The concept behind Battery Park on Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth started on the other side of the harbour.
Peter Burbridge, president of North Brewing on Agricola Street, approached George and Leo Christakos, owners of Brooklyn Warehouse on Windsor Street, about teaming up for a new concept eatery in downtown Dartmouth. Burbridge imagined a space where local craft beer and interesting food met, and he was familiar with Brooklyn Warehouse and its sister outpost, Ace Burger.
Battery Park opened in December. The bi-level beer bar, brewery, and retail space joins an increasingly popular part of downtown Dartmouth. This newcomer shares the block with The Canteen, which is owned and operated by Rene Lavallee, and Two if By Sea, founded by Zane Kelsall and Tara MacDonald.
Massive steel brewing tanks sit in the main window facing Ochterloney Street. It’s here that North Brewing will produce small batches of its craft beer in the future. For now visitors can fill a growler with beer brewed at North’s Halifax location.
Upstairs, the open beer bar and eatery offers a communal eating experience. This space looks nothing like the former Nectar dining room. Matt Dunlop, marketing coordinator and front of house manager says they removed the section of booths for sit-down dinners.
In the centre of the bar stand waist-high, solid-wood tables with black stools, all joined together much like a traditional pub experience. A blackboard runs the length of the bar and showcases what’s on tap. There are 15 taps, 13 for Maritime-produced craft beer, which rotate frequently, one for a cider, and the final tap pours soda made on site. A bottled-beer menu also includes eight top beers from outside the region, plus other local classics. A spirits and wine menu rounds out the options for non-beer drinkers.
Make no mistake, this is a beer bar, but food is a focus too. Mark Gray, the executive chef for Brooklyn Warehouse, Ace Burger and now Battery Park, created the menu.
His goal was to break down meals and create a menu based on snackable foods that, of course, pair well with beer. The cost is more than reasonable, with most of the individual menu items going for less than $10. That list includes lamb pops, roasted cauliflower, Sober Island oysters, and dry-aged beer tartare. Platter boards that are perfect for sharing include those with charcuterie, antipasti, cheese, and desserts.
“It’s a mashup of tapas and small plates,” Gray says. “You can buy little components of things. What we noticed here before is that people like to share and taste.”
That concept goes well with Battery Park’s communal vibe. Staff encourage diners to sample a few beers at a time, again, and pair them with small menu items. Dunlop says diners often chat with each other, asking about the beer they are trying. It’s a soft sell process that helps market the experience and creates a feeling of community.
“It happens at least three or four times a day when people end up being friends over the course of just being here,” Dunlop says.
The beer bar’s ownership looked to bars and restaurants elsewhere for inspiration, including Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto and TØRST/Luksus in Brooklyn, New York. Dunlop says what the owners loved about these spots was the focus on beer, with little to almost no wine offerings. TØRST/Luksus, for example, received a Michelin star rating, and was the first beer bar with no wine or liquor on its menu to do so.
As for the craft beer scene, Dunlop and Gray say the industry is just testing the waters on what it can accomplish in the city and beyond. “It’s really being looked at like wine,” Gray says of the craft beer industry. “There is more emphasis on flavour profile. There are restaurants around the world now solely pairing beer with food. I think people are interested in those pairings.”
The community was involved when it came to financing Battery Park, Dunlop says, with a crowd-sourcing model they raised $37,000 in funds to get the bar off the ground. Those who contributed received gift cards toward purchases at the bar, and were treated to a party prior to opening. Brooklyn Warehouse used the crowd-sourcing model before to help finance a renovation project at the restaurant. For Battery Park, Dunlop says some of the contributors were from Halifax, Fall River, and Waverley, but most were from Dartmouth.
“We didn’t want to be indebted to a bank for years,” Dunlop says. “We’d rather be indebted to our community.”
Dunlop says they felt part of the community well before moving into the space. Ultimately, he’d like to see this block of downtown Dartmouth become a food and beverage destination. Have breakfast at Two if By Sea, head to The Canteen for Lunch, and then spend the evening at Battery Park.
“You could stay here all day,” Dunlop says of the street. “We want the whole community to be like that.”
CORRECTION: Due to a research error, the names of the owners of Battery Park were not included in the original version of this story. The story above has been corrected. Halifax Magazine regrets the error.