Woodwork opens its doors
The goings on behind the papered windows adorned with a larger-than-life drumstick and liquor bottle has remained a mystery to passersby for months now, other than knowing it housed Woodwork, an establishment in favour of smoked meat and classic cocktails, and a collaboration between Nomad food-truck owner Mike Scorgie and cocktail aficionado Andrew Borley of the Volstead Act.
Woodwork was set to make its debut this summer, but permit rigmarole and necessary hoops to jump through tripped up progress. That’s a thing of the past now, as the restaurant opened for its first lunch service on Monday.
“We did all the work ourselves, too, and we’re not professional contractors by any means, so that slowed us up a bit, but it’s part of the deal trying to be independent,” says Borley, who has a background in architectural technology in addition to his cocktail prowess.
“We’re both the type to get our hands dirty and get it done ourselves, but it comes a point where there’s just too much too much to do, so that’s been a big learning curve, building up a team around us that can keep the whole machine going,” adds Scorgie, who has since sold his food truck to focus on the restaurant.
The duo now has a team of 25 behind them in the new digs, which they took possession of last winter. The space is situated in the historic McLeod Building and has been transformed from its previous incarnation of stark white walls and concrete to an inviting room enhanced by dark walls and a cozy banquette, as well as an open kitchen and bar along the opposite wall, meant to provide guests with a front-row seat to the theatre of food and drink taking place.
“I think a lot of it is the idea of functional art. Instead of trying to design things as objects themselves we tried to show off things we’re using: things like the grill and the firewood,” Borley explains. “It’s the things we needed to have to make the food or make the drinks and celebrating the simple beauty of those things.”
Borley and Scorgie met in 2011 after their respective businesses continued to be asked to work the same events. The pair soon became friends and decided to go into business together in April 2012. The process of getting a restaurant off the ground has been no easy task, and much more arduous and time-consuming than the pair anticipated.
“Andrew and I need marriage counselling now,” jokes Scorgie, maintaining the two are still close friends—Borley is even going to be a groomsman in Scorgie’s wedding. “We operate pretty independently of one another, other than meetings about front of house stuff, so we’re not on each other’s toes too much.”
Initially, Scorgie intended the menu to reflect a southern barbecue influence, and while there’s still plenty of wood-fired meat to be found, his techniques have shifted towards French cooking styles. Scorgie explains a significant influence in the shift has come from his chef de cuisine, Emmanuel Theriault from Montréal.
“We’re really working well together, and the ideas that we’re coming up with and pushing each other’s boundaries are working really well, and the product is awesome,” Scorgie adds.
“That’s one of those things where you end up giving up a bit of control and it makes the whole thing better,” Borley adds.
The menu devised by Scorgie and Theriault consists of daily lunch selections—all priced at $15—such as the Woodwork charcuterie cold cut sandwich served with gribiche mayo and house pickle along with a BBQ pork burger with confit shoulder, house bacon and BBQ aioli. Lunch is available until 2 pm, but from then until 5 pm you’ll find bar snacks like smoked chicken drumsticks with house BBQ sauce ($8) and warm molasses rye bread with pork butter ($7). After 5 pm, dinner is served via small share plates like steak tartare with pickled beet, egg yolk and pommes gaufrette ($13) and Bar-B-Cue soup with choucroute, Woodwork charcuterie, and white bean and pork consomme ($13), as well as larger plates from the grill such as shoulder of pork confit with gribiche sauce ($19) and Toulouse for two featuring course sausage, pork and onion reduction and Parisienne potato ($25). If some of the French terms have you scratching your head, fear not, there are translations at the bottom of the menu.
Cocktails will feature tried and true recipes such as Manhattens and Old Fashioneds. Borley notes the menu will have little in the way of vodkas, instead favouring barrel-aged items such as whiskies and bourbon, and cocktails will enhance the liquor rather than hiding it. A boutique selection of beer and wine will round out the bar list.
Borley also has an ice program in place to ensure the utmost quality of the drinks. There’s a cold draft machine that creates dense ice meant for shaking and stirring drinks as well as large format ice. Large blocks are frozen—it takes about a week to do so—and broken up to use in cocktails.
“It’s the one thing that’s in every cocktail essentially, and it does have a big impact on quality,” he says, adding that the concept of the bar is not meant to be pretentious, but to show an appreciation for products and the customer. “Like some of these ice blocks we’re making, I’ve been doing tests where I make a block and put it in a glass of water and see how long it takes to melt, and the cubes are lasting for two hours, whereas the average cube would be 10 minutes.”
Top-notch food and drink are one thing, but education for staff is another important factor for Woodwork. Borley has modelled his end of things after cocktail bars in New York where staff works their way up from stockist to apprentice and principle bartender, learning to concoct syrups and prep ice along the way. As for food, Scorgie has a butchering program in place for his staff.
“All of the cooks that come in are spending time with our butcher here and he’s teaching them the craft so they can go on to bigger and better things or do their own projects.”
10132 – 100 St