If you’re new around here, you might not know this, but my menu changes a lot. That’s one of the benefits of being a chef-owned and operated restaurant - I’m not beholden to a franchise menu or an owner’s decisions. If I want to make menu changes, all I have to do is print a new one.
Now, I don’t trash the whole menu and start from scratch every time. (I’m not quite that crazy.) Over the years, some dishes have been consistent favorites, not just in compliments, but in order numbers. Those dishes make up our core menu, and they’re not going anywhere. When I mess with the core menu, you guys get a little scary. Pot roast is back on the menu, so you can go ahead and put your torches and pitchforks back in the garage until election season.
That said, some change in inevitable. In a lot of restaurants, those menu changes are seasonal or promotional. Woodfire isn’t “most places,” though. We’re not bringing back the McRib twice a year because corporate said we had to. Everything you eat was conceived, refined, and perfected in my kitchen. Every dish on the menu is there because I’ve scrutinized it until it’s as good as it gets and because of how it fits with the overall culture and feel of the menu I’m trying to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole Woodfire menu doesn’t come from months of careful study and experimentation. Sometimes, I just get inspired, and in the most surprising ways.
Case in point: a few months ago, as we were getting ready for lunch service, I thought What would happen if I flash-fried some spinach? It turns out, flash-fried spinach comes out crisp and delicate, then melts in your mouth - like cotton candy. On a whim, I finished it with a little balsamic reduction, some shaved parmesan, sprinkled it with sea salt, and it was amazing.
(Seriously, try the Fried Spinach Parmesan next time you visit.)
All of that is just to say that I’m constantly inspired to make new food. The catalyst can be anything from a new ingredient our suppliers have started carrying, to nostalgia for the comfort food I grew up with in Minnesota. But at the end of the day I just get a kick out of making new food, so much so that Chef’s Daily Surprise is an option on our menu.
And I mean it when I say “surprise” - we don’t plan the dish of the day in advance. It all depends on what’s new in the kitchen and what I feel like cooking.
I know what you’re thinking: Great, chef, I’m glad you’re having fun, but what’s in it for me?
This whole thing - the restaurant, the menu, the food, all of it is for you. When I’m cooking, no matter how innovative I get, the goal is to make food that tastes good. I’m not trying to make a name for myself combining weird foods and pushing the limits of the average Midwestern palate.
We’re pretty clear about who we are around here. I’m not going to wear a white coat, serve you a single bite of foam, and call it “molecular gastronomy.”
That said, if you’re looking for a $5, 5-minute burger, go somewhere else. No judgement - I eat a lot of cheap, greasy fast food on my way to and from work. It’s really convenient. But it’s not what we do here.
There’s a reason my grandma took all day to make chicken and dumplings. There’s a reason I smoke my brisket a full 18 hours. When you put time and care into food, it just tastes better. That’s what puts Woodfire in the sweet spot between white-coat cooking and wax paper wrappers. No matter how over the top and creative a dish gets, it’s always grounded in delicious, approachable flavors that anyone can enjoy.
Which brings us to our final point: I’m listening! If you love something, let me know, either in person or online. This isn’t the high school varsity cheer squad, and I’m not a sadist who loves to make heartbreaking and unnecessary cuts. If you show your love for your favorite dish, when the next menu rolls out, it’ll probably stick around.