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Secret Ingredient to Opening a Restaurant is Love — Irena Damianova of Balkan Bar and Grill

Digital Hospitality podcast interview with Balkan Bar and Grill owner Irena Damianova

Irena Damianova learned the secret ingredient to opening a restaurant.

When the Las Vegas restaurant owner decided to move from a successful real estate career and open Balkan Bar and Grill, she didn’t know what to expect. All she knew was that flexibility was paramount to her and the restaurant’s survival.

Interview with Owner of Balkan Bar and Grill in Las Vegas

Outside of the amazing Balkan region inspired menu, Damianova incorporates a secret ingredient into the welcoming restaurant experience. 

“My daughter likes to say that the secret ingredient is love. People feel when you put what you put into it. They can feel it,” explains Balkan Bar and Grill owner Irena Damianova on the Digital Hospitality podcast, hosted by Shawn Walchef (and his special guest co-host Rositsa Walchef).

Outside the Balkan Bar and Grill in Las Vegas

WHAT DID YOU LEARN on this episode of the show? Let us know by leaving a comment! Email our Cali BBQ Media team to get in touch



    1. Plan for Now: The COVID pandemic has caused a shift in many business strategies, including mindsets of owners and operators. The uncertainty of the times caused Irena Damianova to live in the moment more than be bogged down by long term forecasting. 
    2. Dining Out is Cheaper than a Psychiatrist: Humans are social and not having that option for a while was difficult for some to get through. Irena Damianova believes that gathering around good food can help people get over those mental hurdles.
    3. Love: The Secret Ingredient: Physical ingredients aside, Irena Damianova believes that the intangibles like love are what makes the food at The Balkan Grill special.


Check out this interview to learn her leap into the hospitality industry and a unique approach to creating an enjoyable environment for restaurant guests.


[01:19] – Opening a Restaurant

[04:35] – First Day Open Lessons

[08:38] – Bulgarian Restaurant in Las Vegas

[18:40] – Secret Ingredient to Business

[22:22] – Worldly Family Cuisine


Opening a Restaurant:

When asked why she made the big decision to open a restaurant, Irena Damianova says. “I wish I had the answer, but I think it’s a part of the process of the discovery.”

The discovery process included Irena searching for an entity that was pure and could avoid being completely infiltrated by the internet and technology. For her, that was Balkan Bar and Grill.

Despite the world’s increasing dependency on technology, there remains an innate desire for community. Damianova believes that human interaction is irreplaceable, and the benefits that come with being face to face with friends, family, and colleagues was the inspirational push to find a way to create opportunities for people to do just that.

“Dining out is cheaper than a psychiatrist,” says Irena Damianova.

“A lot of people discovered that there’s a lot of things that can be done remotely, but there’s a lot of things that we miss as far as normal human interaction. You miss talking to people face to face. You miss saying cheers face to face.”

Inside the Balkan Bar and Grill in Las Vegas

Oddly enough, Balkan Bar and Grill opened during the Pandemic amidst occupancy restrictions, which is on brand for Irena. She does not live according to conventional rules and Balkan Bar and Grill matches that ideology. Though she is a proud Bulgarian woman, she didn’t want to pigeonhole the menu or mindset at her restaurant.

That expansive area and multitude of cultures provides an intersection of cultures that allows Damianova the elasticity to create a menu that provides visitors with enough options to find something they like. That’s what matters to her.

Irena Damianova beams with pride, joy, and love. She opened Balkan Bar and Grill to be a part of making the world a better place. The items on the menu have special meaning to her. The ambiance in the restaurant is based on happiness.

As Balkan Bar and Grill grows, she plans to continue to make the world better through food and love.

-Feature Article by Cali BBQ Media Writer TJ Void. Get in touch with TJ at


Inside the Balkan Bar and Grill Restaurant during dinner

What is Balkan?

The word Balkan is Turkish and means “mountain,” and the peninsula is certainly dominated by this type of landform, especially in the west. The Balkan Mountains lie east-west across Bulgaria, the Rhodope Mountains extend along the Greek-Bulgarian border, and the Dinaric range extends down the Adriatic coast to Albania.

Learn more:


ABOUT BALKAN BAR AND GRILL @balkan_lasvegas :
Popmenu specializes in transformative online and on-premise technologies that help restaurants increase brand visibility, guest engagement, revenue and profitability. The company is a leading innovator in digital marketing and ordering technology that works with over 10,000 independent restaurants and hospitality groups.


Digital Hospitality is an interview-based video podcast hosted by business owner Shawn P. Walchef. The weekly series explores the ways successful businesses and entrepreneurs have merged old and new with innovative digital strategies that harness the power of the Internet and social media.


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