The Butcher and Barkeep
712 Main Street
Tucked away in the far corner of Salford Square, The Butcher and Barkeep inhabits the space formerly occupied by the East End Ale House. With the help of master carpenter John Diminio, owners Cody Ferdinand and Gerald Angelini did most of the renovations to the interior decor themselves, installing a plethora of warm colors and utilizing reclaimed barn wood torn from a building a scant mile down the road. And the boys obviously did a good job in more ways than one, as the place quickly caught on with the locals.
But it was the third partner of the proprietorship who really peaked my interest. Once I learned that Jeffrey Sacco, the former chef at the Craft Ale House in Limerick (which I had previously reviewed), would be the power-behind-the-stove, I knew that The Butcher and Barkeep – in keeping with gastropub tradition – would be giving as much (if not more) attention to the quality of the cuisine served as it would the quantity of liquid libations dispensed.
Chef Sacco’s menu is a compact affair, featuring a limited number of small plates (appetizers), 5 sandwiches, 5 entrées during dinner, and a few daily blackboard specials. This is always a good sign, in my opinion, as it indicates that the kitchen is not attempting to overextend, but is more concerned with excellence and consistency than with the multitude of choices.
The sandwiches here are particularly recommended… and topping the list is the roasted pork swimming in a tangy BBQ sauce. This is companioned by a basket of deep fried pickle chips, which, even if they are not included with a particular dish, are worth ordering as a side. Just one minor quibble: They are delicious presented au naturel… but would certainly benefit from a zippy horseradish (or other) dipping sauce.
The BLT, an interesting take on the classic bacon, lettuce & tomato combo, incorporates perfectly sautéed filets of mahi-mahi on toasted sourdough bread. The real kicker, however, is provided by a generous slathering of garlic aioli, which definitely propels the sandwich into another dimension
The burger, though – embellished with seasonal beer-glazed onions, smoked bacon, three-cheese blend, and oven-roasted tomato – a first-rate rendition of the all-American favorite, should not be overlooked… Ditto the flatbread, which changes daily, depending upon the whim of the chef. A recently sampled version offered up grilled chicken strips, sautéed peppers & onions, and cheddar cheese… Very good, indeed.
If you want to do the usual appetizer/entrée bit at dinner, the freshly tossed salads make excellent starters. The Greek salad, for instance, combined strips of romaine with dry-cured black olives, red onion, bell peppers, a lusciously creamy local goat cheese and red wine-oregano vinaigrette. But even better, in my opinion, was the seasonal salad, a beautiful amalgam of red leaf lettuce, shaved prosciutto, marvelously flavorful cornbread croutons, and a dynamite horseradish vinaigrette.
After several superlative lunches, dinner entrées were, I must admit, a tad disappointing. They were still very good… but not AS GOOD as the above-mentioned sandwiches and flatbread. The fish ‘n’ chips, for example, utilized superlatively fresh portions of grouper; but the breading lacked crispness and was a bit on the greasy side… And the fries, unfortunately, were burned. Prizes for the best fish ‘n’ chips still remain unchallenged: Sammy’s in Portland (casual) and Quo Vadis in London (upscale).
The meatloaf – a special house blend of beef, pork, and veal – was presented in layers: foundation of garlicky fingerling potatoes; Texas toast (an inordinately thick slice of bread, toasted… “Everything’s big in Texas!”); French onion gravy; meatloaf; and tiara of deep fried shoestring shallots. Great idea, but something of a mixed bag: The sliced fingerlings were firm but tender and irresistibly garlicky; the gravy on the Texas toast was nothing short of addictive, but too penuriously applied; the thick slabs of meatloaf were tasty enough but incredibly dense; the shoestring shallots, on the other hand, were generous to a fault and infinitely more flavorful than regular onions.
Desserts, which I have not sampled but definitely seem worth trying, include: cheesecake from Philly’s Night Kitchen Bakery with house-made seasonal compote; pot de crème; brownie sundae; and sticky toffee pudding cake, a fig & date cake with a toffee rum sauce.
If you’re planning to dine at The Butcher and Barkeep, please keep several items firmly in mind. The restaurant made its debut on November 20, 2013, has become wildly popular in a very short period of time… and does not accept reservations. Uh-oh. Precisely… Which means – depending upon the day and time of your arrival – you could be cooling your heels waiting to be seated.
My wife and I recently thought we’d give an early Saturday night dinner a shot before heading off to our wine tasting at the Sloan Clubhouse. We arrived just after 5:00 p.m. and managed to snare the last available table. When we left, at approximately 6:30 p.m., they were three deep at the bar and lined up in the vestibule and out the door. ‘Nough said?!
A late lunch during the week is probably the best time to put in an appearance… But if you’re hankering for dinner, I’d suggest that you make it as near the beginning of the week as possible and that you dine early… no later than around 6:00 p.m.
The Butcher and Barkeep offers patrons good food at more than reasonable prices in a casually convivial setting. It is most assuredly worthy of a visit. But your dining experience will be infinitely more enjoyable if you arrange your schedule to pay a call during off-peak hours.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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