Owner of Walrus and Carpenter in Bridgeport, CT
Walrus + Carpenter began with the desire to offer a truly unique American experience… from their 100% wood-smoked meats coming off their custom-built smoker daily, to their hand-selected craft beers, wines and liquors created exclusively on American soil.
And true to the American experience, Walrus + Carpenter is an independent, family-owned and operated establishment, living and working with pride.
The vision and concept for Walrus + Carpenter was created by owner, Joe Farrell. The restaurant offers American BBQ cuisine but served with Texas style flair where the meats are slowly cooked and main entrées are paired with upscale coleslaws and collards.
Tell us about yourself, what’s your culinary background and/or prior restaurant experience?
I was born in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn to an Irish father and Italian mother who raised me and my two brothers on home cooking. I recall very few restaurants as a child because we rarely ate outside of the home. My restaurant experience began just out of college when I got a job waiting tables in Midtown Manhattan. It was a short lived experience but it laid the ground work for my decision to return to this industry years later after a stint in commercial real estate (the family trade) and a two year episode of my life where I taught Algebra and coached football at my old high school, Fairfield Prep. I managed a restaurant in Bedford, NY for four years before setting off to realize my passion at Walrus + Carpenter.
Where did the idea come from for Walrus + Carpenter? And what sets you apart from other well-known BBQ restaurants?
The idea of Walrus + Carpenter came from a desire to have a restaurant I didn’t mind spending countless hours in, which is absolutely necessary in this business. This is where I’m comfortable. From the music to the lighting, the vibe to the aesthetic, the all-American beverage program to the southern inspired comfort food. This is where I feel in my element to entertain. I wouldn’t call this a BBQ restaurant. I feel low and slow smoking of ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder is ideal, not defining.
Why Bridgeport, CT for the location? What attracted you there?
Black Rock, CT is absolutely beautiful. A great place to raise a family, which is what initially attracted me and my wife to move here. It has a lot of charm, friendly residents and an exciting bar and nightlife scene. Black Rock also happens to be extremely close to everything necessary for a successful restaurant. Not the least of which is a Home Depot three minutes down the road for emergencies. Black Rock also has an eerie resemblance to parts of Brooklyn just before they became too hip to be completely comfortable.
What were you looking for in terms of real estate space? And what’s the ambiance like, work with any local restaurant designers?
My good friend and GM Adam Roytman had told me that location dictates concept. When I first realized that this spacious, standalone building in the heart of Black Rock with room out back for a smoker came on the market, I knew I had found a space that dictated this concept. Not good to force concepts where they don’t belong. The ambiance is warm, bright and open. Deceptively large and inviting. No restaurant designers were called upon. Thank God my best friend is a carpenter.
How did you meet and attract Chef Paul DiMaria? What does he bring to the table for Walrus + Carpenter?
We met through a friend of a friend. He was attracted by the concept, location, and my charming personality (his words). Paul is extremely passionate about food. He came with an impressive background and an excitement to bring something new to the table.
What‘s your line-up for equipment in the BOH? And tell us about your custom-built Smoker?
Pretty basic. A lot of equipment acquired from the previous restaurant at this location. We added a holding cabinet, electric smoker, and a much needed Robot Coupe. As for the smoker, our boiler maintenance man, Mike Savage (a Bridgeport resident), offered to fabricate a smoker from a 500 gallon propane tank to our pit master Ben McCrea’s specifications. She’s a thing of beauty. A reverse flow system accentuated with two exhaust pipes and an old wood-burning stove.
Offer any private dining events, brunch and special events?
We offer brunch Friday through Sunday. Brunch should not be one day a week. We are currently renovating a private dining area the main purpose of which will be to host beer, wine, and spirit dinners. The first will be a hard cider dinner the end of September.
Are you using any locally sourced CT or NY produce farms or meat purveyors?
We are constantly growing our relationships with local farmers. Chef Paul is very passionate about the food being seasonal and local.
Do you have an in-house Pastry Chef for dessert offerings?
Our in-house Pastry Chef is Maggie Lyon whom Chef Paul had recommended we bring on as Sous Chef before we opened the doors of W+C. Her desserts are one of the biggest hits at the restaurant and she’s constantly evolving the offerings. Most recently people are going nuts over her deep fried blueberry pie.
Your wine menu is somewhat limited, but your craft beer and bourbon list is quite extensive. What was the thinking behind your wine, beer and spirits offerings?
I’m a strong believer of when in Rome… That is to say that when I go to an Italian restaurant, I opt for an Italian wine. If I’m in Germany, I drink German beer. W+C is a uniquely American concept. Slow smoked meats and southern inspired cuisine. Hence, an all-American beverage program. It’s fun to break people out of the norm of drinking Grey Goose and Jameson. There is so much that this country has to offer in the way of spirits and beer. Not to mention wine, which we have begun to expand our offerings. A nice Pinot Gris from Four Graces in Oregon is a wonderful change of pace from Italian Pinot Grigio.
Do you see another Walrus + Carpenter location in the future?
I do not see another Walrus + Carpenter in the future. That is not to say I don’t see other restaurants from this great team we have put together, but there should only ever be one W+C. That is part of what makes this experience special.