Read The Mix
Butcher and the Boar: Swoon-Worthy Sausages, Bourbon and Beer
By Joy Summers
We’re working to revitalize the historic Harmon District,” Chef Jack Riebel explained standing in the hollow in the space that would become his new restaurant, the Butcher and the Boar. This was news to me; at the time, I had never even known there was such a district.
That has changed drastically in the past few months because of new development, including the massive beer garden that accompanies Riebel’s restaurant. This once sleepy block is now bustling with activity. The Harmon District has become a destination. (The area is generally bounded by Yale Place, 11th Street South, Hennepin Avenue and Spruce Place.)
There were some similar suspicions when the former fine dining chef (having at one time cooked at La Belle Vie and more recently the Dakota) announced his new menu would be dominated by sausages, bourbon and beer. Those doubters are happily eating their words alongside the signature foot long hotdogs.
After its being open for a few months, I’ve probably eaten here no less than seven times, well above the average reviewer visit ratio. The thing is, I’m waiting for something to critique. I’m continually found swooning against one of the rustic wood furnishings or lobbing my head back in another guttural moan. So, instead of offering criticisms, let’s focus on the few cannot-miss dishes.
The Bourbon 101 sausage is a spicy, lightly sweet pork sausage served over a salad, topped with a fried egg. The egg yolk bursts and spills over the dish, adding a nice cohesion to the flavors and giving it a fun breakfast-for-dinner twinge.
The creamy, cheesy stone-ground grits are everything a Southern gal could ask for (not that I’m Southern, but I tried them out on one for good measure and she did the swooning thing). A pristine white mixture, cradled in a cast iron pan, they were hearty without being heavy.
The meats are responsibly sourced, the boar and the beef is all single-sourced. Chef Riebel and his staff plan with care where their meats come from and how the animals are treated.
While it’s a meat-centric menu, vegetarians can still enjoy a very satisfying meal compiled of sides (which I understand is a common complaint, but give this a shot), such as grits, wood-planked mushrooms, bourbon glazed carrots and blackened cauliflower.
Seafood dishes are also delicious, particularly the booya. Inspired by a St. Paul neighborhood stew, it’s hearty, comforting and best described as a nontraditional bouillabaisse.
Another plus is that almost everything on the menu is gluten-free and the servers are happy to steer those with sensitivities towards the safe plates.
All of this and I still haven’t even mentioned the inspired desserts—the s’more has chocolate inside the marshmallow; the rotating sausage plate; the Flintstonian-size long rib; that foot- long dog! I could write rhapsodies about the bourbons and the head-spinning beer list. There’s simply not enough room to write about all the ways I love this restaurant that balances elegance with burly finishes. Chef Riebel is doing everything his own way, and the path he’s forging is one I’ll follow anywhere.
Joy Summers grew up in northern Minnesota in a food-obsessed family, so seeking out great meals is in her DNA. A freelance writer, she has written for CBS Minnesota, Lavender and City Pages. She lives in St. Paul with her husband and young son.
Butcher and the Boar
1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
Gluten free: yes