Drive east on historic Highway 49 past the Yuba gold fields, Moonshine Road, the Lost Nugget Market and into the once-booming Gold Rush town of Camptonville. Enter a building built by a stagecoach driver at the turn of the 20th century. Push open the swinging double doors (that make you almost feel the six-shooter on your hip) and walk into a bar and restaurant where the walls are covered with … mermaids.
Welcome to Burgee Dave’s at The Mayo.
Now a Camptonville staple that’s amassed a loyal following with good food, a quirky, comfy atmosphere and one massive Bloody Mary, the restaurant is a study in contradictions.
It is located in the quintessential rural town along the main drag of Camptonville that stretches about two blocks. Its owners, Brian Price and Sandi Kubich, moved to the area from Sacramento.
It’s located in the heart of the Gold Country, where most restaurant walls are draped in grainy Gold Rush photographs and wizened mining equipment, yet Price and Kubich elected the aforementioned mermaid as the bar’s mascot and motif.
And when a name is supposed to say something, Burgee Dave’s at The Mayo, at first glance, doesn’t say anything.
But deconstruct the name, and the story of the restaurant takes shape.
“Burgee” comes from a friend of Price and Kubich who owns a restaurant in New York of the same name. The friend was somewhat of a consultant for the couple when they were planning what would become Burgee Dave’s at The Mayo.
“Dave” is in the restaurant’s name in honor of Dave Kubich, Sandi’s father. Dave purchased the building that houses the restaurant for his daughter, who spent years working in the food service industry in Sacramento.
Finally, “at The Mayo” is quite literal. The restaurant is in The Mayo building, which was built in 1906 after the original burnt down that same year. It was owned by a fellow named Orin Mayo.
And so Price and Kubich had a name. Next was a matter of figuring out what to put on the walls, which were empty when Dave bought the place.
“We didn’t know what to do,” Sandi said. “My friend suggested I put up my mermaid collection. I just went with it.”
“Just went with it” may be an understatement. Burgee Dave’s is covered in mermaids.
Mermaid paintings cover the walls. A mermaid and a merman are painted on the bathroom doors. There are mermaids etched in stainless steel, scrawled on cocktail napkins, carved in relief in clay. A collection of mermaid toys and statues is in a case near the front door. A cloth imprinted with a camouflage design composed of mermaids hangs near the bar. Every drink is served with a little plastic mermaid perched on the rim of the glass.
Another 200 mermaids still sit in the office, waiting for their moment on the walls.
“We’re trying to create a place where people love to come,” Sandi said. “That’s what we have to do out here to survive.”
It’s a two-pronged operation. Sandi and her sister, Amee, work the kitchen, and Brian, with an outgoing personality and booming baritone voice, takes care of the bar.
“He’s the front man,” Sandi said.
And what they’re doing seems to be working. The food is a hit — with weekly specials that can range from a New York strip steak to Thai food.
Patrons flock to Burgee Dave’s at The Mayo from New Bullards Bar reservoir to the point that, during some summer days, the parking lot could be mistaken for a boat ramp, Price said.
After years of living in the city, the couple has faced some interesting adjustments in rural Camptonville. They have to drive to get anything and have learned to stock up on the necessities whenever they’re in a city.
Price joked that if he knew a reporter was on his way to Camptonville for a story, he would have asked him to stop by Ace Hardware to pick up a few things.
But the rural lifestyle has won them over.
“We’re the focal point of Camptonville,” Price said. “There’s a camaraderie here. Everyone is very supportive and appreciative — people look out for each other here.”
Sandi said the restaurant wouldn’t be the same if the couple had stayed in Sacramento.
“Being downtown would change the dynamics,” Sandi said. “We operate in kick-back, country-mode here.”
For more information, call (530) 288-3301 or go to www.facebook.com/BurgeeDavesAtTheMayo.
Andrew Creasey is a reporter with the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.