The Butchertown Grocery experience will be whatever guests want it to be, according to the three men behind the upcoming restaurant and bar.
Like the popular choose your own adventure books from the 1980s and 1990s, the Butchertown Grocery story will start at the same place, a building located at 1076 E. Washington St.
But from there, customers can make a series of choices — do they eat downstairs in the restaurant and bar, or do they go up for a show and drinks? Do they eat a traditional meal or go for a tasting menu?
Butchertown Grocery, which is set to open on Nov. 18, will feature everything from a simple burger to pecan salad with jalapeño bleu cheese ice cream to foie gras with a truffle sauce. It will seat 75 people upstairs and another 75 people downstairs, including a 12-person chef’s table.
During a recent tour of the restaurant, which is still under construction, chef Bobby Benjamin showed off his favorite part, the kitchen, which is full of state-of-the-art equipment.
It includes a rotisserie from France that the chefs will use for chicken, duck and their twist on a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, as well as an oven range used in European kitchens for fish and vegetables. Benjamin also said they will cook sous-vide.
“This kitchen I couldn’t be more excited about because we have all kinds of exciting equipment,” he said. “It’s going to be a very fun and technical kitchen.”
Upstairs, Butchertown Grocery will hand-make gnocchi and grilled polenta bread and slice up cheese and charcuterie plates.
Although the downstairs will close at 10 p.m., the upstairs bar will run until 4 a.m. Until 3 a.m., guests can enjoy late-night bites such as chicken biscuits and beignets.
Ingredients for Butchertown Grocery will be farm-to-table, with some regionally sourced, including meats from Jay Denham’s The Curehouse, cheese from Capriole and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, and bread from Blue Dog Bakery.
There are “zero preservatives in house,” Benjamin said. “Maybe one, but that’s it, and we are talking about like Heinz ketchup.”
Prices for dinner likely will start at $25 and go up from there.
The idea for a restaurant and bar in Butchertown came from friends Patrick Hallahan, drummer for treasured Kentucky band My Morning Jacket, and Jon Salomon, an attorney at Louisville-based Tachau Meek PLC. They are partners in the restaurant venture.
“There was a need for this,” said Salomon, who lives in the neighborhood. “Our neighborhood is great in that everybody likes to hang out. I think we will have a lot of local folks here.”
Although neither have run a restaurant before, both felt like their day jobs translate well to running a hospitality business.
“I work in a client service industry so it is all about making sure people feel happy and taken care of,” Salomon said.
And through his band, Hallahan has experience creating an atmosphere that people enjoy.
“I just had a parallel love for food and music my whole life,” he said.
The upstairs bar will be a place for people to hear music, spoken word, perhaps some small theater. They don’t want to limit what type of art is performed on Butchertown Grocery’s stage, Hallahan said.
The owners also are looking at having artists-in-residence, Hallahan added, similar to the popular nightclub Largo in California.
They may also use the space for special shows just for supporters of the restaurant’s charitable arm, B.S.A.P.C., which will raise money for various causes and support different local events and initiatives.
Playing into the different atmospheres of upstairs and downstairs, Butchertown Grocery beverage director Marie Zahn — who some will remember served cocktails in that same building back when it was Meat — has created two similar, yet different cocktail menus.
The downstairs bar will feature traditional cocktails such as the vermouth and campari-based Americano, while the upstairs will feature a “twisted” version of the cocktails, Zahn said. And all the upstairs cocktails are named for Tom Waits’ songs or lyrics.
The twisted Americano, called Detective Up Late, is made with an Italian liquor made from artichokes and has notes of fig and coffee.
Douglas Riddle, president and COO of design firm Bittners, helped create Butchertown Grocery’s two looks.
The upstairs is painted dark red and has a reclaimed wood bar, wood and metal stools, and living room furniture. The upstairs is accessed by going up a staircase at the back of the building, but also is handicap accessible via a lift from the ground floor.
The downstairs features exposed red brick and wood from the original turn-of-the-century building. A sign reading “Gunkel’s Grocery Fresh Meat & Produce” was painted on the brick wall behind the bar as an homage to the grocery store that used to operate in the building.
The colors downstairs are mostly neutrals, with gray tiles on the bar, white tile floor and charcoal-colored seats made of leather and flannel.
“It is all pretty soft and quiet because we wanted the focus to be on the food,” Riddle said.
Hours of operation for Butchertown Grocery will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday downstairs, and 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday upstairs.