Word has it that film-industry set designers were involved in fashioning the interior of The Fork & Wrench, the new corner gastropub in the Canton hotspot where Good Love bar and Pur Lounge once resided. This may explain why, the minute I walked in the door, I had the uncanny sensation that I’d stepped into a beloved but obscure Robert Altman film.
Thieves Like Us was made in the 1970s, but it takes place in a dreamlike, rural Depression-era America, lovingly and painstakingly recreated by a dedicated art department. The colors are muted and the light is golden, and somehow The Fork & Wrench has captured the look perfectly. Indeed, the 1920s and ’30s were precisely the decades that co-owners Andy Gruver and Jason Sanchez sought to evoke when they conceived their labor of love.
They spent two years carefully rehabbing the space with salvage from old buildings and a trove of time-burnished curios, carving out a three-level gem that improbably combines gentle nostalgia with industrial chic. The Fork & Wrench is quietly spectacular, surely the rival of any movie set.
As my dining pals and I took a tour of the house, we admired the way each room revealed its own special charms—the lovely old bar graced by red-and-gold brocade sofas, a book-lined dining room with zinc tables, a promising courtyard for outdoor dining—and wondered aloud if the food could match the surroundings. It did.
The executive chef is Sajin Renae, late of Vino Rosina, and she’s designed a menu that takes its cue from the décor. This is food with a homemade, rustic vibe that features sophisticated (and often local) ingredients and techniques. For example, a traditional moules frites is enlivened by white truffle oil; a half chicken with Southern-style sides—wilted greens, black-eyed peas, buttermilk corn bread—is prepared sous vide rather than roasted. There’s house-ground, high-quality brisket and short rib in the “biscuit burger,” and homemade chorizo on the substantial charcuterie and cheese plate, which also features pork and rabbit pâté and Basque salami. Yum.
Navigating the menu required the aid of our waitress, not because it was complicated but because all the choices sounded good. Knowledgeable and happy to be asked, she gave us a roster of her favorites, starting with a quinoa salad that didn’t sound terribly inventive but turned out to be far more than the sum of its parts. Mounded in a big white bowl, the tender grains of quinoa were flecked with fresh dill and mint, studded with feta and lightly wilted spinach, and laced with a zingy lemon-oil dressing. Simple, fresh ingredients in just the right proportions elevated the dish to surprisingly addictive heights. Good thing the portion was large enough to share.
Our waitress had also recommended the seared Magret duck breast, and, again, it turned out to be a marvel of simplicity, perfectly cooked to a rosy hue and accompanied by earthy mushroom farro cooked to risotto-like creaminess. I flirted with the idea of ordering the intriguing-sounding alfalfa-braised rabbit pie, but wavered at the last minute, opting for the more predictable U-10 scallops. Lined up unadorned on a long and narrow white plate, they made an austere presentation but were, in fact, decadently rich. Their only accompaniment was a bright little terrine of chilled pea panna cotta, which I didn’t love but appreciated for its whimsy.
My dining companion, Will, could not resist the aforementioned “biscuit burger” and its slather of chévre and bacon jam. A succulent, beautiful beef bomb, it lived up to the hype (and the $15 price tag), provoking the deep envy of all present and proving that you get what you pay for. The only disappointment was that a nondescript bun had replaced the biscuit—a forgivable glitch.
Lest readers balk at the cost of a burger at The Fork & Wrench, rest assured the price point here is actually reasonable. To put things in perspective, a grilled hanger steak, for example, is $14, and it must be said that the burger could feed two (although who would want to share?). Similarly, the wine list, along with a nice selection of beers and inventive cocktails, boasts eminently reasonable prices.
For dessert, we chose a quite good crème brûlée and something called a chocolate jar. The chef is big on jars—there’s a designated section on the menu devoted to three jarred appetizers, including a cheese fondue—and this dish came packed with a thick, fudgy blob of creamy chocolate that we found satisfyingly primal.
The jar seemed a little superfluous, but as another reminder of a long-ago time, it made perfect sense, like an expert prop master’s final touch.