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The Rich Uncle Tavern, Graffiti Market and More: Drinking & Dining Concepts from Ignite Restaurant Group

Bryan Lavery
Written by Bryan Lavery

The Ignite Restaurant Group (owners of The Rich Uncle Tavern, and the newly opened Graffiti Market, Red Circle Coffee and Red Circle Brewing) recently purchased the former Black Forest Inn in the small farming town of Conestogo. The Sawmill Road property is one of the oldest venue sites in the region. The group plans to launch Crowsfoot Ciderhouse early next year. The Ciderhouse will offer its own brand of cider, brewed in-house using apples from Martin’s Family Fruit Farm on Lobsinger Line. The menu will be modelled on the traditional European smokehouse with a contemporary twist, combining German food culture and southern smoke barbecue. The complex is expected to feature a country market as well as serving as the new headquarters for Ignite.

Red Circle Coffee Company

Catalyst137

Catalyst137 is a 475,000 square foot manufacturing hub and technology accelerator in Kitchener’s Belmont Village neighbourhood. Purpose-built for hardware engineering services and venture capital support in order to create the next generation of the Internet of Things (IoT) companies, Catalyst137 is the world’s largest IoT manufacturing hub and is located in a repurposed tire warehouse. The Ignite Restaurant Group, which recently transformed the former Berlin Restaurant into The Rich Uncle Tavern in downtown Kitchener, realized that Catalyst137 was the ideal location for Graffiti Market, a new dining concept for the growing number of workers at Catalyst137. The Graffiti Market combines food, culture, and technology. It was conceived as a platform to foster innovation and nurture creativity through a unique synergy of emerging technology.

The dining area at Graffiti Market

In addition to the restaurant, Graffiti Market also sells groceries and runs a microbrewery under the banner of Red Circle Brewing Co. Led by co-founder and brewmaster Brett Croft, Red Circle is a brand steeped in Belmont Village’s lore and pays homage to the craftsmanship of Kitchener’s makers and artisans. The Market also includes a coffee roaster (the aptly named Red Circle Coffee Co.), and a bakery.

Interactive Tables

As a trail-blazing restaurant, retail market, microbrewery, coffee roaster and bakery, Graffiti Market provides customers with a cutting-edge dining experience. Ignite Restaurant Group partnered with Ukraine-based Kodisoft to provide interactive restaurant technology dining tables. Ordering is done with the touch of the tabletop icons. Tables feature technology that is 10 times faster than any tablet currently on the market. This is automated ordering from table to the cloud to the kitchen directly. The technology lets you view menus, surf social media, watch your meal or beverages being prepared, play various interactive games and pay your bill. With a touch, the interactive table can display photos and descriptions of the menu items, allowing you to check ingredients and even search recipes. You can order groceries or a six-pack of beer from the table while eating, then pay for and pick them up on the way out the door. Up to 100 seats are spread throughout the establishment, eliminating a defined restaurant space. The patio adds an additional 80 seats.

Interactive tables by Kodisoft

Brian McCourt is Culinary Director of The Neighbourhood Restaurant Group. His menus at Graffiti Market feature small plates, larger plates, appetizers and mains, all meant to be sampled tablewide. Detroit-style pizza, pasta house-made with local flour and eggs, and rotisserie chicken are signatures. At dinner there is “Spittin’ Chicken,” the option of Rosemary and Lemon or Diavolo-Style Rotisserie Chicken with seasonal vegetables, roasted local potatoes, dark chicken jus and chimichurri; “Steak is High” Dry Aged Striploin Steak, gouda frites, truffle aioli and onion jam; and Notorious P.I.G., shorthand for Porchetta, Roasted Garlic & Arugula Pesto, with tomato jam, pickled onions, smoked pepper aioli, and crackling on pain rustique.

This is a 360-degree infotainment experience. Kodisoft is working closely with Ignite to add more interactive features to the restaurant over the coming months. There are plans to launch the technology in other markets later this year.

Graffiti Market/Red Circle Brewing Co.
137 Glasgow Street, Kitchener
519-514-1820 | graffitimarket.ca
Daily 11 am–1 am

Red Circle Coffee Co.
137 Glasgow Street, Kitchener
519-514-1820 | redcirclecoffee.ca
Monday–Friday 7:30 am–6 pm; saturday 8 am–6 pm;
Sunday 9 am–6 pm

The Rich Uncle Tavern

Earlier this year The Ignite Restaurant Group transformed The Berlin into The Rich Uncle Tavern. When the building was remodelled as The Berlin, Ryan Lloyd-Craig spent eight months refurbishing and reclaiming the Renaissance Revival style of the building to create an 85-seat street-level dining room with a long bar. The elevated open-kitchen that remains one of the focal points of the space.

The Rich Uncle Tavern is housed in a Renaissance Revival style building

The new concept features a unique and inventive farm-to-table inspired menu, built on hearty live-fire fare and a shareable plate concept which pays tribute to the taverns and brasseries of bygone times. Defined by an unpretentious and wholesome approach to food and beverages, menus feature Canadian ingredients. The interior is stripped down to emphasize the frame and raw personality of the building. The room is sizeable and has a décor of exposed bricks and concrete with reclaimed slats and soaring 20-foot ceilings that give it a modern rural feel that makes for an inviting and appealing ambience. A staircase leads to the second floor, where there is a study and room for private dining and receptions.

Chef Benjamin Lillico, formerly of The Berlin and Langdon Hall, has an ethical and sustainable culinary philosophy, caring about the provenance of food and the way it is grown or raised. Lillico was named to The Ontario Hostelry Institute’s Top 30 Under 30 in 2015 and captained Junior Culinary Team Canada at the 2016 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. His menus are based on the availability of the best fresh and local ingredients from small, innovative farms and top-quality food producers in the surrounding area, like Soiled Reputation, Farm Craft Organics, Monforte Dairy, McIntosh Farms, Murray’s Farms, Organic Ocean, Ontario Harvest, Kolapore Springs and Eby Manor Dairy. A main feature of the kitchen is a stainless steel wood-fired grill with a surface made of V-shaped slates; the downward slant guides run-off fat and juices into a basting pan rather than onto the coals. A crank wheel regulates the height of the grill surface over the coals, while a fire cage holds most of the heat behind the surface.

Culinary Director, Ignite Restaurant Group, Brian McCourt (left) with Executive Chef Benjamin Lillico, of The Rich Uncle Tavern. The elevated open-kitchen is one of the focal points of the gastropub, offering dynamic farm-to-table fare.

The gastropub features shareable offerings such as local and in-house made charcuterie and a delectable seafood and shellfish board. There is also a selection of cheese. Handhelds include Lamb Burger, Croque Madame and Lobster Roll. One of the most delicious things on the menu is the roughly chopped Beef Tartare with Fermented Pepper Emulsion, Egg Yolk Jam and Fired Toast. There are Pork Rind Crisps, Truffle Frites, Oysters, Smoked Duck Breast and Pork Schnitzel with Hazelnut, Braised Red Cabbage, Parsley Root and Lemon and Thyme Sauce. There is Wild Sturgeon Caviar from Carters Point in New Brunswick. The sturgeon are from the Saint John River and are harvested in a limited quantity each summer season. This is the last wild caviar in the world, recommended by Ocean Wise and strictly monitored to ensure sustainability.

Whether you’re savouring a flavour-focused bite at the bar, a craft beer or crafted cocktail in the upstairs study, or dining communally in one of the comfortable main floor booths, you will experience a convivial ambience, curated beverages and dynamic mouth-watering fare.

The Rich Uncle Tavern
45 King Street West, Kitchener
519-208-8555 | richuncletavern.ca

Tuesday & Wednesday 11 am – 1 pm
Thursday to Saturday 11 am – 12 midnight
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.