Changes Brewing at Downtown Food & Beverage Spots

Changes are brewing at several downtown Traverse City food and beverage spots, with The Workshop Brewing Company set to expand into distilling and cocktails and revive its own kitchen concept and The Dish undergoing renovations and a branding change to Identity Brewing Company under new owners. The Ticker has the latest on those changes and others underway downtown at Bahia, Morsels, Taproot Cider House, and The Little Fleet.

The Workshop Brewing Company
The Workshop Brewing Company is bringing back a nod to its pre-COVID roots – at the same time it’s taking a step forward into the future.

After using its kitchen as an incubator space in recent years for outside restaurants including Archie’s Food Truck and Pizza Parliament, Workshop Brewing is preparing to take back over the kitchen and offer its own brewery menu again. The changeover will officially begin Friday (December 1). Workshop Brewing owner Pete Kirkwood says Will Bradley – a Northwestern Michigan College culinary graduate who worked at several East Coast restaurants and ran Mesick’s Common Grounds Kitchen & Tap until its recent closing – will serve as the new kitchen manager.

The relaunched brewery menu will bring back some popular customer favorites from the past – like smoked wings, nachos, and pretzels – plus introduce several new items. The “heavily barbecue-focused menu” will also include options for vegetarians like smoked portobello sandwiches and BBQ jackfruit plus a lineup of salads, Kirkwood says. “It’s hopefully something everyone will be psyched about and a nostalgic vibe for how Workshop used to be prior to COVID,” says Kirkwood.

Aiming to offer something for everyone is also behind Workshop’s other big change. The brewery is in the process of obtaining its small distillery license, which will allow Workshop to expand into selling cocktails at both its Traverse City location and at Kingsley Local Brewing, also owned by Kirkwood. Workshop will partner with Mammoth Distilling – its neighbor in the Warehouse District in downtown Traverse City – to produce a line of spirits under a new yet-to-be-named Workshop brand.

“We’ll start with vodka, gin, and whiskey and have various cocktails around that,” says Kirkwood. “We’re not going to have super fancy drinks, and it’s not a place for shots or anything like that. We’re still the Workshop people have come to know and love. We’ve just been finding that a lot of people are looking for non-beer options, or a couple will come in and one person likes beer and the other doesn’t. We don’t want anyone to miss out on the Workshop experience.”

Kirkwood is hopeful Workshop will have its license and be pouring cocktails by February.

The Dish/Identity Brewing Company
After reaching a deal to buy The Dish on Union Street earlier this year, new owners Joshua and Amanda Thomas have renovated the interior and rolled out a new name and branding concept for the popular café.

The business will now be known as Identity Brewing Company – “same food, new Identity,” says Amanda Thomas. The owners are keeping the same menu and recipes from The Dish – including bringing back some customer throwback favorites – as well as introducing new items, like homemade pizza dough coming soon “for a fresh new take on our pizza selection,” Amanda says. The owners are serving beer from their own label, Identity Brewing Company, on tap and in four-packs to go. The beer is contract-brewed by Starving Artist Brewery – owner Andy Thomas is Josh’s brother – with the siblings collaborating on beer recipes and concepts and Andy Thomas brewing on-site at Starving Artist in Ludington.

Identity Brewing Company also has a full-service bar and other beer and wine to go. The updated interior includes “multiple ambiances, spaces for gathering, working space for lunch meetings, or solo space with an outdoor view,” Amanda says, calling it a “modern vibe.” The rebranded space has new hours – Monday-Wednesday 11am-8pm and Thursday-Saturday 11am-9pm – and is hosting events including Beyond Trivia on Thursdays and a Live from the Dining room music series every other Friday. Special ticketed events are coming soon, Amanda says, along with an outdoor music series called LIVE from the Patio launching early next summer.

“We are working on offering more community-centered events, both family-friendly and inclusive of all lifestyles, offering many non-alcoholic beverage options including a variety of NA beer options, mocktails, and multiple other selections so everyone can enjoy themselves, regardless of if they choose to consume alcohol or not,” says Amanda. Identity Brewing Company will host a “grand rebrand celebration” this Friday with giveaways, specials, and live music from Jazz Cabbage from 6pm to 9pm.

Other changes underway downtown…
> Two downtown businesses have taken an operational pause. Spanish-Latin fusion restaurant Bahia closed its doors on Union Street on November 13 for “approximately one month” in order to “review the business and determine the long-term viability as well as other opportunities in the market,” owner Tim Kiel posted. Updates on a potential reopening date will be shared on the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, according to Bahia’s website.

Morsels abruptly closed its doors this week at East Front Street, with the bakery and coffee shop’s website indicating the business is “closed for the season.” Morsels has traditionally operated year-round. Morsels owner Ed Witkowski is facing multiple felony charges for allegedly installing a secret surveillance camera in the women’s restroom at the bakery and is set to be arraigned at 10:10am today (Wednesday). A message left with Morsels inquiring about a reopening date was not returned.

> After being closed for more than two months due to extensive smoke and water damage following a kitchen fire, Taproot Cider House has reopened its doors on East Front Street. The closure gave the eatery an opportunity to update its fall menu, allow staff to tour other local industry spots, and make some décor improvements (like installing new mug club walls). Operational hours are Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm.

> After a successful launch of its kitchen takeover series with Full Send Ramen in November, The Little Fleet is preparing to welcome its next business for a monthly pop-up residency in the space formerly occupied by Happy’s Taco Shop. Sabores Y Colores will operate inside The Little Fleet starting Friday and continuing through December 31. The Mexican eatery – whose food truck has been spotted at locations like Townline Ciderworks and Stone Hound Brewing – will serve up authentic asada and other street tacos, burritos, nachos, and sides like rice and beans. Weekend specials are also planned. Hours once open will be Wednesday-Friday 4:30pm-10pm, Saturday 12pm-10pm, and Sunday 12pm-8pm (closed Monday-Tuesday). Other upcoming pop-ups at The Little Fleet include Wren the Butcher (January), Farm Club (February), Milkweed (March), and Oakwood Proper Burgers/Easy Sliders (April).

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