The Way Back is back, and though it has a new chef and new location, its still the same restaurant you came to know at 38th and Raleigh.
Now settled in right in the heart of Tennyson Street with chef Jon Lavelle in the kitchen, the team is ready to pick up where it left off serving craft cocktails and approachable, responsibly sourced food.
“We’re really trying to work with local farmers, producers, and make better connections and hopefully slowly work away from that national food system and try to make the regional one more affordable at the end off the day so we can touch more people,” said Kade Gianinetti, one of The Way Back’s three owners.
Bringing Lavelle in from New York City institution Maialino was a big step in that direction. Gianinetti said their “food philosophies really meshed right away.” In addition to responsible practices for sourcing ingredients, they’re focused on a sort of high-low theme throughout the menu. Right now, that means things like polenta chips with a house-made, from-scratch sour cream and onion seasoning, and a fried chicken thigh that still has the foot attached because it wasn’t mass-processed.
“People will be like, ‘Whoa that is a little crazy, I haven’t seen that before,’ but also it’s approachable, really tasty, clever food that fits this space.”
Physically, the new space is bigger than the old one. Formerly Patrick Carroll’s and, briefly, Paddy the Yank, the spot at 396 Tennyson Street features the bar prominently up front. There, they’ll have walk-in only seating for a more casual experience. In the back, where once sat the pool table, the former Patrick Carroll’s high-top bar has been turned into a table for 10. It’s surround by cozy booths and white table-clothed tables for more upscale experience.
In between the front and back rooms is a small lounge area they’re envisioning as a family space, with higher-than-average coffee tables that Gianinetti described as “perfect toddler eating height.”
“We really want the neighborhood to treat this as a two or three times a week kind of place,” he said. “Come in, have a beer, grab some chips and dip, something like that, maybe something a little more formal. We wanted to give Tennyson something a little different — we wanted it to feel a little more elegant, a little more refined, but still really have fun with it.”
The Tennyson Street opening has been six months in the making. They closed up shop on 38th in early August 2017 and remodeled the new space while also opening up Wayward inside what was formerly Zengo on Little Raven.
The new location is great for its size and, more importantly, its foot traffic, but it’s really perfect for its owners who live just a few blocks away.
“Me and Chad have lived in the neighborhood for about five years and this is really our street,” Gianinetti said. “We go to West End, Tartarian now, Hops & Pie — I’m there for lunch three days a week.”
The Way Back reopens for dinner tomorrow (Feb. 27). It’ll be open for happy hour and dinner from 4 p.m. onward Tuesday through Saturday. They’ll add weekend brunch hours sometime this spring.
When you go, impress your friends with this: The “WILD THINGS” neon just inside the front door is a reference to the Wendell Berry poem “The Peace of the Wild Things.”
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.