Northern Maryland is home to some of the state's most impressive farmland — so it makes sense that Woodfire Kitchen, which opened in June in Parkton, has a menu driven by locally sourced ingredients.
Woodfire's owners, Joyce and David Cardwell Sr. and Craig Nachodsky, live in the Hereford Zone and appreciate the area's agricultural landscape; they also thought the local dining scene could benefit from a restaurant serving well-executed food in a casual environment.
With a menu stacked with simple entrees, sandwiches and pizzas cooked in the restaurant's wood-burning oven, that's what Woodfire Kitchen does — and it does it well. Though the service still needs polishing, the food is hearty, tasty and appealing.
Scene & Décor On a recent, rainy Monday around 6 p.m., Woodfire Kitchen was hopping. Most tables were filled with young families or older couples, and the place felt warm and inviting.
With low lights and rustic touches — think shovels as wall decor and candles in Mason jars — Woodfire's aesthetic fits with its commitment to working directly with local farms. We liked, too, that the kitchen's wood-burning oven is visible from most of the tables; it's a great-looking oven and a fun spot to watch.
Appetizers We started with a well-seasoned bowl of Rhode Island mussels, nicely cooked in a heady Guinness-spiked beurre blanc ($14).
The mussels were plump and large and the sauce was fabulous, with undertones of the stout and white wine and enough butter to make the liquid lovely and silky. After we polished off the mussels, we sopped up as much sauce as we could, making quick work of a half-loaf of crusty bread.
Service It was with the appetizer that we discovered Woodfire Kitchen's weak spot: service.
When our waitress brought us the bowl of mussels, the bread was balanced precariously on top. There were no appetizer plates to be had and not even a bowl to use to discard empty shells.
After a minute or two of trying to work out the logistics, we caught her eye and asked for a bowl. She brought us one but the puzzled look on her face and tone in her voice made clear that she didn't understand why we wanted it.
That sort of awkwardness persisted throughout the meal. Our entrees arrived at different times, though we could see that they were ready simultaneously. She didn't offer dessert; we had to ask.
A different waitress handled the two tables closest to ours; both of their meals appeared to be operating more smoothly. Our waitress was friendly, but she needed more training.
Entrees When we did get our entrees — the WFK burger ($14) and a margherita pizza ($13) — we were charmed.
The burger, made with local meat from Roseda Farm in Monkton, was cooked properly and topped with scoops of gooey mac and cheese and pulled pork doused in sweet root beer barbecue sauce. It was a monster.
Our only complaint about the huge sandwich was that the sauce, though tasty, was so sweet that it obscured the taste of the pork.
The crust — chewy and lightly charred — was the highlight of the pizza, though the other elements were also enjoyable. Basil and thin slices of a gorgeous red tomato added fresh flavor and acidity to a rich mix of mozzarella and provolone.
Drinks Woodfire Kitchen is BYOB with no corkage fee. We spotted many tables taking advantage of the policy — and we were sorry we didn't. Our dinner would have paired well with a couple crisp beers or a bottle of red wine.
Dessert The restaurant's commitment to working with local farmers extended to its short dessert menu, which included two of our particular favorites: ice cream from Glen Arm's Prigel Family Creamery ($3) and cheesecake made with goat cheese from Charlottetown Farm in Freeland ($7).
We couldn't pick between the two, so we alternated spoonfuls of rich peanut ice cream with bites of tangy, light cheesecake.
Dessert is sometimes an afterthought at casual spots, but at Woodfire Kitchen, it showed off one of the restaurant's best attributes: its relationships with fantastic local farms.
Nearby reviews: Dish Baltimore - Northern Baltimore County