Restaurant Deconstructed Midnight Mangia

By Martha Thomas



It’s a grocery store! It’s a coffee shop! It’s a cocktail bar! Modern Cook Shop also offers fine dining, like this charred octopus with blood sausage and faro.
It’s a grocery store! It’s a coffee shop! It’s a cocktail bar! Modern Cook Shop also offers fine dining, like this charred octopus with blood sausage and faro.

The team behind Fork & Wrench, Andy Gruver and Jason Sanchez, have finally opened their latest project, Modern Cook Shop, and the place could very well become—for lower Fells Point—what Dean and Deluca is for Soho, and then some. It’s a vast food emporium, where upscale neighbors can find everything from bourbon-smoked sea salt to ghost pepper mayonnaise to pig’s feet, can sip an espresso at a communal table, order French toast for the kids or a barrel-aged cocktail after finishing the graveyard shift.

Location. Location. The ground floor of the Bozzuto-developed Union Wharf at the cobblestoned corner of Thames and Wolfe streets has a potentially hungry customer base with money to spend. Even so, the concept, says co-owner Andy Gruver, is a twist on early cookshops—small businesses that predated the concept of restaurants, where customers could buy cooked food—or have their own piece of fish or a slab of meat cooked for them. Such shops once dotted the Fells Point piers.

Décor. The modern industrial interior put together by Alexander Design Studio is an assemblage of textures and materials: glistening white tile walls and marble bar tops, unfinished Ponderosa pine layered like children’s blocks to fashion a hostess stand and charcuterie station. The creativity Sanchez and Gruver exhibited with Fork & Wrench, which feels like an excursion into your eccentric-inventor-great grandfather’s attic, is on display here, albeit in a more burnished form. Take the light fixtures above the bar made from upside-down copper gutters, the ceilings of California redwood brushed with steel wool soaked in vinegar to create dark streaks, the window boxes of succulents suspended in front of the windows overlooking Wolfe Street.

Drink. Bar manager Ian Clark whipped up some classic cocktails to age in oak barrels long before the opening. Whiskey and gin-based cocktails like Boulevardiers, Negronis and Vieux Carrés flow from taps alongside selections of mostly local beer. The “approachable” wine list is supplemented, Clark says, by options on the “snooty” side chosen by general manager Ingrid French (who once worked for Foreman Wolf).

Comestibles and other goods. The large kitchen in the back will keep things cranking—morning croissants to late night charcuterie. Executive Chef Fredo León, a native of Puerto Rico and a classically trained veteran of New Orleans’ Coquette and Compère Lapin, brings a whimsical twist to classics—“focussing on regional fare whenever possible,” he says. In addition, just about “everything you see will be for sale,” says Gruver. Exotic teas and hibiscus sugar, fresh meats and produce from local farms—even the wood and leather bar stools and inventive light fixtures can be had for a price.

Verdict. A culinary anchor in the tony Union Wharf neighborhood, the Modern Cook Shop—coming soon—will have something for everyone—including those craving a draft beer at 7 am.

Modern cook shop
901 South Wolfe Street

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shaved root vegetable and frisee salad
shaved root vegetable and frisee salad
bar manager Ian Clark pours classic cocktails
bar manager Ian Clark pours classic cocktails
sleek modern decor includes succulents in window boxes
sleek modern decor includes succulents in window boxes
grocery items for sale
grocery items for sale
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