Woodberry Kitchen is from 2015 James Beard Award winning chef Spike Gjerde in Baltimore’s Woodberry neighborhood, just off the Woodberry light rail stop. The chef is almost obsessive about getting all of his products from local farms, finding products that haven’t been used in generations and then making as much as possible in-house. Interestingly, Woodberry Kitchen uses many of the same products and has a similar mentality to Husk in Charleston. Eating at Woodberry Kitchen was a little like being back in Charleston.
The restaurant is in a huge converted barn, with multiple levels of seating plus an outdoor patio. Our table wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we waited outside around a fire pit. It was a breezy, overcast night, so the fire pit was welcome.
Our table was upstairs, with a commanding view of the dining room as well as a partial view of the open kitchen. I (Paul) had the luxury of being able to see the list of homemade ice creams available that night. To drink, Marnay had “To Betty June”, a mocktail made of Jasmine peach tea, verjus, honey, Woodberry Kitchen mint and sparkling water. I had Millstone Hopvine hard cider. The cider was very tart, as it was intended to be, since it was made with sour apples. Sweet, mass produced stuff it was not! (I’m looking at you Angry Orchard)
We ordered one snack and one small plate as our appetizer. We considered making a meal out of small plates, since usually all you need is a few bites to fully appreciate a dish. Our “snack” was Bartlett Pears Out of the Oven, which was Bartlett pears cooked in the wood oven and then drizzled with alfalfa honey and hillbilly salt, also known as seasoned salt. I think that we both agree that this was our favorite dish of the evening. We had been looking forward to ordering it and were hoping that it would still be on the menu. We also ordered the Watermelon Salad, which had Heirloom tomato, black walnut, pickled watermelon rind, watermelon dressing and apricotta. The apricots added great sweetness to the dish, especially when eaten with the acidity of the tomatoes.
For our main courses, Marnay had Maryland Rockfish Out of the Oven, with roasted La Ratte potatoes, Jimmy Nardello peppers, fennel, peanut dressing and pepper jam. The wood oven roasted rockfish and the peanut dressing went very well together. I had Cape May, NJ Yellowfin Tuna with buttered Carolina Gold rice, roasted haricot vert, red-chile shire sauce (worcestershire sauce) and benne seeds. Carolina Gold rice and benne seeds are two quintessential Charleston ingredients. Woodberry Kitchen was similar to Husk, but better on all levels (in my opinion). Which is good because it’s a heck of a lot closer to us! I ordered the tuna rare, with enough searing on the outside to form a crust. It was hands down the best looking piece of tuna that I’ve ever seen, and it tasted just as fresh. No doubt my favorite piece of tuna ever.
As an end to our meal, we had a liquid dessert called “The Clean Slate.” It consisted of a shot of Distillery Lane Celebration Cider (another local cider), a shot of espresso and a shot of Fernet, taken in that order. We shared the shots, each taking half a shot each. The “Clean Slate” was one of my favorite endings to a meal ever. Another ending to a meal that sticks out in my mind as being special was our birthday dinners at the Kitchen at Rock Hall. Since we can’t go back there again, Woodberry Kitchen will certainly do!
Woodberry Kitchen: 1020 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107