TTalk about timing! The Northwest was less than six months into the onset of COVID-related chaos last summer when Wooden City opened its Spokane location. Co-owners Abe Fox, Eddie Gulberg and Jon Green patterned Wooden City Spokane after their original Tacoma eatery of the same name, offering upscale pub food like wood-fired pizza, small plates and tasty sandwiches in the historic and genuinely handsome Genesee Building on Riverside Avenue.
Can you tell us about one of the three dishes you will be featuring for the event?
GREEN: Salmon toast. We start by curing fresh salmon in-house for 24 hours, then it’s sliced thinly and served with whipped crème fraîche, roasted beet relish, creamy egg mousse, pickled red onion, baby radishes and fresh dill on buttered sourdough. This dish does a really great job of capturing what Wooden City is all about — high quality ingredients prepared with the utmost attention to detail but served in a comforting way. Elevated yet approachable.
Every restaurant has handled shutdowns, restricted dining and mask mandates differently. What was your plan last year, and how did it evolve?
We’re simply just changing along with the state’s mandates. It hasn’t exactly been a “plan” — in fact, we’re just flying by the seat of our pants trying to keep up with all the new guidelines that are constantly changing. It’s been the most challenging year of our lives, and we’ve gotten through it with hard work and constant evolution. At times it felt like we were adapting the model on a daily basis. It’s incredibly exhausting, but it’s what we have to do to stay safe and for the business to survive.
Any upside or good news from this past year?
It was a blessing in disguise to open to 50 percent capacity back in August . It’s allowed us to dial in our systems with less initial craziness right out of the gates. However, the three-month shutdown from November-February was brutal. We just recently got back open to 25 percent capacity, and we’re happy to be safely allowing guests back into our dining room. But it’s been such a roller coaster, and we’re still in the thick of it, so I’m not even sure if we have hindsight, yet.
The pandemic forced us to work on our online ordering platform, be more dynamic on social media and create a lot of new recipes and dishes that work better for carryout. Moving forward, we have a lot of new tools in our kit, but it’s hard to consider that “good news” in relation to everything we’ve been through this year.
How have your customers responded throughout this past year?
Our Tacoma [location] has had the advantage in the sense that we were more established there before the pandemic. We also are blessed to have more access to outdoor dining in Tacoma. On the flip side, our Spokane space is much bigger, so we can still do decent covers with the occupancy limitations. The community here has embraced us with open arms and we couldn’t be more grateful.