The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #24

In Episode #24, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

Don’t forget my sponsor, Washington Perk & Provision Company. Better than a convenience store but not quite a grocery store, in the heart of Washington Park and Downtown WSNC.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Slàinte mhath!

The Bar on 4th Street Opens Today

Will Kingery, Norb Cooper and Lele Nguyen are unleashing their new beast, The Bar on 4th Street on Downtown 13307428_875092205933929_4217598688250689044_nWinston-Salem, this afternoon at 4pm. Kingery and Cooper are already prominent in the Winston-Salem food scene, owning Willow’s Bistro, King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar and Silo Bistro & Bar. Ms. Nguyen, a bar manager for all three restaurants, is also the brainchild behind many of the restaurants’ drink menus, especially Silo.

The Bar on 4th Street is what was formerly Downtown Brody’s, up until just a few weeks ago. Downtown Brody’s had started to gain a reputation of a “dive bar” and not necessarily in the good way. The clientele was not necessarily along the lines of other establishments along Fourth and when I asked Will and Lele about the bar, they said that they were going to have an upscale drinking establishment that will be competitive with the style of drinks they serve at a price point that is friendly to everyone. It will also be used as an overflow and pre- or post-dinner location to compliment King’s Crab Shack. If there’s a long wait at King’s, which happens often due to the establishment’s popularity, patrons can walk just two doors down to The Bar on 4th Street and have a lovely adult beverage and the pagers for King’s will reach up there, letting you know when your table is ready.

13330912_874283406014809_7574782693986655080_nI look forward to having a beverage there, myself. I have total faith in Will, Norb and Lele that this will be nothing less than a fantastic venue and on par with what the whole downtown cocktail bar scene, as well as that of Fourth Street. You can find The Bar on 4th Street at 249 W 4th Street and King’s Crab Shack at 239 W 4th Street. Go and enjoy this new gem in Downtown Winston-Salem.  All pictures are ©Will Kingery/The Bar on 4th Street

Mike’s Week: the Video Retrospective

The original plan for the video that I made for Mike’s Week was for me to complete it, Mike Rothman could see it and then choose to allow us to to show it to others or choose to keep it for himself. Either way, I would have been okay. Either way, we all know what an amazing journey it was, what it was we experienced, how we came together as a community and how we made a difference. Didn’t work out quite that way, but that’s okay. It’s here for your to 10170796_10152392983624743_4049441617845107446_nenjoy (link at the bottom of the page).

The video is 23 minutes long. That’s a long time for a retrospective video, I’m well aware, but there was too much to show. Editing down the video from nearly 90 minutes of footage was hard enough. But, I needed this 23 minutes to show the awesome dedication of those who were behind the counter and behind the scenes. I needed this 23 minutes to show the amazing community that came to spend and/or donate their dollars to help their fellow man. I needed this 23 minutes to show the atmosphere, the magic and power that community can create. While a few seconds could come off of it, I felt the 23 minutes was needed to get the full effect.

I do want to say that I really appreciate Will Kingery, Dana Moody and Vivian Joiner for spearheading the effort, along with all the other restaurateurs, volunteers and the Winston-Salem (and neighbors) and thanks to Dana for asking me to participate by filming the events. I can’t explain how proud I am of that.

Now that all of that is done, you can see the video, yourself, by clicking HERE. Enjoy and thanks for watching (and reading!)

Winston-Salem and Hot Dogs: A Love Affair

When it was announced, several weeks ago, that the local restaurateurs were going to reopen Skippy’s Hot Dogs in Winston-Salem, for just a week (actually eight days) and try to raise money for Skippy’s owner, Mike Rothman, the goal was to bring in a few, possibly a few tens of thousands of dollars to send to Pennsylvania and help Mike get back on his feet and pay some of the medical bills and incidentals he’s amassed since having surgery to remove tumors from his brain. That goal was met. That goal was met in a really, really big way.

Eight days of hard work, dedication, sweat and tears (we don’t like to think about blood with food, usually, right?) and 13,009 hot dogs later, the Winston-Salem community, its citizens and its neighbors helped to raise over $111,000.  Read that again: One Hundred Eleven THOUSAND Dollars!

13095840_10154193544504743_7386309517562254345_n

Photo ©Skippy’s

I had the pleasure of capturing each shift, albeit just seconds at time, for a private video I’m making, on behalf of the organizers, just for Mr. Rothman and I saw an awesome sight. All these different restaurants, ordinarily, all doing their own thing, in their own worlds, standing shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip behind the counter of this small venue, working together for a wonderful cause. Not only that, I watched a 5 gallon water jug (the kind that you put in an office water cooler) fill to the top with money. This was not a one-time thing. It filled to the point that they had to push it down to allow more money to go in. Then, they’d empty it and start all over again. There weren’t just singles, either. There were $5s, $10s and I saw plenty of $20s. There were also some very big orders. I don’t have solid numbers so I’ll not put that out there, but a few companies ordered sizable quantities of “dogs.” And, although, I’ve no confirmation of this, either, there’s a rumor that I’m trying to verify, that someone paid $1000 for one hot dog.

This community, all aspects of it, came together. They did good; for good, for Mike.

I love this city. I have always loved this city. I have always loved and supported the restaurants in this city, especially the downtown establishments. But, now? I am absolutely in love with my city and its citizens. In this time, when tensions are always high, over both important issues and trivial ones, we came in and showed one person – a person that many (I’d venture to say “most”) have never even met – an all-inclusive and unconditional demonstration of love and respect.

“Mike’s Week” wouldn’t have been possible without a plethora of volunteers, not only from the area restaurants, but from the community, as well. The thank you list is quite extensive and I won’t list them all here, however, their time and care made this the success that it is. My thanks, as a member of the community, especially being in there to observe not only from the front of the counter but behind it, goes especially to Dana Moody (West End Coffeehouse), Vivian Joiner (Sweet Potatoes) and Will Kingery (King’s Crab Shack, Willow’s Bistro and Silo Bistro). They were there everyday, making sure all was set and running well. This is not to diminish anyone’s time put in; everyone was immeasurably essential to the cause. I personally thank each and every one of them. And to anyone who bought a hot dog, put a bill of any kind into the water jug or purchased any of the swag, you’re awesome as well.

There is a separate GoFundMe page that is still open and you can still donate to (it’s raised over $15,000 of a $10,000 goal so far) by following this link. Thank you, again, Winston-Salem. And Mike, here’s hoping for a very speedy recovery.

Food Goings On and Stuffs 4/20/16

A few things that are going on around town and, really, around the state.

skippys

Photo©Skippy’s Facebook

Also, something that has been in the local food plane the last few months is happening next week. Many local chefs, restaurateurs and all-around foodie folk are banding together to come to the aid of a local restaurateur in need. Mike Rothman is the owner of Skippy’s Hot Dogs, famous for their pretzel buns. Mike has glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer and had some tumors removed earlier this year. Even though he has insurance, there’s only so much that it will pay and meanwhile he has a beloved (by him and the WSNC folk) restaurant that is sitting idle and unopened. Mike had to move back to Pennsylvania in order to be with family that will help with his recovery.

In what they’re calling “Mike’s Week” (#MikesWeek on social media, please), the awesome people behind some of Winston’s best downtown restaurants are coming to the rescue; at least coming to a relief. They’re going to open Skippy’s for one week starting April 23 and going through April 30. All the proceeds from this project will go to Mike. These opened days are done by volunteers of the restaurants involved, including their executive chefs, owners, bartenders, waitstaff and dishwashers. Everyone is getting involved.

The restaurants that are involved include: Spring House/Quanto Basta, Jeffrey Adams/Old Fourth Street Filling Station, Mozelle’s, West End Coffeehouse, DiLisio’s, Kabob’s on Fourth, Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Sweet Potatoes, Finnigan’s Wake and King’s Crab Shack/Silo Bistro/Willow’s Bistro. I hear there is also inquiries about more openings. Each day the restaurant(s) on duty will create their own twist on hot dogs. Unfortunately, Mike is the only one that does the pretzel buns, so that’s going to be missing, but the restaurant community is coming to his aid in a really awesome way. So, between this Saturday, April 23 and April 30th, won’t you stop by for a great dog for a great cause?

Last week on The Less Desirables, they (we) had Chef Kris Fuller (and her wife, Rachel Walker), owner of Crafted: Art of the Taco and Crafted: The Art of Street Food in Greensboro.  You probably know, that she is opening, finally, 2016-04-13 22.33.58Crafted: Art of the Taco here in Winston-Salem. It will be just south of the intersection of Sixth and Liberty on Liberty Street. She’s very excited about the opportunity and we are very happy that she’s bringing that deliciousness to our fair city.  The timeline, as of right now, is looking like late fall. We that follow restaurants and happenings realize that you take the target and add a little time to it to be realistic. That’s true with just about any business.

Without going into much details about their history, Crafted: Art of the Taco (East), Kris and her mother, Rhonda started another popular restaurant, The Bistro, in Adam’s Farm and had to close it due to road development. The success of that restaurant gave them motivation to open another. Art of the Taco wants it known that they are definitely not a Mexican restaurant, they’re a taco joint, plain and simple. Or, not really that simple. I’m sad to say that I haven’t actually eaten there, but Kris made me promise to come down and try it before Art of the Taco West opens. There’s also talk of a certain “branded” taco when they do open. We’ll see what happens with that.

In news outside Winston-Salem, even outside of the Triad, a Triangle brewing staple has announced that it is closing. In fact, the name of the brewery is Triangle Brewing Company and they’re closing their doors on April 30th. Triangle has been sold at City Beverage, at least in the past, and there are fans of that brewery here in Winston. The Less Desirables met one of their most loyal fans, we call him: Superfan Damien, at Triangle so it’s hallowed ground in TBC-Logo-blackTLD’s lore.

Their brews include: Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale, an IPA, Belgian White Ale, Imperial Amber Ale, all of which were available in cans and sold in this area. There are plenty of other styles that they produced. They will open, as I stated, for the last time at 4pm on April 30. They will stay open until the last drop of beer they have left is gone (or until 2am, whichever is sooner). So, since it’s the same day, perhaps you start with breakfast at Skippy’s and head to Durham for a beer-filled send off? Just drink responsibly and take a designated driver.

I don’t know all the details on why they’re closing but my “man on the street,” Superfan Damien is going to find out and let me know so I can report on it.

So that’s the things happening this week that I found noteworthy. There are plenty of things going on and I’ll do my best to update so you know! If you have WSNC food news and want my readers to know about it, please feel free to send me an email.

Bon appetit!

Chef Travis Myers: Willow’s Fresh Breath

By Timothy G. Beeman II

Big news came through the local culinary wires a few weeks back. That news created a wave of conjecture and wonder in the Triad restaurant world. The news was that Chef Travis Myers had left River Birch Lodge, where he was a staple for ten years, a reason for the success of that particular restaurant and a reason that people came back. But, the speculation did not stop there. Why did Chef Myers leave? Is he starting something new? Is he leaving the area? Gossip and rumor would be an exaggeration but to say that curiosity was abound, that would be accurate.

maxresdefault

©Competition Dining

I had gotten a chance to talk to Chef Myers, in confidence, just a few days after the news broke. He informed me as to what his plans were and I was instructed to keep that on the down-low and that is never a problem with me. I like to report when there’s something to report. That time was not the right time. Now, however, is that time.

I have always been a huge fan of Willow’s Bistro in Winston-Salem. Let me rephrase that. I have always been a fan of Chef Will Kingery, owner of Willow’s Bistro, King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar and Silo Bistro & Bar. Willow’s, it should be noted, is Will’s “baby.” It is the upper-scale casual that people in this town needed and it continues to need and want. When Chef Myers told me that he was going to Willow’s, I was a bit concerned. The concern was three-fold: was Will getting rid of Willow’s and if not, how was Chef Myers going to be utilized and would it work? In the end, I figured it certainly would.

Stephanie and I had an opportunity to sit down with Chef Myers this past week and we discussed the move, his role, his life. One of the first things that he said to us was that the atmosphere was welcoming and within a few days he felt like he had been there for years. Will had basically given him the freedom to conduct business as he saw fit, be more than a chef, be an operator. He talked about plans for food, of course, but he also talked of plans to the ambience and décor of the restaurant. Not, mind you, changing Will’s vision but enhancing it. He understands Will’s love and devotion to this restaurant and shares that vision. But, Will, besides being a great chef, is a business man who has three restaurants to manage and willows-logo_optwho knows if more is not out of the question. He needs the room to operate these ventures and Chef Myers is giving him room to do so. With Chef Myers in there, Will doesn’t have to worry about his “baby” being lost.

Possibly, too, Willow’s was starting to get complacent with itself. Chef Myers will be that shot in the arm to make sure that Willow’s not only maintains that upper-echelon of service and quality that has made the restaurant great in the past, but also helping it reach new heights. Chef Myers certainly is not in this just for the paycheck. Granted, that helps. However, one word that he mentioned at least eight times in the conversation was “passion.” He is passionate about his food, about his role, about this restaurant. He also demands passion from his kitchen staff. Cooks are one thing, but Chef Myers doesn’t want a cook, he wants chefs. He wants people that are passionate about their food. That translates to works of art that not only satisfy customers but satiate them. The fruit of his chefs’ labor makes the customers come back, rave and spread the word. Cooks aren’t going to do that. Chefs are going to do that.

Chef Myers also gave praise to the other managers of the restaurant. The bar and Front-of-House is overseen by him, but he works with the managers to make sure that all is running smoothly. There were a few housekeeping items that he had to take care of when he first showed up, but they were mostly minor and it only added to the mood and quality, as a whole. Minor things like door stops, paper towel types and dispensers, items seen by the customers in the kitchen. Nothing, at least on the surface, anyone is going to really notice a change of, but will just feel that the restaurant is better. The menu boards, the liquor selection, the vendors and suppliers. Seeming small touches that will create a world of difference that you will probably never notice happened, just notice that things are better. He says that he and the other managers, including the GM all work together, bounce ideas off each other to make the restaurant the place to be; a destination.

I asked him what took him away from River Birch Lodge and he said he was planning on leaving anyway to try to start another business and was approached by Will and his partner, Norb Cooper, about coming in and seeing if they could make a partnership work that would improve the restaurant, make them some money and give Chef Myers a project he can take, put his mark on and make an impact in the community with, not unlike how he did at RBL. Also, upon Chef Myers’ arrival, not only did the quality of the food return to what made the restaurant great, but its social media presence has been elevated to “through the roof” levels. Chef Myers’ Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds have been decorated with some of the most amazing photos of his culinary creations. That may seem minor, but even though you cannot taste pictures, people taste with their eyes. The right food styling can do wonders.

When asked about his goals he says, “I want to make smart decisions in the kitchen and buy the right product. Some things I’m going to buy are going to be more expensive, like artichokes that are marinated and seasoned instead of the canned stuff that we’re using now. I’m going to have to pay more to get local cheese; we’re going to get Humboldt Fog in and Goat Lady Dairy.” The old adage is “you get what you pay for.” It is that way whether you’re in the restaurant business, the travel business, anything. You cannot skimp on quality. He goes on, “We’re going to start butchering in-house. We do some now, but we’re going to do it all. We’re going to grind our own meats, too.” When asked about the alcohol choices, he said there was going to be a slight overhauling of the selection. “We’re going to do wine dinners and liquor pairings. We’re going to do more public events outside. We need to expand our liquors. I can do this but it has to be in stages.” Local ingredients have always been an essential element of Willow’s theme and Chef Myers is vehement about perpetuating and improving on this premise.

It is quite apparent that Chef Myers is indeed “passionate” about his job, his food, his reputation and the reputation of Will, Norb and Willow’s Bistro. He is not supposed to be there until noon just a few days a week but he usually comes in at 8am, even on his days off. He wants it to work. He loves what he does. He is passionate about Willow’s. That is great news for the customers and lovers of food. That is great news for Winston-Salem. That is great news for the South of Business 40 (#SOB40) area.

You may notice that I didn’t talk much about the food itself. I talked about Chef Travis Myers and what he means to Willow’s and what he will bring to the restaurant. There’s a reason for that. Keep an eye on The Man Who Ate the Town: A Food Blog, as there will be a review of the tasting that went along with the conversation, accompanied by pictures. This will be very soon.