A communal dining experience

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February 10, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

Jack Riebel’s highly anticipated Butcher & The Boar restaurant set to open late February

If you take a walk around the southwest end of downtown with Jack Riebel, you should expect to be stopped every few feet so someone can say hello. The regulars at Espresso Royale wave to him as he walks by and old friends spot him on the sidewalk and rush over to chat and shake his hand.

Even though his restaurant Butcher & The Boar hasn’t opened, Jack Riebel has become a fixture of his neighborhood — the Harmon Place Historic District that stretches from 11th Street South to Loring Park along Hennepin Avenue. Once home to Minneapolis’ auto industry, it will soon be home to a restaurant that Riebel hopes will be a neighborhood bar for downtown residents and workers. It’s scheduled to open the end of February at the corner of 12th and Hennepin.

“Being part of the Harmon District is really exciting to us, because we feel like we’re putting something back on the map,” Riebel said. “I’m just excited to be part of a changing neighborhood. There’s a lot happening here. And I had never even heard of Harmon District.”

The restaurant is across the street from the future home of a new Lunds grocery store. Construction crews have been working on the new market, which will open this summer.

The local food community has been hotly anticipating the arrival of Butcher & The Boar, thanks largely to Riebel’s impressive resume, which includes lengthy stints at the Dakota Jazz Club, La Belle Vie and Goodfellows. But despite his fine-dining background, the restaurant can claim a simpler inspiration for its origin: beer.

“I was approached by my partners Tim Rooney and Doug Van Winkle about consulting on a bar project, a beer bar downtown,” Riebel said. “After a while they told me that they’d like me to become a partner.”

Riebel talks excitedly about the growth of craft beer, which he said is the fastest-growing segment of the adult beverage market. Butcher & The Boar will have 30 tap lines of craft beer, but more importantly the restaurant will feature that same mentality of quality and care that’s powering the craft beer movement. From the décor to the food, “craft” is the key word.

“We’re calling it an American craft food and bourbon house,” Riebel said. “As a chef what I can tell you is that we’re trying to source the best and most sustainable ingredients and prepare them with the time-honored techniques of braising, roasting, smoking and grilling.”

Naturally, Butcher & The Boar will feature a lot of meat on the menu. Expect to see plenty of sausages, many forms of boar, Texas hot links and much more. But you’ll also see plenty of seafood options including a rotating fish of the month and a lobster grilled cheese sandwich. There’s even a vegan option or two, such as a vegan chorizo sausage. In-house butcher Peter Botcher said that last item will surprise meat-eaters with its deliciousness. If you’re doing your visit to the restaurant correctly, you’ll try a little bit of everything.

“The whole menu is designed to be shared,” Riebel said. “When you talk about a neighborhood restaurant, to me it’s communal. And a kitchen is very communal. You practice your craft and share it with people.”

Riebel said that the focus on small plates and sharing lends itself to affordable food, with options in the $10 range. No matter which options you choose, you’ll be getting something from sustainable sources. Riebel has been using local farms since the Goodfellows days and will continue to turn to local sources for the Butcher & The Boar. But some ingredients, such as wild boar, simply aren’t available here. For that, Riebel turns to Broken Arrow Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Broken Arrow Ranch humanely harvests free-range wild game such as boar, antelope and deer. According to the Ranch, it is the only fully inspected year-round free-range wild game ranch in the world.

Riebel likes to point out details such as these. It’s clearly important to him that every little element is done right. If you walk through the restaurant with him, he’ll point out elements he doesn’t want you to miss, and there’s a lot to take in. The restaurant features a dining room, large bar and lounge area, as well as a giant beer garden in the back that will seat up to 200. The open kitchen line ends with a massive wood-burning stove, and the whole restaurant is filled with reclaimed elements.

“We’ve got a penny floor, we’re doing some really cool painting techniques, we’re reclaiming a lot of things like the front door and the marble from the front of the building,” Riebel said. “We’re utilizing a tree that was cut down in the back. We’re going to turn it into high-top table for the beer garden.”

When it opens in the spring, the beer garden will feature a massive outdoor bar, a fire pit, a mix of large and small dining areas, and huge mural by local artists along the parking lot wall (the first part, by Adam Turman, is already complete). The restaurant has a few other surprises in store for patrons, but Riebel doesn’t want to reveal those just yet. Besides, there’s still plenty more to talk about, including beer and cheese pairings, the energy-efficient kitchen equipment, the partnership with Eureka Recycling and, of course, the extensive bourbon program. Butcher & The Boar will feature 65 bourbons, including a private bottling of rare single-barrel bourbon from Knob Creek and other special pours. Bourbons will be available in one- and two-ounce pours, with featured shot specials available every night.

Butcher & The Boar is scheduled to open for dinner seven days a week when it opens later this month. The restaurant won’t be open for lunch most days, but will open for Twins afternoon home games so fans can come in before or after the game. Weekend brunch service will likely begin in the fall. Once it opens, Riebel hopes the neighborhood will be as excited about Butcher & The Boar as he is to be a part of the neighborhood.

“We want to bring more people downtown,” he said. “You come in here, you’re gonna get sausages, you’re gonna get beer, you’re gonna get bar snacks. It’s gonna be fun.”