With the past few brutal years the restaurant industry has endured, it's hard not to root for a comeback. Especially one so beloved as Butcher & the Boar.
The restaurant that had anchored the corner of 12th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis for eight years was one of the more painful closings of the pandemic. A year later, a new restaurant (with a similar name) took over the bourbon-soaked space, raising the question of whether the Twin Cities had settled up with a certain kind of high-end, meat-smoked, Old Fashioned-swilling place. Well, we hadn't.
Earlier this month, the Butcher & the Boar returned — this time under the ownership of Jester Concepts and to a new address on one of the few still-quiet blocks of the North Loop. It's not so quiet there anymore, as the restaurant instantly was flooded with customers both nostalgic for an old favorite and eager to make new, beefy memories.
Location: 901 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-886-1769, butcherandtheboarmpls.com. Ignore the address if you're using GPS or a ride-share service to get there, and simply head to the corner of 3rd St. and 8th Av. N. For those driving, there's free valet parking. Reservations are on Tock.
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
The vibe: It's new yet familiar, a beloved dining den having eased right into an office building. Despite the unlikely location, fans of the original Butcher & the Boar may find themselves mingling with visible ghosts of Butcher's past. It begins with the buzz. The place is as lively as any debaucherous, bourbon-fueled night from the old Butcher, the room's energy and din bringing to mind that of North Loop neighbors Bar La Grassa and Nolo's Kitchen.
Designed by Shea, leather and velvet booths, the signature penny-tiled floor, a woodsy bar mounted with a softly lit boar's head, and space-defining windowed walls make the place feel plush and endless. A web of twinkling string lights over one part of the dining room conjures a backyard grill-out in the dead of summer. The kitchen breaks the fourth wall, bringing chef de cuisine Ian Gray and his team's plating action into view. There's ample seating for large parties, plus private dining areas visibly connected to the main dining room.
The food: A steakhouse set in steamy New Orleans would be the best way to describe the cuisine. Cajun touches include a blue crab beignet appetizer; Central Grocery gets a nod in a Muffuletta salad ($20); and there are tributes to NOLA classics Brennan's and Cafe du Monde in the form of two desserts — bananas Foster and a crème brûlée, respectively (both $14). Appetizers (here, called Snacks) and sides all skew toward Deep South fare, including a warm and gooey spin on pimento cheese ($14), wood-grilled oysters ($20) and cheesy grits ($8).
Then comes Butcher & the Boar's main event: meat, in all its forms. There are five kinds of sausage, a specialty ($16-$18 or available in a $65 sampler); house-made charcuterie; and steaks in cuts you may have never considered. A Manhattan steak was the market-price "butcher's cut" the night we visited ($42); tender and rosy in the middle, it was like a mega filet mignon, perfectly adorned with cherry demi glacé and creamy leeks.
Perhaps the most famous of Butcher & the Boar 1.0's menu has returned: the beef long rib (market price, $65 when we dined). Its scale is utterly impressive; this slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth meat, glazed with Tabasco and molasses, and with a necessary mountain of tangy slaw, could easily feed four. With accompaniments and smaller mains surrounding it, it's a worthy centerpiece for a friend-filled feast. Dining alone or in a pair? Go easy on the starters if you want to save room for this barbecue marvel. A side of sour cream-chive mashed potatoes ($8) and Buffalo-style "red hot" Brussels sprouts ($12), however, should be mandatory. Don't worry, boxing up leftovers is encouraged.
The drinks: The bourbon-heavy cocktail menu from Michael Lindgren is deceivingly large. Sure, there are essentially six basic drinks, with Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and martinis well represented. But within those categories, choose from the classic preparation, a more creative spin, and a nonalcoholic version. I was curious how these typically spirit-forward drinks would get by without alcohol, but the promise of a martini "served ice cold" steered me to the intriguingly briny Pearls Before Swine ($14), made with oyster shell-infused vodka (!) and Manzanilla sherry.
Red, white and sparkling wines each have a house option for $13, and about a dozen additional picks. There are a dozen beers on tap, all local ($6-$8), some bottles and cans, and nonalcoholic brews, too.
Check, please: There's a 22% service and hospitality charge on every bill, which goes toward workers' hourly rates and healthcare benefits. This is tacked on in lieu of gratuity, though there's still a tip line should you want to contribute more.