Butcher & Bee Late Night Dining on Upper King
By: Antonia Krenza & Laney Roberts
On a mission, after a grueling Saturday night at work, my friend and I decided to hit up the "honest to goodness" sandwiches at Butcher & Bee. I had previously staked out the whereabouts and was sure I knew where I was going.
We drove back and forth under the overpass on King Street a total of six times. Yes, sad, I know. I guess I should have heeded their Facebook® page that directs — "Ask your pedicab driver to take you towards the Recovery Room and look right."
Once inside we were greeted promptly by owner, Michael Shem-Tov (Mellow Mushroom), who asked us if this was our first time and directed us to the chalkboard menu, written neatly and labeled "late night". My decision making process is impeded by my symptomatic glu
ttony. My friend shares the same affliction.
Butcher & Bee is so much more than a sandwich shop. Yes, there is an array of sandwich options, but the "sides" which can be a meal in itself, shine just as brightly. For our three options we chose the falafel plate, a side of buffalo Grouper collars, and the pastrami wings.
Let me start with the pastrami wings. As an avid wing lover and even bigger pastrami fan, I was salivating over the descriptor alone. The saltiness and the commonly referred to "fruity pebbles" taste of the coriander were perfectly married. The succulent meat of the wing pulled tenderly from the bone. The sauce accompaniment, keeping with the theme, was mustard based. If I had to make a suggestio
n, really just one to further my gluttonous joy, it would be — why not a Swiss mornay infused with the mustard? I'm just saying!
When Michael himself brought out the Grouper "collars", I was pleased to find a stack of buffalo red, fin-on fish throats. Yes, "collars" sounds exceedingly more palatable. The presentation was simple, rustic and challenging in an Anthony Bourdain sort of way. Seriously, the idea of squatting in a Panamanian beach hut gnawing fish throats with Anthony Bourdain is sexy. The dish lived up to the fantasy — great heat, crispy exterior and moist, sweet Grouper morsels.
The falafel plate was my friend's uncontested choice and it was the perfect balance to the spiciness of the Grouper "collars" and saltiness of the wings, bringing bright acidity and citrus to the mix of dishes. The creamy, lemon-garlic notes of the hummus countered the "in your face" heat of the buffalo seasoning. The herbaceous meatiness of the falafel (yes, I know there is no meat in falafels) married well with the salt and coriander. These three dishes took our palates on a trip around the universe, each plate a distinctive planet of its own. Cosmic!
And then there was the décor. Everything old is new again. Repurposing is the new "black" in interior design. Butcher & Bee makes this a nuevo-chic concept. Old tractor seats, steno chairs and kitchen stools are refitted for dinners' seating. The long tables of reclaimed wood are designed for family style seating, engendering a sense of community in the dining experience. Even the bathroom reflects the decorative philosophy — recycled hand clothes instead of paper towels and locally produced hygiene products. Ambience taken to a new level.
Brilliant bites. Table service by the owner himself. Inspired décor. Butcher & Bee is a slam dunk. A unanimous Five Tomatoes from Eat This!
But wait! What about the "honest to goodness" sandwiches? If the pillowy, freshly made pita bread on the falafel plate is any indication of what we can expect in their "honest to goodness" sandwich experience, then I already know what I'll order on my next visit.
Photographs by Stacy Howell