Danny Glassmaker wanted to bring some funk to Benicia.
The funk is the vibe, the charm, the feel of this New Orleans-style eatery. Tucked between Benicia Bait & Tackle Shop and Jon’s Hair Loft on Claverie Way, it’s the kind of down-to-earth place you hear about from people in the know, people who plan their Wednesday afternoon around a Creole Jambalaya—the mid-week special—done right.
“Our concept is to keep it real,” says Glassmaker, who opened The Workshop with his wife Naomi in 2013. “It looks like a little po’ boy hole in the wall and our hours are kinda weird, like what you’d find in New Orleans.”
Having lived in NOLA for 12 years, Glassmaker knows his way around Cajun and Creole cuisine. He grew up in Benicia, but fell for New Orleans after visiting the city when he was 18. At 22, he moved there, and in 1997 graduated from the Culinary Arts Program at Delgado Community College. His honed his skills working for various New Orleans chefs. “Most of our menu is traditional, classic recipes made in the 1800s,” says Glassmaker. “Everything has my twist on it, but the foundation—like how to make roux or how to blacken meat—there are certain techniques that I keep legit.”
While a touch of California influence can be found in specials like the vegan butternut squash soup, The Workshop’s Southern authenticity is visible from the moment you sit down. Three kinds of Louisiana hot sauce grace each table, along with Glassmaker’s homemade Cajun seasoning. And napkins are kept in coffee tins from Cafe Du Monde—the New Orleans institution for beignets.
Naomi, who runs the restaurant’s front end, says, “People from New Orleans tell us the food reminds them of home. It’s the best they’ve had in the area, which is what we’re aiming for.”
The menu features six different po’ boys, including Shrimp, Brisket, Smoked Sausage (with andouille sausage from Baton Rouge), and Caramelized Roasted Veggie. There’s a daily soup special (I had the Creole Cream of Cauliflower, which was fantastic), a spinach and roasted veggie salad, fried sweet hushpuppies, and a hot special like Breaded Pork Chops (Tuesdays), Cajun Chicken Pot Pie (Thursdays), or Beignets & Beans (Saturdays). “Everything is fresh and made in house from scratch,” says Glassmaker. “It’s simplicity with quality.”
Though the cuisine was inspired by Glassmaker’s time in New Orleans, he’s had his eye on the location since he was a kid, when it was home to Reel Fish & Chips. “I grew up in the neighborhood, so it was always a familiar place,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘That would be a cool little workshop.’
A few decades later, he’s come full circle, giving his old neighborhood that New Orleans funk. “We have something that’s really different,” he says, “and the community has made us feel welcome.”
The Workshop is open Tues.-Fri. 11am-2:30pm, and Sat. 8-10:30am and 11am-2:30pm.
511 Claverie Way, Benicia