Picture a lush outdoor patio space, artfully dispersed with tables and greenery. It’s a sunny day this spring, and diners are spread out for social distancing, but that doesn’t stop the beer from flowing. Soon, this will be reality on Dyer Street when Bayberry Garden opens a stone’s throw away from the scenic Pedestrian Bridge.
But Tom and Natalie Dennen’s journey into Providence’s dining scene starts much further back, with the birth of West End staple Bayberry Beer Hall. “Opening the beer hall was the end result of a work trip to Munich, Germany, and my burning entrepreneurial desire to pave my own way,” says Tom, who was growing restless in his corporate career. “I found my first piece of inspiration in a traditional German Bier Garten in Munich, which ended up taking nearly three years to fully resonate before pitching grand plans of the beer hall to my wife.” Natalie was all in.
With an open floor plan of long, communal tables, draping vines covering the walls, and counter service adjacent to their expansive row of taps, the pre-pandemic beer hall solidified itself in the neighborhood as a casual gathering spot complete with tap takeover nights and thick pretzels. Elevated scratch-made bar eats, with global inspiration and local ingredients, have been perfected over time by Executive Chef Dave Johnson. “We like to think about the beer we’re pouring as we menu design, and we like to utilize that beer in the creation of the product itself,” Tom explains, whether that includes house-baked potato rolls or an IPA hot sauce.
The menu has been shifting since before COVID: Tom recalls a Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich from early menu creation that nearly caused a revolt when it was replaced with the now even more popular Hot Chicken Sandwich. But going takeout presented a whole new set of obstacles. “There is a hard line between what we want to be serving and what will actually hold up in a takeout box,” Tom says. “Some of what we did was coming up with entirely new dishes, some was tweaking the existing, like my personal favorite on the menu right now, the Wagyu Steak Sandwich,” a fresh spin on their Wagyu Steak Frites made with upscale beef popular in Japanese cuisine.
Enter Bayberry Garden: a whole new endeavor that has blossomed into a destination entirely its own. The food is a modern approach to New England cuisine headed by Executive Chef Mike Seely rather than the beer hall fare of its sister business. This new rendition is a little more upscale, with a full-service wait staff, robust wine list, and cocktail program – but no less inviting, whether you’re dining inside beneath natural sunlight cast by large windows or amongst plant-life in their patio built for more than 75 patrons. Emphasis is on the “Garden”, a theme that wends through every design detail the Dennens have carefully labored over for months as their vision took root and construction began on the downtown eatery.
“Although these are far from the conditions we want to be opening a restaurant like this under, we are optimistic about the future and are cautiously hopeful to open our doors this spring,” says Tom. “More than anything, I am excited to see the full picture come together. It’s been a long road and we can’t wait to share what’s in store.”
Follow on Instagram @bayberrygarden for updates.