It was one of the city’s top restaurants, its chef and owner recognized by the prestigious James Beard Awards for its commitment to environmentally sustainable and locally-sourced cuisine.
And now it’s gone. Sort of.
Closed since last year, Woodberry Kitchen — Spike Gjerde’s 120-seat restaurant near Hampden — is relaunching as the comparatively tiny Woodberry Tavern, a 30-seat eatery, Baltimore magazine reported.
The company will continue to focus on its events business, which grew during the pandemic. The tavern is located in Woodberry Kitchen’s former event space, whereas events will now take place in the former dining room. According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, Woodberry Tavern will charge a service fee of 23% for dine-in customers as well as 26% on events.
The restaurant has been closed since last year. According to data from the Small Business Administration, it received $1.8 million through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a federal program designed to help restaurants keep their doors open.
First opened in 2007, Woodberry Kitchen’s impact on the local restaurant scene went beyond the confines of its space in the former Poole & Hunt Foundry and Machine Works. Cooks from its kitchen went on to start companies of their own, including talked-about restaurant Le Comptoir du Vin in Station North and Charles Village’s Motzi Bread, both founded by Woodberry alums.
The restaurant’s makeover is one in a series of transformations that hit fine dining eateries during the pandemic as business owners struggled to adapt to changing consumer preferences as well as supply chain pressures. Volt, Bryan Voltaggio’s signature restaurant in Frederick, rebranded as Thacher & Rye. In Annapolis, fine dining restaurant Flamant became the more approachable Flamant Bistro. In some cases, restaurants changed owners or shut down completely.
With a streamlined menu and smaller dining room, the tavern will require a smaller workforce than the former Woodberry Kitchen. Moving forward, Gjerde, who could not be reached for comment by The Baltimore Banner, told Baltimore magazine he intends to focus on increasing pay and in particular, raising the wages for back-of-house staff.
Labor has become a crucial expense for restaurant owners, with many seeking ways to reduce staff amid rising wages and an ongoing labor shortage. Gjerde said Woodberry Kitchen’s wood-fired oven, which will not be present at the tavern, required three people to run. Asked about changes in the menu, Gjerde told the magazine: “The oven’s gone, so no more flatbreads.” The focus will be on snacks and shareable sides.
An opening date is set for Dec. 1.