The first time there were tours of an under-construction Butcher & the Boar, it was in downtown Minneapolis at the invitation of chef/owner Jack Riebel. Now, more than a decade later, the restaurant of the same name has a new location, new owners and a fresh story behind the bourbon- and smoked-eats eatery.

On Feb. 7, the reimagined Butcher & the Boar will open in the city's North Loop. It's now under the umbrella of Jester Concepts restaurant group, which also owns familiar names like Borough, Parlour, Monello, Constantine, and P.S. Steak. Owners Mike DeCamp and Brent Frederick both knew Riebel well. And as excited as the two are about opening a restaurant in one of Minneapolis' most restaurant-dense neighborhoods, they're both considerably more reserved than Riebel was on that first tour in 2012. Much has changed since then: The Twin Cities restaurant landscape is noticeably different and it's missing the presence of Riebel, who died from cancer in late 2021.

To understand where the new restaurant fits into the current culinary climate, context is required. And for that we have to go back to the beginning.

The original Butcher & the Boar was the first restaurant Riebel built from the ground up, despite an already long, storied career. He'd worked at the original La Belle Vie and helmed the kitchen at the Dakota jazz venue/restaurant for several years. At the Butcher & the Boar he was chef and part owner. The result was everything he wanted: loud, fun, full of people and bourbon with a thick perfume of grilled meats that wrapped each guest like a big hug.

It opened to immediate success, built upon all those details he'd labored over: the sausages, the penny-tiled floor, rough-hewed wood and substantive brown liquor all dazzled diners and critics. It was the Star Tribune's Restaurant of the Year in 2012, and the national media embraced Riebel, who was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest.

But, the fun times didn't last. After a fallout with investors, Riebel left Butcher & the Boar and its ownership in 2014. Another founding owner and longtime industry pro, Tim Rooney, died in 2017. The restaurant managed to carry on until September 2020, when it closed so abruptly it left people with special occasions planned (and deposits) scrambling.

Which brings us to today. A restaurant that has been technically closed for years and saddled with ghosts of good times and lost founders seems like a strange candidate to be one of the most hotly anticipated restaurant of 2023, and yet ...

"Soon after it went into bankruptcy, I called our lawyers," said Frederick. "I knew there was a way to do it right."

Frederick secured the Butcher & the Boar's name, recipes and an opportunity to stage a comeback. He did not buy the building that had housed the original, though. A competing restaurant group took possession and opened a similarly named restaurant in 2021.

He was undeterred. Frederick said they were already looking for space in the North Loop, saying "It's a safer neighborhood and we love it over here."

Where they landed, on N. 3rd Street, is just two blocks from Borough/Parlour. "It feels like this space wanted to be a restaurant," he said. The one-time office building is now filled with upholstered booths, a bar lined with vintage book spines, and a healthy amount of leather and tile.

Jester's co-owner Mike DeCamp was the longtime chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie, a job Riebel held previously. That restaurant was the pinnacle of fine dining in its day. (La Belle Vie is also another restaurant that closed and Jester, under the guidance of DeCamp and Frederick, successfully reopened it as P.S. Steak.)

The ways Butcher & the Boar will honor its history are baked into its structure — even if it is in a different part of town. For one, there's a new penny floor. On the day we walked through, a crew of three men were on their knees, painstakingly placing each one. Frederick's voice was tinged with the same "what was I thinking?" tone Riebel's carried when he ruefully shared how many pennies it actually cost to install.

And there's a Jack Riebel dining room, a private table with a huge chandelier walled off in the heart of the new space.

Riebel's widow, Kathryne Cramer, a revered industry professional who for years worked the wine program at Borough, is part of the restaurant's ownership. And 1% of all sales will benefit St. Paul College's Jack Riebel Memorial Culinary Scholarship for aspiring chefs.

With all of its nods to the past, it's also a room ready to chart its own course.

One notable new addition is a parking lot, a rarity in the popular North Loop neighborhood. Adding free valet parking, which Jester's other restaurants offer, is also on the table.

Inside, the space opens up to a coat room, front bar and open kitchen. The kitchen has a two-sided grill that rolls up and down, the open-flame cooking doubling as dinner entertainment. The Riebel room is in the center, and in the back is a second dining space and bar, the Char Bar, where new chef Ian Gray will have room to play around with the menu.

Gray comes to the project from Martina in Linden Hills, another open-flame kitchen. Gray also was chef-owner of the critically acclaimed Gray House from 2012 to 2014, and ran two seasonal mobile food operations, including the Smoking Cow, which highlighted smoked meats.

"I feel like I'm exactly where I should be," Gray said, standing in the unfinished kitchen. In addition to the meaty reputation, Gray is excited to bring in more vegetarian options than were on the original Butcher menu. A smoked carrot sandwich from the Smoking Cow might be making a comeback.

In addition to being more inclusive of those who don't eat meat, the restaurant also gives equal bar billing to its nonalcoholic drinks as its boozy ones. "It's important to celebrate that and have equal billing," said Frederick. For example, the menu will offer a traditional Old Fashioned, a Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned with brandy, and an NA Old Fashioned.

The Butcher & the Boar will open Feb. 7; reservations are now open. The Char Bar and a planned patio will be added at a later date.

Butcher & the Boar

901 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-886-1769, Opens Feb. 7.