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David Minton

Aiming for the sweet spot

Profile image for By Karina Ramirez / Staff Writer
By Karina Ramirez / Staff Writer

The boys have grown up and opened a cantina.

Jeff Doyle and Spencer McFarling, friends since their high school days, are majority owners of Mulberry Street Cantina, a new bar in downtown Denton.

The cantina, open now for about a month, was a project that finally developed during a game of golf one afternoon.

“It was an idea we had always talked about, but we never really followed through,” Doyle said. “Something just stuck this time around.”

The majority owners formed a limited liability partnership, which they co-own with four sets of friends and family members.

“The six leaves on the agave of our logo on the building is for the six members of our business,” McFarling said. “Myself and my wife Emily, Jeff Doyle, longtime friend Chis Beasley, Freddy and Kelly Jones, Michael and Melissa Blair, and my brother, Brandon McFarling.”

In November, the owners acquired 110 Mulberry St., which last housed Swash Labs. They spent four months renovating the space.

“We added two bathrooms and kept the existing air conditioning,” Spencer McFarling said.

They also resurfaced the concrete floor, which had a bit of a downhill slope in one area.

“We added concrete and ran the polish over,” McFarling said. “Jeff and I put on the Home Depot gas mask and scrubbed on the floor sealer. It stuck to our skin for days and it smelled like nail polish.”

The building, built in 1901, used to be a carriage house, McFarling said.

“It would have a horse and carriage that would run through here,” he said.

It still retains its garage door — a signature detail of the building — but the door remains closed. The renovations added two new entrances to the 3,600-square-foot space.

Another signature part of the business is a 350-square-foot bar that has connections all the way around.

“It has 22 bar stools, and all around the bar there are purse hooks and plugs that have USB adapters,” McFarling said. “People can come with their laptops because we also have free Wi-Fi here.”

Drink up

Mulberry Street Cantina offers 19 items on its specialty drink menu, and it features seven of the cantina’s own margaritas, including its most popular drink, the cucumber jalapeno margarita.

“That is something we do different here: We have fresh fruits, no powders, no mixes,” McFarling said. “If you are having a cucumber jalapeno margarita, they use fresh lime juice, they get their jalapeno and they muddle it, they strain it. And pretty much all of drinks are low-calorie and contain 100 percent agave [nectar].”

McFarling said he and Doyle wanted to bring a business to Denton that they both liked and sell drinks at good prices.

“You don’t want to have a drink the gives you heartburn,” he said. “We sell them for $4. You can have a good drink and not have Dallas prices. Our most expensive drink is $9; on Mondays, we sell it for $6.”

The bar boasts the “cobra head,” a tap that dispenses tequila chilled to 23 degrees.

“We have an ice-cold tequila that comes out of the tap,” McFarling said. “There are only a couple of these in the metroplex, and we are the only one in Denton to have one.”

Working with neighbors

As a bar without a kitchen, Mulberry Street Cantina offers drinks only. But with so many local eateries nearby, the owners decided to partner up and share resources.

Jimmy Meredith of Sweetwater Grill & Tavern is creating a menu specifically for Mulberry Street Cantina.

“It will have the cantina theme and have regional Tex-Mex food that we do here,” Meredith said. “It will be a shorter version of what we offer here.”

He said the business partnership was a good fit, and the first of its kind for Sweetwater — though Sweetwater does cater and its menu includes items from other local businesses, such as Beth Marie’s ice cream.

The first draft of the menu was delivered to the owners last week, Meredith said. They were still working on the logistics of how and when the food would be ordered and delivered.

McFarling said the cantina has menus available from some nearby restaurants and also offers chips and salsa daily. The salsa comes from a longtime friend, Jack Fraser, who is working on his own business concept called Royal Grub.

Partners and friends

Doyle and McFarling’s friendship dates back 20 years. They are both graduates of Ryan High School’s class of 1997. Both are 34, and their birthdays lead to some good-natured ribbing.

“I am about five months older than him,” Doyle said. “For five months out a year, he gives me a hard time.”

Both men have bartended before and always wanted to have their own business concept.

McFarling is a business and economics teacher at Guyer High School, as well as an assistant baseball coach. He handles the business administration of the cantina.

Doyle, who has 16 years of bar and service industry experience, is the cantina’s mixologist.

“I bartended in graduate school, our other partners were in the service industry, and we are bar guys,” McFarling said. All of them worked on Fry Street at some point.

“‘Maybe,’ we said, ‘we are all adults, maybe we can make a place.’”

The bartending side of their concept came easy to them, but learning the business side took a bit of learning, Doyle said.

McFarling calls the cantina their first adventure.

Doyle said he wanted to start small, perhaps later expanding and opening another location. So far, McFarling said, they feel accomplished.

“We are open and we are happy,” he said.

For his part, Doyle said, the venture turned out to be just what he had envisioned.

“My idea was to have an easygoing, relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “Not too much crazy stuff going on. It is a place for people to come and hang out.”

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.