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    The highly-anticipated Butchertown Grocery is set to open Nov. 18 at 1076 E. Washington St. The project (which has been closely attached to Chef Bobby Benjamin) revealed two other partners this week: lawyer Jon Saloman and musician Patrick Hallahan, of My Morning Jacket fame. The trio is joined by beverage director Marie Zahn (previously of Meat and St. Charles Exchange), chef de cuisine Tina Dyer (previously of Bistro Le Relais and Seviche) and assistant general manager Derric Perkins.

    Butchertown Grocery will feature not only the restaurant space, but an upstairs performance and bar space, with late night offerings - they’ll be open until 4 a.m. on the weekends.

    Saloman saw this space, previously home to The Blind Pig and Meat, as an opportunity to bring something new his neighborhood, which has already seen growth in recent years: Butchertown neighbors Play Dance Bar and Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery are both in their second years of operation. Saloman brought Hallahan on board, knowing the musician’s love for food and cultivating experiences for others could bring a unique aspect to the business. Chef Bobby Benjamin (previously of The Oak Room, La Coop: Bistro a Vins and Nashville’s Union Common), joined the project soon after Hallahan. This is Chef Benjamin’s first restaurant opening as a partner.

    Butchertown Grocery’s plan includes a charitable arm, Butchertown Social Aid & Pleasure Club (B.S.A.P.C.),  that has already sponsored several local projects including a research survey to see if Beargrass Creek can be developed into a park connecting Waterfront Park to Cherokee Park. Inspired by “social safety net” groups in New Orleans, B.S.A.P.C. hopes to support the Louisville community through many different outlets including promotion of local art and culture, as well as the restoration of Louisville’s natural resources.

     

    So...is it a restaurant or a grocery store?

    It’s a restaurant, bar and social club. Both the name and the decor of Butchertown Grocery pay homage to Gunkel’s Grocery, the store that sat in the Washington St. space near the end of the 1800s. Hattie Gunkel operated the business and may have lived upstairs in the space that now serves as the stage and bar area.

    Many of the original elements of this 19th century building remain intact: wooden floors and exposed brick set an interior antique tone. Photos of Butchertown at the time of the grocery’s operation were dug up and used as inspiration for the restaurant’s decor: slate grey and white tiles cover the bar and grey tabletops will be added before the restaurant opens. The chef’s table will be a centerpiece in the downstairs space, custom-made from wood reclaimed from Whiskey Row.

     

    “You can try charcuterie, if you’ve not had that before. It’s alright just to call it a meat plate, too.”

    The opening menu at Butchertown Grocery features food that’s  high-quality and upscale, but Benjamin stresses that it’s also approachable. There are hearty staples - burgers, chicken and waffles, rotisserie chicken, items smothered in cheese. Some salads will have a twist: instead of a pour of dressing, you may find a scoop of jalapeno-bleu cheese ice cream, the cheese sourced from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. There will also be fancier fare; escargot, foie gras and Benjamin’s take on Peking duck, all showcasing the skills he’s collected in the kitchens across the country.

    Many of the ingredients used will be local, and the ones that aren’t - like the lamb - will be farm to table offerings sourced from places that Benjamin has hand-selected. Meat for the burgers will be ground in-house. The price of an evening at Butchertown Grocery will vary , as the menu prices can start around $12 and go up. If you’re wondering, $25 can leave patrons just as satisfied as $50. Charcuterie boards will vary in price from $12 - $25(ish), ranging from snack-sized to hefty. The menu will be seasonal with some year-round staples and a 7-course tasting menu will be available.

    The bar upstairs

    The bar upstairs will officially remain nameless. A staircase on side of the building (they’ve added a lift for those who can’t take the steps) leads up and opens into what will be a performance space. A small stage sits in the corner, facing the bar. A second kitchen is also upstairs - it’s here that they’ll make their gnocchi in-house, slice local meats for charcuterie boards and serve up their late-night eats - like chicken biscuits.

    “We’re combining our efforts here to make something that we want to go to,” says Hallahan. “One of the overarching points that really drew me closer and closer into this project is this beautiful canvas on which we can paint whatever we want and create a bar that we would like to go to. We put that kind of care to go into every detail that we see in our travels into…at the end of the day...iit should feel like what your living room would want to feel like.”

    So who’ll be performing at this unnamed bar and performance space? Hallahan wanted to create a space that could be filled with many forms of entertainment.

    “We are designing a performance space that pretty much accommodates anything. We don’t want to be just a music venue, we want to feature spoken words, small theatre, if a local author wants to do book readings… We want to open this up to pretty much anything.” Hallahan also threw around the idea of hosting artist residencies and events like The Moth.

    The space showcases music well, as the group found out when they held an after-Forecastle party there for My Morning Jacket and friends.

    While Hallahan surely has some great connections in the music industry, he’s not making any promises when it comes to bookings. He did mention, however, that friends will often call to ask for venue recommendations in town - perhaps we can look forward to seeing some big names playing intimate shows at 1076 E. Washington St.

     

    Bottoms up, Butchertown

    Marie Zahn knows how to make a drink, and she’s created a program to compliment Butchertown Grocery’s food. The restaurant and bar will feature a number of classic cocktails, many made with Zahn’s twists, with infused liquors and a light hand on the simple syrup. Drink selections and cocktails won’t be bourbon-focused, Zahn has actually made the bar brandy-heavy, using spirits from neighboring Copper & Kings.

    Cocktail prices will start at $6 for wells, with the most expensive drink coming in at $13. Most drinks will be around $10. The bar’s first cocktail list will feature drinks all tied into Tom Waits’ songs - The Detective Up Late features Cynar and an infusion of Quill’s coffee, giving the drink a nice espresso taste with all the benefits of a caffeine IV.

    The wine list, created by Derric Perkins, will feature a number of whites and reds and a few sparkling options, as well. Price-per-glass sits around $8. Perkins, who will be taking his sommelier exam soon, will not only be able to make recommendations from the set wine list, but will also be able to bring in unique wines to pair with seasonal dishes and serve up at the chef’s table.

     

    Benjamin, Hallahan and Saloman are looking at making this place something new for Louisville and something great for Butchertown. Doors open November 18, but until then you can find out more on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


    Cover photo: Jessie Kriech-Higdon
    All other photos: Michelle Eigenheer

    Michelle Eigenheer's picture

    About Michelle Eigenheer

    A Louisville transplant beginning to appreciate all the city's small things.

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