“The same reasons the industry got away from wood-fire cooking — it’s messy, primitive and demanding — are the very reasons we’re excited about it. It’s so naked and such a pure way of cooking, the results need no adornment.”
—Chef John Manion
The Story Behind Our Hearth
When Chef John Manion went looking for someone to bring to life his napkin drawings of the wood-burning cooking system of his dreams, he knew just the person to call: Bobby Middleton, master motorcycle builder and owner of Wayward Machine Co. “I went to a bunch of different traditional steel guys,” says Manion, “but no one was as into the project as I needed them to be.” From the looks of the beautiful 12-foot open hearth at the end of the restaurant, which includes two grills, a small wood-burning oven/smoker and three separate chapas (flat-top grills)—one each for vegetables, seafood and meat — as well as various shelves and hooks for hanging and braising ingredients Manion made the right choice. (Middleton has since gone on to become the metal fabricator for Chicago’s coolest restaurants.) “There’s a reason Argentina is known for its grilling prowess,” says Manion, “and that’s because it’s the best method in the world.”
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