The Worx revamps to set itself apart

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by Eric GinsburgSONY DSC

The conventional wisdom for restaurants in downtown Greensboro is that capitalizing on the lunch rush is the only way to make it, but the Worx has discovered an alternative.

With a new chef and menus, the relatively young restaurant is actually pursuing the exact opposite approach — starting at the beginning of 2014, the Worx hasn’t been open for lunch at all. Executive Chef Brendan Hofacker, who came on in July last year, said the restaurant is actually doing significantly more business than in 2013 when it was open for lunch. By focusing on dinner and adding brunch on Saturday and Sunday, Hofacker said the quality of food and sales have both climbed.

His claims aren’t baseless self-promotion — there’s a marked difference in the inventiveness of dishes at the Worx now compared to its opening in November 2012.

“It was like a Ham’s, kinda,” Hofacker said of the previous menu, noting that it emphasized burgers and that its unique niche was a grilled-cheese menu. The restaurant’s owners brought him in seeking an overhaul, together agreeing to pursue more of a bistro format with local ingredients when possible, he said.

Despite working at the now-closed Bloody Mary’s up the street — and before that Josephine’s and Whole Foods — Hofacker hadn’t even heard of the place before he joined the team last summer.

In November Hofacker helped roll out the restaurant’s first brunch menu, including a popular spinach and goat cheese frittata that is ordered about as much as the rest of the items on the brunch menu combined.

The bistro Benedict, with prosciutto, is particularly fantastic. Diners can add smoked salmon — a solid and well-prepared choice — house-made prime rib, salmon cakes or crabcakes.

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Brendan Hofacker

Though it adds the most cost to the meal, the crabcakes are the way to go, complementing the prosciutto and making the dish a delight unparalleled at other venues in the city (at least in this reporters’ relatively extensive experience). Brunchers shouldn’t balk at the smoked-salmon addition and even the regular Benedict either, but the crabcake Benedict shines.

Hofacker plans to unveil new brunch and dinner menus for the spring in mid-April, focusing on lighter, healthier fare and with the intention of incorporating even more local ingredients. The goal is to have four main menus annually, he said, with nightly specials and drink options.

At Saturday brunch this past weekend a patron inquired about the beer menu, and after listening to the options replied, “Well I’m not familiar with any of those.”

That’s Hofacker’s doing too. Swapping out generic beers for craft brews like Foothills on tap may take adjusting for some, but for the most part the diversified offering has been a hit, Hofacker said.

Sandwiches remain a prominent part of the dinner menu at the Worx, and customers can still order a house burger (or wild mushroom veggie burger), but Hofacker tries to distinguish the restaurant’s offerings from his competitors. A pulled-pork sandwich is on the menu, but it’s South Carolina style with mustard barbecue.

There are chicken wings and a grilled cheese, but the Worx is also courting a more upscale audience with an array of fresh seafood options, a stuffed portobello entrée and crème brulee on the dessert menu.

One of the restaurant’s challenges is its lack of visibility despite being directly off South Elm Street, something the Worx is also combating with drink specials and live entertainment. Owners hope that when their other venture, Spice Cantina, opens next door — alongside other planned businesses in downtown’s back pocket — that both restaurants will benefit.

The Worx, 106 Barnhardt St., Greensboro, 336.285.9391, theworxrestaurant.com