January 19, 2020

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Decking the hall

True North Square's Hargrave St. Market a hive of last-minute activity before 'chef-centric, food-centric' boutique gastro-mall opens doors Friday

There's a feeling of understated urgency in the air at Hargrave St. Market, the open-concept food hall set to open at True North Square Friday.

As Bobby Mottola, managing partner of Academy Hospitality, leads members of the media around the second floor of the 17-storey building at 242 Hargrave St., contractors and restaurant workers buzz quietly in the background, working to put the finishing touches on the 30,000-square-foot space, which will be home to the locally focused, fully licensed dining concept True North is hoping will become a downtown destination.

"It's our interpretation of what an urban-style cocktail bar is," Mottola says of Rose Bar. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It's our interpretation of what an urban-style cocktail bar is," Mottola says of Rose Bar. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Tenants in the bright, airy court include Gusto North and the Good Fight Taco, which are spinoffs of Mottola's existing restaurants, Pizzeria Gusto and Merchant Kitchen, and outlets from familiar Winnipeg restaurants, such as Miss Browns brunch/sandwich shop's second location and Fools + Horses coffee's fourth.

New offerings include Yard Burger, Rose Bar and Saburo Kitchen, a donburi/ramen restaurant by Yujiro/GaiJin Izakay chef-owner Edward Lam.

Tough logistics, 'spectacular' support

While the ovens will be hot and the drinks flowing freely throughout Hargrave St. Market when the food hall opens its doors Friday, one component of the food hall won’t be fully operational — the on-site brewery.

Lake of the Woods Brewing Co.’s third location is spread throughout many floors of True North Square, with milling facilities on the third floor, tanks on the second floor, the brewery and tap room on the ground floor and even some machinery housed in the lower level parking garage. As such, getting the 2,000-hectolitre brewery up and running in a 17-storey mixed-use downtown tower has been more of a challenge than president Taras Manzie could have predicted.

“Logistically, it’s been awful,” Manzie explains from inside the 523-square-foot tank room in the centre of Hargrave Street Market. “This is a LEED Gold certified, triple-A building. You can’t do things you would do normally in an industrial space. The tank room’s zoning is different than the food hall… the fire suppression system alone was a $50,000 touch we didn’t really count on.”

While the ovens will be hot and the drinks flowing freely throughout Hargrave St. Market when the food hall opens its doors Friday, one component of the food hall won’t be fully operational — the on-site brewery.

Lake of the Woods Brewing Co.’s third location is spread throughout many floors of True North Square, with milling facilities on the third floor, tanks on the second floor, the brewery and tap room on the ground floor and even some machinery housed in the lower level parking garage. As such, getting the 2,000-hectolitre brewery up and running in a 17-storey mixed-use downtown tower has been more of a challenge than president Taras Manzie could have predicted.

“Logistically, it’s been awful,” Manzie explains from inside the 523-square-foot tank room in the centre of Hargrave Street Market. “This is a LEED Gold certified, triple-A building. You can’t do things you would do normally in an industrial space. The tank room’s zoning is different than the food hall… the fire suppression system alone was a $50,000 touch we didn’t really count on.”

Once Lake of the Woods is up and running, it will house a 30-seat tap room on the main floor, with a patio to seat another 40-50 people in warmer months. “Customers can order anything from Hargrave Street Market and bring it down or have it delivered,” Manzie explains. “Once Mottola Grocery is open there will be lots of takeaway, ready-to-eat options as well. “

In addition to being able to enjoy their beer on site, Lake of the Woods will also offer a growler-filling station for takeaway. Because there’s no canning station in the Winnipeg facility, cans of their beer won’t be available in the tap room, but could be offered at one of Hargrave St. Market’s food kiosks.

Initially True North approached Lake of the Woods only to be a primary beer partner at Hargrave Street Market. “After the first presentation I sat back and said that anyone can have taps, and that if you really want to connect with customers, you want a brewery. When we met again they said, ‘There’s no turning back — we want a brewery in here.’”

On venturing out of province for a brewery as an anchor partner, True North’s Jim Ludlow offered a diplomatic answer. “There’s only room for one. Local brewers do a great job in Winnipeg, and craft beer is certainly a major trend. Lake of the Woods is also now brewing in Manitoba; they’re named after a lake which is partly in Manitoba, partly in Minnesota and mostly in northwestern Ontario. Lots of us have relationships with lake country, so we thought it was a nice fit.”

Asked about the support given by True North to overcoming the brewery’s many logistical hurdles, Manzie was unequivocal. “They’ve been really supportive — it’s been spectacular.”

— Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

The space will feature four new themed murals by Pat Lazo, the artistic director of the Graffiti Gallery.

"It’s unique because it’s chef-centric and food-centric," says Jim Ludlow, president of True North Sports and Entertainment's real estate division, adding that company has invested tens of millions of dollars in the market concept, which he says "humanizes what we're doing at True North Square" beyond the office and residential components of the project.

"Look, it’s unique in its location, it’s unique in Winnipeg — it’s not a food court, it’s a food hall… we’ll call it best-of-brand boutique food offerings, so it’s very different… it gives local chefs and local offerings a chance to profile their brands where each one of these operators also has a location somewhere else in the city."

The capacity is just over 600 (which includes staff and customers); there are about 330 seats in the food hall, and 80 to 90 in the sit-down full-service restaurant Gusto North, which also has an outdoor patio and a takeout counter.

"The pizza ovens can create pizzas in 90 seconds," Mottola says of Gusto's gold-tiled wood-fired ovens. "So if you think about (Winnipeg Jets) Whiteout parties, we can get up to about 240 pizzas out per hour, which is quite something.

"My guess for the first little bit is we’ll put 240 in and get about 150 out," he adds with a laugh. "There’ll be some casualties, I’m sure."

The individual restaurants are licensed to serve alcohol — there are concept-specific drinks for each food choice, and partnerships with local breweries Nonsuch, Sookram's and Little Brown Jug — but the centrally located Rose Bar is intended to be a place to meet and mingle.

"It's our interpretation of what an urban-style cocktail bar is," Mottola says. "Where we got some of our inspiration is when you go to a nice hotel in New York City and prior to checking in, you go to the hotel bar and there's lots of action. It's always a really good gathering spot.

"So we took that and we used some of the talented people we have working for us at Merchant Kitchen and Pizzeria Gusto and they developed some really wonderful cocktails using the best of local brands and national brands."

"We want everyone to treat it (Mottola Grocery) like their corner grocery store." - Bobby Mottola

Each of the four rose-gold beer towers holds 12 taps, with the potential for 48 different drafts, though the bar will start off with just a dozen of the same varieties on each tap.

Lake of the Woods Brewing Company's fermentation and brewing tanks are located on the market's second floor, while the brewery/taproom itself is slated to open on the first floor next year (see sidebar). Also coming to the main level early in 2020 is the 5,000-square-foot boutique Mottola Grocery.

"We want everyone to treat it like their corner grocery store," Mottola says. "But there’s also going to be stuff you can’t get anywhere — meals to go, new product, olive oils that have been vetted by our kitchen teams. Ideally you should be able to throw a dart, hit a product and be comfortable with the quality."

From left: Taras Manzie, president Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, Bobby Mottola, Academy Hospitality and Rob Dokuchie, owner and marketing/brand manager, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, pose for a photo as the taps are being installed during the final preparations at Hargrave St. Market and food hall at True North Square Square Monday.  (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

From left: Taras Manzie, president Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, Bobby Mottola, Academy Hospitality and Rob Dokuchie, owner and marketing/brand manager, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, pose for a photo as the taps are being installed during the final preparations at Hargrave St. Market and food hall at True North Square Square Monday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Hargrave St. Market concept, while open, is designed to provide intimate seating areas for customers, including tiered, stadium-style benches in blond wood near the windows overlooking the public plaza.

Mottola says he hopes the opportunities for either socialization or contemplation, along with the wide range of offerings, from breakfasts and coffees to burgers and cocktails, will appeal to customers all day long, not just those who visit downtown for sporting events or concerts.

"We thought about what we wanted, what consumers wanted, to come downtown," he says. "We try, whenever possible, to make sure it’s immersive — very experiential. The food offerings have all been worked on; for (Yard Burger) we went through 250 different burgers to make it right. So we hope the city embraces this for what it is."

Final hours are yet to be determined, but Mottola expects the market to open at 7 a.m. and close around midnight.

— With files from Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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Updated on Monday, December 9, 2019 at 8:32 PM CST: Fixes misspelled name

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