Jack Riebel's grandma would be proud.
The acclaimed Minneapolis chef is a bourbon man. Has been since he was old enough to drink -- when his mother's mother introduced him to what is called America's native spirit.
"Wild Turkey 101 was her poison -- so I'm a 101 guy, too," Riebel said. "We were going to bury her with a bottle of bourbon. But at 85 she told us, 'Oh, goodness, don't waste your good bottle of whiskey on me.' True story."
Riebel is at the helm of the most anticipated restaurant of the year: Butcher & the Boar. Just opened in downtown Minneapolis, it has captured the zeitgeist of the dining scene. All that is hot right now can be found here -- artisanal meats, craft beer and, of course, lots and lots of bourbon. Here are nine things you'll want to know about Butcher & the Boar.
1. Beer and sausage combo was just the beginning. Initially, Riebel had a simple idea for a downtown beer garden with good meaty snacks. His ambitions quickly grew until he was commanding a 60-person operation that could very well redefine barbecue in the Twin Cities.
2. This isn't just a restaurant -- it's a meat factory. Customers dine within earshot of the open kitchen and its Texas wood-burning grill. But just below in the basement is another work space: a larger production kitchen running 18 hours a day. Sous chef Peter Botcher oversees a half-dozen cooks churning out all manner of sausage. It's where you'll also find the two smokers.
3. They're serving boar and it is truly wild. The feral pig comes from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, Texas. "They literally spot the pigs from the truck, shoot them and then process them in the truck," Riebel said. He was confident in saying Butcher & the Boar is already the nation's largest purchaser of wild boar.
4. Hennepin Avenue will now be called Bourbon Street. Bar manager Jerald Hansen made a pilgrimage to Kentucky to handpick the bar's collection of 65 bourbons. One of the crown jewels is a nine-year Knob Creek single-barrel bourbon. The bar's 2-ounce pours will cost $5 to $30. Flights are $12. If bourbon's not your thing, there are 30 tap beers and 28 wines by the glass.
5. The floor is covered with pennies -- 8,000 of them. From the entryway to the end of the bar, co-owner/builder Tim Rooney coated the ground with 8,000 copper coins. "They were delivered by an armored truck," Riebel said. "There's a few dimes in there, too."
6. There's only one thing on a bun. And that's by design (it's the footlong hot dog). Riebel designed his menu for maximum sharing. The sausages hover around $9-$12. Riebel seemed particularly proud of his $10 turkey braunschweiger, which comes in a glass canning jar with homemade rye crackers. Larger meats start at $18. The biggest slab on the menu is the 30-ounce "cowboy steak," priced at $80 and meant to be shared.
7. Here's a parking guide -- you'll need it. The parking at 12th and Hennepin can be intimidating. Best option is valet. There are 18 free spots in what is being called "the lucky lot" next to the building. The garage behind the restaurant is $4 after 4 p.m. or if you're lucky, grab a meter.
8. There will be a second opening, so to speak. The massive, unfinished beer garden has attracted as much fanfare as the interior. Riebel says it feels like he's opening a second restaurant on the same property. It'll have room for 150 people and feature a full-on bar (also with 30 taps). There will be a fireplace, plus views of the IDS Center. He's hoping to have it completed by May.
9. Grandma is honored on the menu. That's her: the Pickled Heart Marcella. A lot of love goes into that dish, named for Riebel's bourbon-loving nana (Marcella Strom). The hearts come from grass-fed cows on the StoneBridge beef farm in Long Prairie. The recipe has been in the family 100 years, Riebel said, passed down from one cook to the next. Just like their love of bourbon.