Exceeding Expectations

The Charcoal Group of Restaurants

Through word of mouth, this group has built a mini empire that caters to all tastes and continues to garner rave reviews from the denizens of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge and this past summer the newest addition to the Charcoal Group family, Beertown, was opened in Cambridge, becoming an instant success.

It started back in 1955 when Del and Ortha Wideman purchased an eatery called the Charcoal Pit in the Waterloo region which they renamed the Charcoal Steakhouse. It developed a reputation as one of Waterloo’s best steakhouses. In 1991 it was purchased by Tim and Tom Wideman and from there the expansion began.

Martini’s was created in 1993 and that was soon followed by del Dente in 1995. In 2002, the Ontario Restaurant Association recognized the Charcoal Group by awarding them the Trillium Award for Outstanding Restaurateurs of the Year in the province of Ontario. In 2003 Jody Palubiski joined the group as its managing partner. A native of the Waterloo region, he brought with him an extensive knowledge of the restaurant industry through his experience with dining venues throughout Southern Ontario. He led the Charcoal Group in developing the highly successful Wildcraft Grill Bar in 2007, the Bauer Kitchen in 2009, and the Beertown Public House in 2012.

The Charcoal Steakhouse on Queen St. in Kitchener is the flagship restaurant for the company and represents it well. It features five distinct comfortable dining rooms and is led by executive chef Dan McCowan. One can get hungry just looking at the menu which includes such culinary delights as Oxford County AAA steaks, slow roasted Black Angus prime rib and fresh seafood and homemade desserts to top off the dining experience. It has a wine list that has won Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

The recently renovated Martini’s (also in Kitchener in the same locale) caters to those who are looking for a casual spot for a quick lunch or to unwind after a long day. The head chef here is also Dan McCowan and he makes lunch and brunch the specialty at Martini’s. Eggs Benedict, crepes, omelettes, along with lunch items such as their famous beef dip, ribs and charcoal burger.

Del Dente also resides at 2980 Queen St. in Kitchener. Another winner of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for its wine list, it has different specialties. The website touts, “Chef Jaret Flannigan’s ridiculously good homemade pasta, Stone Hearth pizzas and Italian favorites.” As a diner, you can watch the food in progress through the open kitchen and then have a Peroni at the bar. The service team is enthusiastic and professional, making sure that your every need is met. The food is prepared with meticulous precision in order to satisfy the most discerning palate.

Wildcraft on King St. North in Waterloo is “a premium casual dining and socializing venue. It is an upbeat urban environment with a comfortable suburban approachability.” It won the Wine Spectator Award of excellence for 2011, and was the Diners Choice winner for 2012 as awarded by Opentable.com. You can enjoy a drink at the W bar or a meal in the dining room. It also includes a stunning outdoor dining courtyard which enables this location to be a year round destination for those who appreciate fine food and drink. Entrees include such edible delights as a goat cheese stuffed chicken, pan seared duck breast and an eggplant schnitzel.

The Bauer Kitchen is also found on King St. in Waterloo, and has (you guessed it) another Wine Spectator award to entice those who appreciate a good drink. But, it is so much more then that…” The Bauer Kitchen is an energetic up-market bistro set in a Soho inspired, restored felt factory. The industrial steel, concrete floors, reclaimed wood and custom lighting combine to create a uniquely warm backdrop for your dining experience.” The Executive Chef here is Michael Hodgson who concentrates on classic items prepared with the highest quality and the freshest ingredients. Awards voted by Open Table diners include Most Booked and Neighborhood Gem. One of the reviews sums up the experience: “Excellent service and food… what more could you ask for!?”

Finally, we have the newest addition to the Charcoal Group’s cache of good eats and beverages which is Beertown. Located in both Cambridge and Waterloo this new concept is “a fusion of a retro public house, and a modern beer bar, built around a chef driven kitchen. According to Palubiski it’s all based on the “beer renaissance” that’s been taking place over the last decade which he likens to the “wine renaissance” which preceded it in the 1990s. “Charcoal invested $1.8 million to launch Beertown Cambridge and $2.3 million to open Beertown Waterloo.”

The Cambridge location has a floor to ceiling “beer wall” prominently displaying 100 different kinds of bottled brew and 30 beers on tap to round out the selection. The Waterloo location is slightly larger indoors, but much bigger outside with 2,000 square feet and seating for 100 with a great view of the Waterloo Civic Square. Charcoal Group used Cricket Design out of Toronto to help with the look of the restaurant.

The Charcoal Group is a success story. After all, how many restaurants do you know that have thrived since 1955? Charcoal Group of Restaurants has provided diners with a great culinary experience with beautifully crafted interiors and exteriors, a fantastic and carefully selected wine list and professional service. Charcoal Group has a campaign called “Charcoal Group for Charity” that recognizes how valuable the community’s contributions have been by donating gift certificates to support charitable events. Under the watchful eye of Tim and Tom Wideman along with the expertise of Jody Palubiski the group is here to stay, and we all look forward to seeing what else they can come up with in the near future.

October 20, 2017, 8:09 AM EDT

Wind on the Rise

In the world of renewable energy, wind power is growing fast. It is projected that 10 percent of the energy generated in the United States will come from wind farms by 2020. Offshore wind farms are a relatively new addition to the American energy market, but the technology has been well established in Europe and is now taking off state-side as well.