Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte friends Ashton Maracle, left, and Kevin Smart have signed a lease to operate The Den at Briar Fox Golf Club, marking the first time a dine-in food will have been offered at the club in approximately five years. (Jan Murphy/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter) jpg, BI Jan Murphy, Local Journalism Initiative

After five years without a food vendor, Briar Fox Golf Club will be cooking up a whole new food experience this golf season.

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte friends Ashton Maracle, 30, and Kevin Smart, 43, have signed a lease to operate The Den at Briar Fox.

“With the price of groceries now, we really want to give something back, not just to the golf course but the surrounding area,” Maracle said inside the clubhouse, where the two were working feverishly to prepare for the coming season.

The Den owners described the partnership as seeing a need and filling a need.

“In our local area, there’s not many (restaurants left),” Maracle said. “There are a couple of spots on the Reserve to eat but around the area, there’s not much.”

Briar Fox General Manager Augusta James said in an email that she’s very excited to have The Den coming aboard at the course, which last year was purchased by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

“Briar Fox tried to get the kitchen open last year but couldn’t find anyone to staff it,” James wrote in her email. “This winter we were approached by The Den and after an interview process we rented the kitchen space to them. They will be providing daily food as well as working in collaboration with the course to provide food for events. We sincerely hope that the community, not only golfers, support this initiative so that food can remain at Briar Fox.”

For Maracle and Smart, support from the community, and servicing the community, are integral parts of their plans.

“They’re our people (on the Territory),” Maracle said. “They can come back to the golf course and enjoy their time outside in the scenery and have a good bite to eat and then go home. That’s one of our main objectives: this is not just for anybody here golfing, it’s also for the people from the surrounding communities, people such as our elders, who maybe don’t golf or aren’t able to golf, but can simply enjoy a good plate of food.”

The closure of Mike’s Restaurant in Deseronto several years ago left limited options around the Territory.

“That’s what’s been missing around here,” Smart said. “Since Mike’s has been closed, a lot of people have said they miss it.”

“(Mike’s was) busy, especially on the weekends,” Maracle concurred, adding they’re channeling a little of what made Mike’s special into The Den. “We plan to hold a full-on brunch every Saturday and Sunday,” he said, adding that he and his own son enjoy waking on a weekend day and going somewhere

for breakfast. “Right now, we have to go to Belleville or Napanee. Soon, you can just come here to The Den, we’ll give you a plate of food and then you can go home.”

The last time Briar Fox featured a dine-in experience on site was prior to the pandemic, which makes the addition of The Den a long time coming.

“We’re avid golfers,” Brant said of he and Smart. “Augusta, even (the club’s former owners) Cal and Patsy (Dunville) when they owned it, they could only do so much themselves when it came to operating the club and offering food. Then Covid hit. It was getting hard for them to have to staff here. It was too much. Food choices were down to hotdogs and sandwiches. We were all fighting in here to get a sandwich or a hot dog while supplies lasted. Augusta tried last year to find someone to handle food, too.”

Enter Maracle and Smart, longtime friends who operated a food truck on the Territory in the past, and who share a mutual love of food.

“Kevin loves cooking, catering and everything related to that,” Maracle said. “We had a chip truck on the Reserve two years ago in the middle of Covid and you know what, that’s what brings a smile to his face, and to mine: seeing somebody enjoying a good plate of food. So we thought why not give something back to not just our community, but the surrounding area, and what better than food? Everybody loves food.”

On this day, hiring staff was at the top of mind, but both perked up when asked what kind of food will be served inside The Den.

“We’ve been really having a hard time creating our menu and setting our prices because we want to be affordable,” Maracle said. “Sure, we have to make money, but at the same time, we want to be affordable for everybody who comes in here.”

As for what will be on the menu, The Den’s eats will be akin to the Briar Fox course itself: sprawling and varied.

“I’d say it’s a little bit of our heritage from Tyendinaga incorporated with everything else,” Maracle said. “It’s going to be a sitdown menu in my eyes, like going to Montana’s. There’ll be a little bit of everything. You want just a hamburger, you can get a hamburger. You want a steak, you can get a steak. You want prime rib, you can get prime rib.”

Smart plans to chef up some traditional Mohawk fares as well.

“There’ll be corn soup, Indian tacos, fresh fish fries, stuff like that,” he said.

All with an emphasis on affordable, and local, they added.

“We want everybody to come here and feel like they’re at home,” Maracle said. “Everything we’re using is fresh — not frozen — from the burger patties all the way to the chicken wings, and everything in between. We’re going to use fresh meat, which is sourced locally. We’re all about that: local farmers,

local butcher shops. If we can source as much local product as we can, that gives a lot of people peace of mind.”

For now, The Den plans to be open seven days a week during the golf season, which means they’ll close during the offseason. But both Maracle and Smart hope things will go well enough that they can open year round at some point.

They’ll plan to open nice and early, for the early tee time lovers. Morning food offerings will include muffins, various breakfast sandwiches and possibly even smoothies.

Lunch and dinner options will come from the menu, with Maracle and Smart planning to spend most of their time on site overseeing the operation.

“I love food,” Smart said. “When I was a little bit younger, I was travelling and got into cooking and I started catering a little bit. When I’d see people enjoying my food, that’s what brought joy to me. What does the community get out of this? Hopefully we can bring people together to visit and socialize.”

The course itself will offer food opportunities for The Den, such as club nights, which happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays, meaning there will be some busy nights guaranteed.

“Open House is the 16th of April,” Maracle said. “We’re collaborating with the course, there will be free appetizers, free food for the day,” he added, noting they expect between 300 and 400 people to attend.

Then, there’s no turning back.

“We’ll be open full time as soon as the golf course is open to the public,” he said.

Just like an experienced golfer approaching a putt on the 18th with a personal best on the line, Maracle and Smart are focused, confident and feeling good about their game.

“This is a good opportunity here, I think,” Smart said.

Jan Murphy is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Belleville Intelligencer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Jan Murphy, Local Journalism Initiative

Original Published on Apr 05, 2023 at 08:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Belleville Intelligencer   Toronto, Ontario
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