Monday, December 12, 2022

Woodberry Kitchen is Back! Who Cares?

Woodberry Tavern menu. Click to embiggen.

When Woodberry Kitchen originally opened to rave reviews, including from people whose opinions I respect, I just rolled my eyes. I'd been to other of Spike Gjerde's restaurants, the ones owned with his brother, Charlie, and while they were good, none were particularly impressive. One was memorable, however., as it was the location of a birthday dinner on a particularly bad birthday. I won't bore you with those details. Let's just say that a whole Maine lobster served in a bowl of oily sauce is almost impossible to eat. Had I been in charge, that lobster would have had its claws and tail pre-cracked, or better yet, I would have removed the meat from the shell and arranged it daintily on a plate. Instead, the Powers That Be dictated that I wrestle with the whole greasy beast, which refused to submit to the cracker (which was also greasy, as were my hands). I should have sent the dish back, but I was already having a terrible day and some part of me must have felt that I deserved my fate. In any case, I've had it out for the Gjerde brothers since then.

Well, mostly Spike. Charlie seems like a nice guy, and his restaurants are all accessible places with decent grub. Spike, however, has long suffered from delusions of grandeur, which can only have been exacerbated by winning a James Beard Award. (Meanwhile, poor Cindy Wolf of Charleston, et. al., is the food world's version of Susan Lucci.) 

Mr Minx and I ate at Woodberry Kitchen a couple of times. Once was for our anniversary in 2011; while the overall experience wasn't optimal, we did have some good food. Another time was a free dinner sponsored by an olive oil producer; I assume I was invited because I was attending the Natural Foods Expo going on at the Convention Center that same week. And the third time was for Restaurant Week a few years back. I chose paw paw pie for dessert. It had the most unappealing curdled texture, beige/vomit color, and little to no flavor, yet somehow it made it out of the pastry kitchen. And while we didn't despise the restaurant, we always wondered how it was so popular. Honestly, I can cook homey dishes like chicken and dumplings myself, so why should I pay good money for it? Yes, it's nice to know that the animals that go into my food have been treated humanely, but I don't want to feel like I'm paying their condo fees.

Woodberry Kitchen has been closed for a while because of Covid, and Spike took advantage of the time off by revamping the place. He sold off the old fixtures and kitschy country barn decor crap and is dedicating what used to be the restaurant dining room to private events. The old private event room on the side is now the restaurant, rebranded as Woodberry Tavern. Just for shits and grins, I put myself on their mailing list so I could find out when they were reopening. Maybe he was going to take a page from Charlie's book and reopen the restaurant as a place the common man can go to enjoy a nice meal. Or maybe not. In advance of the Tavern's opening on December 8, I received an email with a link to the menu, which I have inserted above. 

Spike's out of his fucking mind. $59 for fried chicken with dumplings! $35 for "red pepper squash" and tofu. Perhaps he plans to use part of that $35 to buy a comma. The pig would have to come out in a top hat and do a little soft shoe for me before I'd pay 49 bucks for a schnitzel. Yeah yeah, entrees come with "miso-roasted" carrots, creamed kale, and potatoes with a fancy name that translates to "like a straw doormat" in French. Mr Minx makes incredible pommes pallaisson (note to Spike--you also need to buy an S) regularly, with about .75 worth of ingredients.

I'm sure Woodberry Tavern (hmm...perhaps the prices include an overnight stay?) will still pack in the people who have nothing better to do with their money. The least expensive 2-course meal there, without beverage, will cost $61.50pp including the 23% service fee. (The menu notes, "You are welcome to add additional gratuity for the service staff." Perhaps you should pay your staff a living wage, eh, rather than expect your customers to do it for you, on top of your ridiculous food prices.) We Minxes will only eat there for free, which of course ain't happening. LOL In the meantime, we'll be spending our money at places like True Chesapeake, Cosima, La Cuchara, Petit Louis, and all the mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants we favor. 

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