Wenona Lodge is latest beer bar from the folks behind Tallboys and new team members Faye Balis and Vic Beard. It's named for a former resort situated on Sparrow Lake and is a source of fond memories for brothers Tom and Phil Cacace, and cousin, Kevin Kennedy. Everything about the new bar aims to recreate those cozy and carefree feelings of cottage/camp life.
The place itself, wallpapered and decorated with Group of Seven inspired artworks, skis, and family photos, is kind of shabby, but not in an off-putting way. The vibe is casual and relaxed - dressing up is entirely unnecessary - sweatpants and flannel would be appropriate here.
Local craft beers are the main focus at the bar, and include eight draught brews from Sawdust City, Left Field and Side Launch, plus a collection of tall cans and bottles. Cocktails include the Muskoka Ice Tea ($12), which is just ice tea with the addition of beer, plus the namesake Caesar ($10), also distinguished with a splash of beer and garnishes including a pepperette and a bacon strip.
The kitchen is run by Bunz, the pop-up vendor and food stand overseen by chef Jubert Gutierrez. It will be home base for off site catering operations as well as service the bar with a lineup of snack foods, pizza, savoury pies, and daily seafood features including fish and chips, and steamed mussels.
The menu opens with Octo Dogs ($6), intended as a throwback to kid lunches, but perhaps more fitting on a Pinterest board for moms appeasing finicky eaters. Served skewered in pairs, the deep fried wieners are dipped in cornmeal tempura and are commendably crisp though the coating is sparse and uneven.
The Great White North Pizza ($11) is similarly campy. It's built on a thin chargrilled crust and dressed with garlic lemon cream cheese, potatoes, arugula and optional bacon (+$2). Gourmand it is not, but it does indeed fit the bill of being beer-friendly.
Sliders ($8), or more accurately a trio of mini bao come topped with a choice of pulled pork, brisket, or veg. Appreciatively, this dish includes a choice of fries or salad on the side, and the salad featuring a medley of kale, jicama, carrots and pickled beets is much needed dose of freshness.
Escape to Wenona Lodge for its beers and relaxed setting. It's got you covered if you get hungry, but keep your tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Photos by Jesse Milns