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Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

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Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby bob_rx2000 » Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:27 am

Mrs-Bob_Rx and I didn’t have the kids last evening, so we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary one day early to take advantage of the situation. I had a number of thoughts of where we might go, but Mrs-Bob_Rx had her heart set on Wood Fire in Dowagiac, MI, and “she who must be obeyed” arrived with me for our 7:15pm reservations. Wood Fire is located on the main drag in Dowagiac, and since there is but one street in the town… Street parking is adequate but you may end up having to walk a block or two from your car. Fortunately, Dowagiac doesn’t appear to have the parking issues that South Bend’s downtown suffers from, and having said all this, I feel like Bob Uecker, since they “saved me a space right down front” literally by the door.

Wood Fire is in what appears to be an old farm supply or 5 & 10 store with the grain hoist still in place and the original tinplate ceilings too. There are two sides to the place, a small and more formal dining area to your left as you enter, and a larger, less formal area on the right with the signature oven, bar and a small stage, along with several dozen booths and tables. The place was busy when we arrived and stayed busy for the entire time of our visit.

I liked the service from the first, as they could have played the “wait at the bar” game with us and didn’t even try. Our table was located on the formal side of the house, but unfortunately, a large party of over a dozen people were also there and it was impossible to carry on a conversation. To the great credit of the restaurant, they immediately moved us to a booth on the other side where, although more people were there, conversation was possible. I found the basic wait service to be efficient and pleasant, our water glasses stayed full, bread was delivered immediately, orders were taken correctly and drinks from the bar arrived quickly.

By now everyone realizes that I start my dining experience with a martini. Mine was delivered quickly, was appropriately dry and was served as I had asked for it with traditional olives. Mrs-Bob_Rx had a gin-and-tonic and she remarked it was well made. Alas, Wood Fire has a large selection of “specialty martinis”, all of which involve vodka and they seem to be quite popular. What a waste of a good bartender’s skill… The bread (served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) was very good as was the small plate of olives. The appetizer special was a large plate of scallops and clams in an olive oil sauce, which arrived promptly and was served with chewy, toasted garlic bread.

As I mentioned, our server and the kitchen understand how to get meals to the patrons as we had just an appropriate time to finish the appetizer and have the dishes cleared when our salads arrived. Mrs-Bob_Rx had the house dinner salad and minestrone soup, while I had margarita salad with provolone, basil and tomato. (Incidentally, they spell the name of that salad differently on the menu and the web site.) To tell the truth, I’d probably go with Mrs-Bob_Rx the next time; my salad wasn’t anything special and the minestrone soup had just a touch of spice to the tongue – very good. Once again, the salads were cleared and our entrees arrived with good spacing.

Both of our entrees were good; the Clams Cappellini and a filet / shrimp dish. The truth is that I thought my filet just a tad overcooked for medium-rare, causing me to wonder if the kitchen just let it go a bit long. It was crusted nicely and had a wonderful taste, as did the wood-grilled shrimp. It was served with an interesting combination of mashed sweet and white potatos, and with grilled vegetables. The clams and pasta were perfect and portions were large enough that I was stuffed and Mrs-Bob_Rx took quite a bit home. The dessert menu is small, yet elegant with only a couple of heavy cheesecake or “death by chocolate” items; we split a terrific vanilla / chocolate mousse.

OK, to the bottom line, or lines… We indulged last evening and the tab reflected it at about $125 including an appropriate 20% tip for a good server. Two people can easily have a very good meal there for at least $25 to $40 less than we spent. To my mind, Wood Fire has a split personality. The more formal side of the place needs to have acoustical work done to provide the experience you anticipate, but the building does present problems in doing that as well. However you call it, the atmosphere doesn’t quite match the rest of the place as the food and service are both good and exactly what you expect from this price point. On the whole, Wood Fire is a solid hit in an attempt to provide an upscale dining experience in a very small town. I liked Wood Fire, enjoyed our dinner there and will, without a doubt, return.
Bob_Rx2000
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby York » Sun Jul 26, 2009 3:56 pm

bob_rx2000 wrote:Wood Fire is in what appears to be an old farm supply or 5 & 10 store with the grain hoist still in place and the original tinplate ceilings too. There are two sides to the place, a small and more formal dining area to your left as you enter, and a larger, less formal area on the right with the signature oven, bar and a small stage, along with several dozen booths and tables. The place was busy when we arrived and stayed busy for the entire time of our visit.


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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby sock_theorist » Sun Jul 26, 2009 5:32 pm

Us po'folk can go over to Chief Wahoo's right before you get to downtown Dowagiac. :lol:

Nice review Bob & Happy Anniversary.
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby Happy Mom » Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:14 pm

Great pictures York! You are such a good photographer! :clap: :clap:
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby backstagedee » Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:31 pm

Adam worked at Woodfire before he came to BSG.
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby JumboBurton » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:40 am

this place is not bad (I like that they serve olives right away... and the other appetizers are not bad). I wasn't too impressed with the wine, nor the pasta selection. The art on the walls is humorous to look at because they have abstract paintings for sale for about $500 lining each table... overall the food is okay, they have good specials but nothing too much to write home about.
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby bob_rx2000 » Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:54 am

JB,

I have not written about it, but Mrs-Bob_Rx and I went back to Woodfire a month or so ago. I'll mostly stick with what I said in my original review, and we had an excellent server. They were moderately busy but had some open tables, so seating wasn't an issue and people weren't backed up to get a table. What I did notice is that they appear to be taking a few steps to economize and it showed in the drinks and appetizers. Portions were slightly smaller, not enough to cause complaint, but enough that both of us noticed, and my martini didn't quite fill the glass, again by just enough to cause a raised eyebrow. I can't quite attribute this to the place being all that busy since the bartenders had time to chat up the people sitting at the bar. Since they weren't constantly attending to drink orders, I'm guessing "portion control" has become a management concern at Woodfire. The food was still very good, and as I said, we had a great server. She was busy, but you wouldn't have known it from the way she treated her customers and her attitude.
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby JumboBurton » Thu Jun 20, 2013 9:38 pm

bob_rx2000 wrote:JB,

I have not written about it, but Mrs-Bob_Rx and I went back to Woodfire a month or so ago. I'll mostly stick with what I said in my original review, and we had an excellent server. They were moderately busy but had some open tables, so seating wasn't an issue and people weren't backed up to get a table. What I did notice is that they appear to be taking a few steps to economize and it showed in the drinks and appetizers. Portions were slightly smaller, not enough to cause complaint, but enough that both of us noticed, and my martini didn't quite fill the glass, again by just enough to cause a raised eyebrow. I can't quite attribute this to the place being all that busy since the bartenders had time to chat up the people sitting at the bar. Since they weren't constantly attending to drink orders, I'm guessing "portion control" has become a management concern at Woodfire. The food was still very good, and as I said, we had a great server. She was busy, but you wouldn't have known it from the way she treated her customers and her attitude.


It makes me sad to hear that. At least the server was good. Last time I went to Tippecanoe the service was terrible (not really related just thought I'd throw that in there). The Woodfire seemed to be a pretty solid deal, I guess I was a bit harsh on it —for the price I paid it was not bad but I was just expecting slightly more. Always a shame when portion control becomes a concern though. What are your thoughts on the cocktails though (flavor-wise)? I've only had the wine
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Re: Wood Fire - Driving to Dowagiac

Postby bob_rx2000 » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:10 pm

One of my personal yardsticks for a restaurant is the quality of their (very dry) martinis. Woodfire has done good ones every time I have been there. FWIIW, so did Backstage Grill.
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