A restaurant and sports bar that puts local at the forefront of its menu, The North Fork may be a brand new name to Hamilton’s hospitality scene; but the leadership behind it is anything but.
Restaurateur Praveen Suresh, who freshly opened the doors of The North Fork in the city’s International Village this July, brings nearly two decades of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry to his latest venture.
“I started in the restaurant industry in 2002, working as a dishwasher at Milestones in Mississauga. At age 18, I was hired as a line cook for a family-owned Irish pub while I attended York University to complete my Bachelor’s in Business Administration,” says Suresh.
After graduating university, Suresh used his degree and his honed kitchen skills to land a job as General Manager of a Boston Pizza location, followed in 2015 by his designation as Director of Food Services at Compass Group Canada, one of the world’s largest food service providers.
Moving from the massive and far-reaching infrastructure of a workplace like Compass Group to something as casual and localized as The North Fork may seem like a strange move, but the new restaurant’s small-scale, humble concept is fully by design.
That’s because the emphasis at The North Fork is on supporting small-batch, locally made food and drink products, with ingredients and food items sourced from Canadian farmers and purveyors.
The small-but-mighty menu keeps it simple with a casual yet elevated selection of shareable small plates, like chicken wings and bruschetta; handhelds like the restaurant’s staple North Burger, which uses locally raised beef; and some classic mains like fish & chips with Georgian Bay white fish, a seafood paella made with Newfoundland scallops and mussels sourced from PEI, and an organic chicken supreme with seasonal accompaniments.
But don’t expect to wash those bites down with a macro lager or imported wine: the emphasis on local extends to the beverage menu, with The North Fork sourcing its beer from regional craft brewers like Collective Arts, Great Lakes Brewing, and Bench Brewing, and obtaining VQA wine selections from small-batch winemakers in the Niagara region like Caroline Cellars.
This dedicated support of local food providers is an especially valuable feature of The North Fork given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on numerous food and hospitality-related industries. In partnering with local farmers, bakeries, breweries, and wineries, as well as hiring local workers and contractors, the restaurant is also doing its part to invigorate the local and regional economy at a crucial time.
All of that local deliciousness is contained within a cozy and casual dining room at 215 King Street East, which locals may recognize as the former home of Jabronies Sports Bar; a long-standing spot with a distinctly different look and feel.
Now, with the guidance of commercial real estate firm Forge & Foster, the space has been completely transformed, the interior adorned with colourful pops of mural art depicting icons of Canadiana against muted black walls and an intimate-yet-approachable atmosphere that combines a sports bar vibe with casual, farm-to-table dining.
Suresh is quick to emphasize how important the aid of a group like Forge & Foster was to realizing his vision for the restaurant and getting it off the ground with as much ease and confidence as possible; especially during the immense challenges of the pandemic.
“It is very difficult to build something unique and special at a small business level without the right supporting cast,” he explains. “They provided us with resources that would not be available to all small business owners.”
There’s sure to be plenty more where The North Fork came from, too; the restaurant is one piece of Hamilton’s new GHST Kitchen Inc, which was founded by Suresh to provide invaluable resources and education to new small business owners in the hospitality industry who want to learn more about best practices, filing taxes, cost controlling tools, licensing and permits, and much more.
“We do all accounting, taxes, payroll, web designs, menu, recipes, and vendor sourcing without having to use external sources,” adds Suresh. “We can help other small businesses do the same.”
The return to normal amid the pandemic is undoubtedly a bumpy road: but the establishment of new spots like The North Fork show that Hamilton’s restaurant industry is ready to meet the challenges and keep it local at the same time.
Learn more about The North Fork here.