Through a stroke of good timing and the help of generous friends, we found ourselves seated at the soft opening of the Butcher & the Boar, the new bourbon- and meat-driven eatery helmed by Chef Jack Riebel (formerly of Dakota Jazz Club and La Belle Vie).
While a review will have to wait until the doors officially open and the restaurant has had time to breathe, last night’s experience (full menu here, for what it’s worth) was too noteworthy to go unrecorded. Three stray thoughts and then a bite of our food:
1) The Manhattan we tried at the bar stands up to the best of them. It was balanced, clean, and strong as an ox. Good enough to compel a return visit just to haunt the bar. The phrase “this place has 65 kinds of bourbon” floated past our ears at one point, and it sounded like a melody.
2) The overall menu concept is coherent without being limited — it’s as if a Texas barbecue joint and a tapas restaurant had a baby and raised it strictly but with a lot of love. Standout bites included perfectly executed and slightly spicy grits (a dish rarely done well north of the Mason-Dixon), nicely elevated and unorthodox jalapeno poppers (above) stuffed with house-made peanut butter, golden raisins and a bit of cotija-like cheese, and wild boar ham served with mini molasses bread toasts and delicate house bread and butter pickles.
3) This is the direction that Upper Midwestern food should be going. (Among others) Haute Dish gets it; In Season gets it; Tilia gets it; on one hand warm, hearty, casual, and simple food, but on the other hand, well-sourced ingredients, sophisticated twists, and killer service.
Now that bite: a drop-you-where-you-stand massive smoked beef long rib. Butcher & the Boar entrees will be priced from $28-36 and are meant to be shared, which is good — this sleek, mean-looking bludgeon would take down anyone not actively rowing on a crew team. Molasses (blackstrap if I had to guess) helped to impart ebony color and a slightly sweet but biting flavor. The exterior had a delectable crust but the rich flavor penetrated all the way through the melt-in-your-mouth tender meat, and the dish popped with a perfect amount of salt.
Butcher & the Boar is slated to open Tuesday, Mar. 6.
Butcher & the Boar, 1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403; 612.222.7171