First Look: Brewer's Fork in Charlestown

30 beers on tap, creative pizzas and more
February 24, 2015
by Scott Kearnan

It's almost time to dig in at Brewer's Fork

Your future favorite Charlestown haunt could open by the end of the week, according to John Paine (former chef at Les Zygomates, among others) and Michael Cooney (beverage guru previously of The Publick House). The duo met working at Sorriso, and have been hatching a plan to open a restaurant together for the past five years; Brewer's Fork is the result, a casual eatery for wood-fired eats and craft beers that "is all about food quality and customer service," says Paine. "This is the kind of place that we like to go to: where you don't need to have a waiter in black-tie to deem it good service. At the Brewer's Fork, you might get some guy who hasn't shaved in a couple days, wearing jeans and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt — but he's an awesome server, knowledgeable in every detail, and bringing you great food and beer. That's what it's all about." 

Here's a peek at the space, and the eats on their way. 

A former dry cleaner's space has been transformed into the Brewer's Fork, named for the concept of a "magical" paddle to which beer lovers attributed the brewing process, back in slightly less scientific days, says Cooney. (A blacksmith-made replica will be on display.) There's seating for nearly 70, with another 25 to come on a patio glimpsed through glass garage doors. The interior features rough woods and exposed brick, plus a granite-topped bar with 30 brews on draft, some ciders and sake. "We wanted it be a place that felt like it had been here for a hundred years," says Cooney. "We didn't want that 'new car smell.'"

All (yes, all) the food will be prepared in the open-kitchen Maine-made wood-burning oven. Half the menu is dedicated to small plates like these oven-roasted meatballs ($12), that combine beef, pork, and salami ends with bread soaked in milk and yogurt for "a tangy, creamy" quality. Designed for maximum tenderness, they're served in a hot skillet with tomato sauce and melted sheep's-milk cheese.

The other half of the menu is full of pizzas, from the relatively simple — like this margherita ($13)... 

... to more complex pies like the pulled-chicken pizza ($14) topped with broccoli, mozzarella, red onion and crispy chicken skin with a Carolina mustard sauce, Paine's wife's recipe. "The pizzas are playful," says Paine. "They're not Italian; they're domestic pizzas inspired by American food and using local ingredients." 

The charcuterie boards ($14) feature meats from Waltham's well-loved gourmet deli Moody's, house pickled cauliflower and various accoutrements. It's all about local sourcing, says Paine, who turns to favorites like Verrill Farm in Concord and Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln. 

About eight "human-size trash bags" contained all the wine corks that the Cooney hand-affixed to the wall as design details. Cooney collected them from loads of industry friends (and his own tippling, of course), each one a reminder of nights imbibing at spots like Neptune Oyster, Toro and more. It's a unique way of honoring their larger ties to — and history within — the local restaurant world. "When you think of it, there's probably a million people who have had a glass of wine from one of the bottles on that wall." 

"There are few things more delicious than pork belly, and fermented things are really hot right now," says Paine, who paired his crispy maple pork belly ($13) with kimchi; the sweetness of the maple contrasts nicely with the fattiness of pork and acid of kimchi.