Mystery Brewing Company has done it again, and have unveiled a project that has been brewing for three years: the Mystery Brewing Kitchen.
Exposed brick, bold blue accent walls, a wall of pure sunlight, bookshelves stacked with games, a piano open for community use - and of course good beer, a new robust menu, and the upcoming spring beer release - Mystery Brewing Company’s kitchen and menu is a Mystery no more: it’s the perfect place for an after work brew or a Sunday brunch.
Sitting inside on a brisk, yet sunny afternoon, Michael Malek, the lead chef at Mystery’s kitchen, sits in the window lighting, working on perfecting his menu: keeping the core plates, rotating specials, and crafting the dishes to coexist with the beers on tap.
“In the sense of food, I’m not sticking with a specific theme – whatever we feel like cooking that day or that week, we’re going to do it,” Malek said. “That keeps our customers guessing a lot, and I don’t want to do that too much on a food menu, I don’t want to change too much up at one time– but I do want it to be ever changing, especially throughout the seasons.”
When Malek agreed to this gig, his first move was to make himself a familiar face at the Eno River Farmers Market, as his aim is to have a community atmosphere at the public house, but also involve the community and its farmers in the kitchen, using ingredients from local people, farms, and businesses.
He wants to foster these community relationships, where, for example, farmers could come in and offer a crop they have that week, and from that, the kitchen would create a dish, using the ingredients they receive – “we want our doors open for collaboration,” Malek said.
Like the beers, which have a stationary core four and 14 novellas, or rotating seasonal beers, Mystery experiments and keeps it interesting and their menu will be no different: they’ll keep the deviled eggs, but they will appeal to the current season, but the classic pimento cheese sandwich will remain a staple, as is the same with many of the soups and current menu items.
Just last week they were offering beer brats, even though they aren’t on the menu, and they just received green strawberries: those guys are for pickling.
But the strawberries aren’t the only thing they’ve pickled, as their pickled red onions add tang to the juicy and tender short ribs sandwich – that happens to be piled onto delicious bread from a company called Strongarm Bakery in Raleigh.
Their menu boasts classics with a Mystery spin, featuring farms including Eye of the Rooster Farm and Sugar Hill Farm right now.
All of this is the creation of both Malek and his Sous Chef Kaitlyn Roman.
For Malek, this is the first time he has opened and ran a kitchen himself, though he has a stacked resume as a line cook, helping other kitchens in their opening seasons, and of course, he’s over-qualified on the fresh factor – he’s been cooking the freshest foods since a young age – catching fresh salmon out of Lake Michigan and cooking with his family.
He attributes the culmination and success of the kitchen to Mystery Owner Erik Myers, House Manager Ari Sanders, and Roman.
“They are such a team for me, a backbone,” he said. “The menu is 100 percent both mine and [Roman’s] creation; we play off each other really well,” as they have worked together for two years prior to heading off Mystery’s kitchen.
Roman has a knack for taking fresh ingredients and throwing them together to create a culinary masterpiece – she knew cooking was something she wanted to pursue professionally from a young age, as she grew up learning family traditions through cooking with her mother and grandmother.
Mystery is currently bustling and bursting at the seams with ideas, creativity, and endless plans.
Weekends, Sundays especially, have been busy for Mystery these days and probably won’t to slow down as Feb. 25 was their Pub Grand Reopening and Mystery’s 5th birthday with three new beer releases and a huge turnout; this weekend is St. Patrick’s Day with a special beer on tap; Sunday, March 19 is their Spring Beer Release, switching out the 14 current Novellas; Beer Church is every Sunday with a special local beer on tap where one can buy a pint and keep the glass; and lastly (for now) each Sunday at noon, Mystery throws down with a killer brunch menu.
As they slowly introduce brunch on Sundays, the menu pops with flavors like pimento cheese eggs benedict, a traditional breakfast sandwich, biscuits and gravy, and more delicious takes.
Mystery can’t stop and they won’t stop innovating and creating.
“I’m really happy, and I’m excited, I think there is a lot of room for growth,” Malek said. “But at the end of the day, we’re just trying to have fun with food.”