Restaurant of the Year: Butcher & the Boar

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2012 - 3:55 PM

Chef and co-owner Jack Riebel is at the heart of the restaurant.

Here's how Butcher & the Boar chef/co-owner Jack Riebel describes the crowd levels at his nine-month-old sensation: "We're Bar La Grassa busy," he said with a laugh. "That's the litmus test in this town."

That baton just might be in the process of getting passed, because it has been obvious since opening day in March that Riebel has struck a chord. What is perhaps most admirable about the Star Tribune's 10th annual Restaurant of the Year is that it's a serious venture that doesn't take itself too seriously, other than to foster some serious fun.

No other enterprise comes close to the restaurant's seamless alchemy of both vaguely similar and polar-opposite attributes. Think barbecue joint, Southern smokehouse, butcher shop, beach shack, German-Minnesotan church basement, back-yard grill, gastropub, Midwestern farm kitchen, watering hole, epicurean shop and probably a dozen other never-previously-paired archetypes.

Now seamlessly roll them into a single entity, as if the combination was utterly obvious. Destined, even. That's how Riebel's brain must work, because that's the Butcher & the Boar.

Not that Riebel is a one-man show. All restaurants are team efforts, but the Butcher & the Boar's human resource roster is a particularly impressive collective skill set.

Peter Botcher's charcuterie- and sausage-making gifts pretty much define "gold standard," barkeep Jerald Hansen has quickly and irreversibly turned Minneapolis into a bourbon-drinking town, pastry chef Sarah Botcher's work fits into her colleagues' savory efforts and general manager Andrea Karsjens and her service crew greet the daily front-of-house tidal wave with cheery aplomb.

Co-owner Tim Rooney constantly tweaks the copper-toned property. So far he's converted a former parking lot into a beer garden -- summer's premier see-and-be-seen outdoor venue -- and later tented part of it against winter weather. Next up: a basement-level bar and dining room catering to private events.

Still, the nexus of all this infectious talent is, naturally, Riebel, a cyclone of creative energy who is cooking with his whole heart. It's a thrill to behold.

Minneapolis has never seen anything quite like the Butcher & the Boar, and already it seems impossible to imagine the city without it.

Butcher & the Boar, 1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com

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