Matthew Mallon

Cheers! Woodyard Makes Its Debut

The Stevens' hotly anticipated brew pub has its soft-open this weekend. It's a hit.

The blurry pictures and excited hosannas started appearing on social media early this week. The Woodyard, the official name of the NWT Brewing Co.’s dining and drinking establishment, was on the verge of opening. Owners Fletcher and Miranda Stevens and their fledgling crew had hosted a private function on Monday night.

Yellowknifers — well, Yellowknifers who imbibe and like to go out — have been on tenterhooks awaiting the much-delayed opening of this Old Town spot for more than a year. We first wrote about it way back in February of 2014, and then again in November of last year, when the Stevens figured they’d have the place up and running before the snow melted that spring. Fate, a million moving parts, and some bureaucratic entanglements stretched the process out agonizingly. Until lunch-time today.

Technically, the pub is still not fully operating. It has a carefully curated list of craft beers on offer, but it will be a while yet before they can offer their own brews to the public. And the food menu is just a “half menu,” according to Miranda Stevens. With a quietly announced lunch service today and tomorrow, the Stevens are easing their ambitious project into the public eye with as soft a launch as possible.

The lunch-time pour

EDGE made it to that first lunch service today, and we were impressed. The room is high-ceilinged, but still intimate and cozy — not your typical YK eating bunker. Built by Fletcher, designed by Miranda, it lives up to their promise of an Old Town-meets-contemporary-industrial feel. A majestically antlered skull hangs over the bar, display cases of items from both Miranda’s family collection of antiques and artifacts from the NWT Mining Heritage Society can be found on the walls, and there’s a display case full of merch at the front door, but this is no tourist trap (though it sure is going to improve on the tourist experience here). The delays may have been frustrating, but they have resulted in a place that shows lots of careful attention to detail.

At the bar

The limited “half-menu” was still more than enticing, featuring reasonably priced, elevated pub dishes — a zingy buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with smoked cheddar, zucchini dill pickles, shredded cabbage and green onion pesto mayo for $16 was typical of the approach. And despite the absence of home-brewed product, the current carefully chosen beer list (our table sampled Central City Red Racer Pale Ale and Phillips Blue Buck Amber) is a thrill in a town of previously limited choice.

What we ate. Clockwise from left: Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, short-rib beef dip and Margherita pizza

Toss in a fully staffed, friendly front-room crew that sailed through the restaurant’s first-ever public outing without any major fumbles (that we could see) and weathered some opening-day technical snafus with cheery smiles, and you have a complete success. Congratulations to the Stevens for persevering, for being ambitious, and for providing the city with a dining option that moves us forward in the right direction. Here’s hoping we can still get a table next time.