Chef Greg Jaworski and his wife are opening NOSH Scratch Kitchen at the historic 102 Walnut building in downtown Winona next month.
by CHRIS ROGERS
Sixteen burners, three ovens, a grill, and a space-age combi oven — this is home. “I’m going to live here,” Greg Jaworski said, gesturing to the kitchen arsenal.
Jaworski is the chef at the soon-to-open NOSH Scratch Kitchen in downtown Winona, and when customers come in, he will be the lead cook on the line preparing their food. “I’m one of those weird chefs that actually cooks,” he said. “I don’t just tell other people to.”
For years, many Winonans have said they wish for more, better restaurants in town, especially ones more upscale than the average sports bar and especially in downtown. At the same time, some Winona restauranteurs have told the Post that locals haven’t supported high-quality restaurants, opting to travel out-of-town for a meal instead. Asked how he hopes Winonans respond to his new casual-fine-dining joint, Jaworski said, “I hope they’ll see it as a restaurant of the caliber of the Twin Cities or Rochester without having to leave town.”
There have been some changes in the restaurant scene in Winona recently. To name just a few: The island city now has dueling sushi places, a gyro joint closed as quickly as it opened, and a longtime fixture, Betty Jo’s, went out of business.
“I do think it’ll be unique,” Jaworski said when asked if he felt his new restaurant would offer something different to Winona. “They’re doing some fun stuff at Signatures that’s of similar ilk, but this will be downtown,” he said, adding it would have a more relaxed environment and a different style. “I think there’s kind of a void in Winona for casual fine dining.”
By casual fine dining, Jaworski means high-caliber food and dutiful service but without white tablecloths. At NOSH’s former location in Lake City, the restaurant welcomed boaters coming in off the river in their flip flops, he said. “We don’t want people to feel like they need to put on a tie or a blazer to come in and eat,” Jaworski stated. Entrees will range from $15-$30, he said.
Asking Jaworski to pigeonhole the type of food NOSH will offer is a bit more challenging. “It’s American. I mean that literally. We’re the melting pot. There’s a bunch of different influences here,” he said. With French and Spanish influences Jaworski has sometimes described his menus as Western Mediterranean, but he draws on all sorts of traditions. “Truly what’s important to know about the food here is that it’s locally sourced and made from scratch,” he stated. “We make our own sausage, our own mustards, our own bread.” He added, “I spend a lot of time outside this kitchen to make sure what I bring into this kitchen is top quality. And then I want to do as little with it as possible. I just want to make sure I don’t [mess] it up.”
Jaworski said that Visit Winona Executive Director Pat Mutter tried to get him to move NOSH to Winona in 2007, but the timing wasn’t right. “I wasn’t ready, and I don’t know if Winona was necessarily ready,” he explained.
So why did Jaworski choose to resettle his restaurant in Winona now? “I think Winona is on the upswing. I really do,” he answered. “I always tell people when they ask me that question, is it reminds me of La Crosse five, 10, 15 years ago — when that renaissance was happening,” he said, referring to a series of development projects that helped transform and revitalize downtown La Crosse, Wis. Winona is beginning to see a construction boom of its own downtown, with city officials and some business leaders looking to pump new life — and millions of dollars of investment — into the city’s riverfront core.
NOSH Scratch Kitchen’s new home — the 102 Walnut building — has been part of that boom; Mike Gostomski and Peter Shortridge’s company is wrapping up a over $9-million project to restore and remodel the historic structure. Tradespeople were still installing the finishing touches in the dining room last week. Getting interior design approvals from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office delayed some of the work, Jaworski mentioned.
Before its tenure in Lake City, NOSH operated in Wabasha for years. “People would say they forgot they were in Wabasha,” Jaworski said. “They felt like they were in a larger, more metropolitan place, which I thought was a cool compliment,” he added.
Jaworski and his wife hope for a similar effect in Winona. “You can stay in town and have a great experience,” he said. The Jaworskis plan to open NOSH Scratch Kitchen in mid-January.