A few days before opening the doors to his latest restaurant, David Burke was buckling up to run an errand.
“I’m on the go,” he says, reached by phone. “I’m going to get some crickets.”
It’s one of the ingredients used in his dishes on the menu at Woodpecker, now open in Manhattan’s bustling intersection of NoMad and Koreatown on Broadway and 30th Street. In addition to marking his entry to Midtown, the restaurant marks Burke’s foray into cooking with a wood stove instead of gas.
“It’s a little nontraditional for me because we’re working with wood now instead of gas. I looked around over the last few years and read about what’s going on, and I realized there’s a lot going on with smoking, wood burning, grilling with wood,” Burke says. He notes that he was inspired by young chefs working with wood from smaller cities and warehouse districts, where exhaust regulations are easier to manage. “In order to stay current, we thought we’d have some fun and put together a wood burning American plates menu,” Burke adds.
The kitchen will be overseen by chef Carmine Di Giovanni and the approach to the menu is simple and light: Unlike Burke’s background of traditional French cooking, the dishes use olive oil and glazes instead of heavy stocks and cream-based sauces. Fare spans from roasted meats and fish to pizza, which will be a focus. Even the desserts take advantage, including a smoked apple tart. “The wood-burning oven is new to me, so as I start to experiment — and obviously, we just got into that kitchen — we’ll come up with our own great dishes,” Burke says.
One of those more experimental — and marketable — items is the Cricket-rita Pizza, which is made with cricket flour and includes the insects as a topping; Burke also recently ran a drink special with crickets frozen in ice cubes.
“Listen, if you want to try crickets, this is a good spot.…David Burke is going to bug you,” Burke says. “Insects are booming — I see insects in the future. I know a lot of countries eat them, and I think it was time to start experimenting with them,” he continues. “We’re trying something new, and it’s not mandatory, you don’t have to eat it. I like to be on the forefront of things. I think chefs are supposed to push people a little bit, educate people, try new things and forge forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do — we’re opening the window to a new product.”
The dining room is decked in wood details, and includes a neighborhood-friendly extra-large bar. The room is accented with cuckoo clocks and paintings of birds, a nod to the restaurant’s name.
“Woodpecker came from the initial first thing that popped in my head that cooks in a wood burning oven — is chicken, birds — and the fact that it was a wood burning concept,” Burke says. “And it’s a fun name, and it’s easier to remember.”