Chef Ryan Crawford is at it again, this time bringing a Spanish influence to his newest Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurant, BarBea,
The wine shop and snack bar is located next to Ruffino’s Pasta Bar & Grill at the corner of Mississagua and Mary streets.
For Crawford and his partner Brett Rumble, the bar is a chance to celebrate Niagara wines in a warm and inviting environment.
“We sort of said it’s the one stop shop for wine,” Crawford said, noting the goal is to have 1,000 different wines available, including 100 by the glass.
“Our goal is to showcase Niagara against international wines, so all of our wines by the glass, we’ll do, say, a Gamay from Ontario, then a Gamay from Beaujolais in France. We’ll do a Riesling from Niagara and a Riesling from Germany, just to showcase how well we make wine in Niagara.”
The restaurant will also serve up small plates of food inspired by the Basque Country in Spain, as well as a raw bar serving up plenty of seafood.
Crawford also plans featured cocktails, something his restaurants have become known for.
In another signature Crawford move, the restaurant will highlight ingredients from Niagara, mainly from his farm, as well as foraged mushrooms and foods from around the region.
One of the items is a tortilla made with chanterelle mushrooms foraged by NOTL resident Andrew Ball.
Another is a pepper dish with fresh farm peppers.
Crawford said he also plans to start an oyster bar to carry on a tradition started by the Stone Road Grille, which was located on the site several years ago. Crawford took over the space and eventually turned it into Ruffino’s.
“We’re trying to bring that back,” he said.
BarBea isn’t an extension of Ruffino’s, but an entirely different restaurant, with different food, a different wine focus, Crawford noted.
Still, Rumble said people will be able to walk through both restaurants.
“You can travel through two different spaces and enjoy two different experiences,” she said.
“Different parts of the world,” Crawford added.
While the restaurant will have plenty of food options, the focus is on wine, they said.
“Niagara needs a place where people who don’t have time to go to every single winery can come and experience great Niagara wines. We’re trying to curate, I guess we call it, Niagara’s top 100 — trying to curate that so people can come do that, if you don’t have time to travel.”
He said it’s also a great spot for locals to grab a bottle of wine, noting bottles are priced “extremely competitively” to the LCBO.
With the heavy wine focus, Crawford also will open a wine members club, giving people wines hand-picked by him and Rumble.
“It’s giving people a chance to try some fun wines that we’ve sort of chosen through our tastings and our experiences and our travels.”
Crawford said his new venture is really just another option for people to grab a glass of wine after work.
They also hope it will also be a spot where people in the wine industry come to hang out and drink wine.
The restaurant will be open late, he said, though he’s not entirely sure how late just yet.
The restaurant opens on Friday, with a special soft opening on Wednesday and Thursday.