Tony Luna opens breakfast eatery in former Spanish Fort bakery, just like Mom wanted

Melanie LeCroy
Lifestyle Editor
melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 1/18/23

SPANISH FORT — Across from Rockwell Elementary School sits a small white house that once housed a bakery. If you passed it in the last six months, you may have noticed it is a new business. Actually, two.

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Tony Luna opens breakfast eatery in former Spanish Fort bakery, just like Mom wanted

Posted

SPANISH FORT — Across from Rockwell Elementary School sits a small white house that once housed a bakery. If you passed it in the last six months, you may have noticed it is a new business. Actually, two.

Rise Breakfast & Bakery and Taco Tony’s is the dream of chef Tony Luna. He brought his years of culinary experience and his favorite dishes to Spanish Fort, and it is worth a visit.

When you walk in, you might notice there is only one small table. The walls are filled with artwork from local artists, and shelves hold action figures, sports cards and collectibles. All the things Luna enjoys.

Don’t let the décor or lack of seating deter you.

Luna and his partner, Erika Sisk, make everything but the tortillas from scratch. The breakfast menu features items like breakfast burritos, eggs benedicts and Luna’s version of French toast called ‘Merica Sweet Bread. For lunch, diners choose between barbacoa chicken, slow-cooked brisket and beef and chorizo tacos.

WHAT INSPIRED THE MENU?

Luna said the menu was inspired by his mother's home cooking.

“My mom would make tortillas every morning and chorizo and eggs,” Luna said. “I wanted to make my favorite things to eat.”

When it comes to the menu item names, those are inspired by his favorite movies. He may ask you if you know the reference when you order; so movie buffs, be ready.

WHO IS CHEF TONY LUNA?

Luna was born in the Bay Area of northern California and is candid about his family's struggles with homelessness and food insecurity.

He, his mother and multiple siblings bounced around the Bay Area until his mother saw a chance to get them out. They went to Texas for a short time before coming to Alabama and ultimately settling in Baldwin County.

“I grew up poorer than everybody we ever knew. I missed meals. My mom missed meals, and we lived in homeless shelters and cars with all our family. That is all I ever knew for my whole childhood,” Luna said. “If it wasn’t for government assistance, I wouldn’t even be alive right now.”

His mom opened a café in Spanish Fort where she sold breakfast biscuits. Helping her out was Luna’s first job in the food industry.

“I was a teenager, and I didn’t care too much about it at the time. Looking back, that is one of my big regrets, that I didn’t jump in and help her out,” Luna said. “Shortly after that, I got a dishwashing job at Papa’s Pizza (in Daphne). That was my first paying job. I started watching them throw pies and thought it was pretty cool.”

Luna said he saw cooking as the only job he could do and jumped in. At 18 years old, he started working at Hooters in Daphne. Over the years, he would work his way through the kitchens of Baldwin County, moving up the ladder as he went. He has worked for California Dreaming, The Hangout, Baumhower’s Victory Grille, University of South Alabama, Live Bait, The Good Guys 251 Food Truck and The Lodge at Gulf State Park.

Before striking out on his own, he had his full circle moment when he returned to California Dreaming as its executive chef.

He picked up experience and knowledge along the way and credits Bob Baumhower and his restaurant training program for his ability to be a good manager.

“Baumhower’s was my first head chef position I had with Head Chef Tony Luna on the door," Luna said. "I know firsthand that Bob Baumhower has the best idea of hospitality that I have seen of somebody. Bob had me taking college courses. Binders on binders of information on thought process and how to coach."

SOMETHING OF HIS OWN

Luna knew he wanted a place where he could have complete creative control of the food being served.

It hasn't been an easy process, but Luna was raised to work hard and was driven by the desire to create something he could pass on to his family. He has five children and two grandchildren.

The original plan was to open a place called Half Baked, which would be half bakery and half breakfast. An obstacle with the ovens and hood system made Luna change direction.

Rise Breakfast & Bakery was born and opened in May 2022.

“Have you heard of low budget? We are no-budget,” Luna laughed. “I opened with $600 in my pocket, but we are here now. This is the worst possible time to start a breakfast spot because eggs were $25 for 15 dozen when I started. I just paid $75 for 15 dozen.”

If you ask him if he would like to find a new location, his answer is twofold. Yes because he wants a sit-down restaurant but no because he wants to hold on to the little white house for sentimental reasons.

“My mom used to live on old Highway 31 when she was alive, and we used to drive by here all the time. My mom used to say, 'I want a place like that whenever you get rich,'” Luna said. “I was like, 'I got you momma.' And I’ll be damned if I am not in here. It is nuts when I sit and think about it.”

In the future, Luna would like to have a brunch spot that operates 7 a.m.-2 p.m. then turns into Taco Tony’s in the evenings, which would be a margarita bar and taco spot.

But for now, you will find Luna and Sisk cooking up their tasty from-scratch food.

“The community support has been awesome, and the only bad reviews have been for a lack of parking and not answering the phone,” Luna said. “Walking through that door casing is a big deal for me because I really pray over it. I really pray that God blesses the people that take the time to come here, see me and get fed."

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