GRAFFITI MARKET: WELCOME TO YOUR NEW LOCAL
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘It’s even better than I thought it could be,’ I blurt out to restauranteur Ryan Lloyd-Craig between bites. ‘And I expected it to be pretty incredible.’ I chew some more, and thenlook down at my hands. They’re definitelyactive participants in this experience. Melted mozzarella and brick cheeses run downmy index finger. Caramelized onion clingsto my thumb. I feel a bit of what must be braised collard greens on my face. ‘You’ve gotsomething on your cheek,’ Ryan confirms witha grin, before adding: ‘It’s never easy eating one of these things neatly.’ Nor should it be.
One of these things? Pizza. Detroit-style. Something I’ve been dying to try since Munchies’ Frank Pinello did an episode of
‘The Pizza Show’ on the Motor City and its own unique pies. Extra thick but amazingly light crust with a crispy caramelized bottom. Toppings layered upside down. Rectangular- shaped from the blue steel pans in which they’re baked. I’m beginning to understand whymymom–abitofafoodieherself– declares this pizza to be the most delicious in town. (She, of course, eats it with a knife and fork.)
I take another bite. And let rich flavours ofpulled chicken and smoked bacon dance around in my mouth. Barbecue sauce mingled with roasted garlic aioli threatens to move from my palm down my wrist. ‘We make it in-house,’ continues Ryan, referring to the delicious sauce, ‘with our coffee porter. Whichwe brew in-house.’ He pauses, before adding:‘With coffee beans that are roasted in-house.’A veritable circular food economy, then. AtKitchener’s Graffiti Market – the most recentbrainchild of Ryan and his Ignite Restaurant Group business partner (and brother-in-law), Neil Huber.*
The space is definitely something to writehome about. Indeed, with 10,000 square feet of craft brewery, bottle shop, produce market, vinyl outlet, ice cream parlour, pop-up stall, swag post and, let’s not forget, restaurant,Graffiti is in a category all its own. ‘And that’snot including the roastery and bakery just across the hallway,’ adds Neil, who has joined us for lunch. Bonkers.
I wipe my hands on a napkin and take a swig of something special: an ‘Iron Horse Trail’ IPA brewed (you guessed it: in-house) by Graffiti Market’s very own Red Circle Brewing Co, and named after the converted railway line that runs beside the place. I’m swept away by waves of tropical fruit with citrus and peach undertones. I look across the restaurant toward the brewery, which takes up a substantial portion of the far-left corner of the space, and spot Red Circle head brewer Brett Croft – perfectly cropped jet-black beard and all – and his right-hand man, the hulking Shane Denison, hard at work. I catch Brett’s eye and, before I know it, he’s on his way over with samples for the table.
First up: ‘Isla,’ a wet hopped pale ale that’s brewed, Brett tells me, ‘with New Zealand rakau hops.’ Stunningly good. Next on board: ‘Cherry Blaster’, a gose with lactobacillus, coriander and sea salt. And cherries. Lots of cherries. ‘Brewed with our friends at NickelBrook,’ Brett notes of the stuff as he handsme a small glass. ‘We aged it with three hundred pounds of Niagara sour cherries before dry-hopping it with galaxy and citra hops.’ As I attempt to envision what three hundred pounds of cherries might look like, Ignite Restaurant Group’s culinary director, Brian McCourt, who’s also joined our table, jumps into the conversation: ‘We try to incorporate as many of Brett’s beers into ourrecipes here at Graffiti as possible. From the[aforementioned] barbecue sauce made with our porter, to our house mustards fermented with Brett’s pilsner, to our mussels prepared with his blonde ale, to our bread baked with his porter – we try to maintain as much of a circular food system as possible.’
Brian continues: ‘What we’ve got here is special. A restaurant with its own brewery. A brewery with its own roastery. A roastery with its own bakery. A bakery with its own produce market. And a market with its own restaurant. All collaborating with each other in a way that hasn’t been seen in these parts – or almost anywhere, for that matter.’ Incredible, really. And spectacularly ambitious.
‘It wasn’t always supposed to be this big,’ Ryan remarks as he catches me gazing across the impressive space – which is itself planted
firmly inside the even bigger expanse of Kitchener’s magnificent Catalyst137 maker space. ‘In fact,’ he notes, ‘our first visions of Graffiti Market were for an intimate pizzajoint at another location altogether.’ Ryan continues: ‘But the concept kept growing, and then the opportunity to locate at Catalyst fell into our lap.’ He pauses, before adding: ‘It’s a good thing we went this big because even with a capacity of over three hundred we’re getting slammed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Folks are waiting for tables up to forty-five minutes. And coming back again the nextnight – with friends.’
As I finish the last piece of my Detroit-style pizza and nod in affirmation, I recall a linefrom Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: ‘He thatcannot lick his fingers goes not with me.’ Ihave no trouble at all understanding why folks line up here, every weekend, for all of this.
137 Glasgow St Suite 385, Kitchener