggies.
“Something I like to joke about is the fact that I like to make really quality food but we put plastic plates out,” JJ said with a laugh.
Sandwiches, wraps, salads, wings and desserts round out the menu. The bread and dough are handmade by the crew and the majority of desserts are made by Carlock’s Bakery in Los Osos.
“We don’t deep fry anything which is part of our niche,” JJ said and recommended the baked wings, which are a crowd favorite. “All our chicken products are coated in garlic butter, and then we season it with Ashley’s secret seasoning. Everything goes through the pizza oven. People rave about our wings. We do garlic-Parmesan, honey-barbecue, and Frank’s Hot Sauce, which are all great options, but I tell everybody to try them naked and get the sauces on the side because Ashlee’s seasoning rub is amazing.”
The bestseller for the kid crowd is pepperoni and cheese pizza. For adults The Bear, with bacon, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, pepperoni and salami, is at the top of the list. It is closely followed by The Veg, with artichoke hearts, red onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and olives.
“If you’re willing to be a little adventurous, The Little Mama is a vegetarian pie with mushrooms, red onions, blue cheese and roasted garlic,” JJ said. “We roast our own garlic in house, so instead of just sprinkling little pieces of garlic prefab, there’s chunks of it on there. If you’re a garlic fan, it’s the way to go.”
For the thirsty, there are 30 beers on tap featuring primarily local brews from Liquid Gravity, Barrelhouse, SLO Cider, and Central Coast Brewing to name a few. There is also the signature Brightside Blonde created by SLO Cider.
“We are spoiled rotten when it comes to beer in this area,” JJ said.
Bringing the family or sports team to the pizza parlor has been a guaranteed hit since the early parlor days. The Brightside brings back another blast from the past with arcade style video games.
JJ is an avid gamer and his hand in creating that part of the restaurant is evident. Technology has changed since the days of arcades with one game per machine. Some of the systems in the restaurant are equipped with hundreds to thousands of old school games from Mortal Kombat to Pac Man to Pong to Defender.
“We’re shooting for that old pizza joint feel in the 80s where you go have Red Vines, drink a root beer through them and play some video games,” said JJ adding that Paperboy remains one of his favorite games from the past and that the Red Vines are free.
Yes, adults are encouraged to play video games too as well as participate in the upcoming trivia nights. Starting May 11 and continuing on the second and last Thursday of every month, Brightside will hold music trivia nights from 6 to 8 p.m. Prizes will be awarded.
The combination of new and old vibes with a variety of good food and drinks, a fun atmosphere and owners who have more energy than a kid in a candy store has been successful.
“We couldn’t ask for a better community,” JJ said. “We’re ahead of projections is the safest way to put it, which is really nice. Word of mouth has been everything. As far as I can tell, it’s been really well received. We’re really optimistic.”
The Brights, who live in San Luis Obispo, have embraced the Los Osos area community as well. Throughout the month of April weekly fundraisers were held for local schools, classes, sports and more. They plan is to continue the events giving the organizations 10% of the days sales from food items, both dine-in and pickup. Accredited, kid-oriented organizations are welcome to reach out to the restaurant for more information. The restaurant also donated food to Vista Court residents and volunteers impacted by the mud and flood damage in January.
Ashlee and JJ, who have been married just about 15 years, are restaurant industry veterans. In addition to working at their own restaurant, Ashlee is a server at the Madonna Inn where she has worked for more than 20 years. JJ has worked for McLintocks, Beach Bungalows and Fat Cat’s, among other local spots. Working together has been a great experience.
“In the past, I’ve always gotten up and gone to work from to 7 to 3:30,” JJ said. “I would get home, we’d high-five and she went off to work. We have hardly seen each other for the past years. Working together has been huge because we actually get to hang out, and we still like each other. We don’t always see eye to eye. It’s not all rainbows and bunny rabbits, but it’s awesome.”
As for the immediate future, the Brights plan to revamp the outdoor area that seats about 12- to 16 people.
Later this year, if anyone can pull them away from the business, a trip to Thailand is in the works.
“Being as crazy as I am, to step away from this place and see if it can run itself is terrifying,” JJ said. “But, we have a tremendous staff right now and a front of the house manager who is amazing.”
Brightside is located at 1236 Los Osos Valley Rd Ste. A. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check out their menu at BirghtsidePizza.com. To order for pickup, call 805-439-3516.