Minnesota’s biggest restaurant soap opera is arguably the downfall of the four-star steak and sausage shop Butcher & the Boar. Over months and months of nervous anticipation, the chatter filled my inbox: Why is there no more alcohol? I hear it closes! We were assured it was open and would stay open, then it closed, only to get up again! With even more drama.
Opened in 2012, Butcher & the Boar won a James Beard Award nomination for kitchen work from Chef Jack Riebel. In 2019, original partner Doug Van Winkle built another Butcher & the Boar in Charleston, South Carolina. Then, in 2020, he closed the original location on Hennepin Avenue, and then, earlier this year, sold that space to Crave and Brit’s Pub owner Kam Talebi. But not so fast: Van Winkle sold the rights to the restaurant’s name to Brent Frederick’s Jester Concepts, the Minneapolis-based team behind Parlor and PS Steak.
As Jester searched for a new location for Butcher and the Boar, Talebi had the Hennepin building about to be operational. He hired many of the original waiters, bartenders and managers, and brought back the original sausage maker, butcher Peter Botcher, to run the kitchen at the establishment now known as Butcher’s Tale.
After several visits, I can assure you: Butcher is back. Is it better than the original version from 2012? It’s not quite as fancy, but it’s definitely also fun, over the top, and delicious.
Many of your favorites are back and in their original form: Smoked jalapeños, stuffed with peanut butter and topped with a golden raisin marmalade; long prime rib the size of a forearm, sweet and spicy, covered in molasses; and the perfect sausages are all here.
What’s up? More salads, more fish options, and a great cold meats and cheese platter, which is a terrific centerpiece for Botcher’s skills: homemade wild boar tasso ham and an incredibly delicious Minnesota smoked trout rillette surrounded of cheeses made in Minnesota.
Don’t miss the sesame fried sweetbreads – creamy sweetness on the inside, crispy sweetness on the outside. The sliders are tasty, with wedges of fresh pickled daikon and cucumber topping a pork and shrimp sausage patty. The sambal aioli brings a touch of spice.
Butcher has always functioned as an alternative steakhouse, but with the New York strip loin steak, rib eye, and steak hanging from the regular menu, they have a rotating menu of steak specialties. The Wagyu Denver steak arrived well seared, perfectly pink on the inside and seasoned just right. Topped with a bright herb chimichurri sauce, it was an absolutely indulgent delight. The ridiculously huge double-cut pork chop is also back, with a nice blueberry compote and maple sherry gastric cascading over the crispy fat cap.
Watch out for name changes on sausages. You will not find the Wild Boar Hot Link, as it is now called by its proper name, “chaurice”. Cheddar wurst is now a smoked pork and cheddar sausage. The kitchen also makes a sausage of the day and the chorizo we came across was a spicy delight.
The list of bourbon-rich cocktails may be better than you remember. The classic, old-fashioned Manhattan, with the restaurant’s Knob Creek at a 120-barrel proof, is still the move in this huge bar. But stretch yourself with a wonderful clarified milk punch made with pineapple rum and mezcal, or the Butcher’s Club, a raspberry syrup gin fizz.
Save room for dessert from rising pastry star Elsbeth Young-Haug. She was pastry chef when the old butcher’s shop closed and arrives hot with pistachio-filled cream puffs on a blackberry and elderflower sauce, as well as a moist and richly tasty chocolate cake with a sauce addictive passion fruit caramel.
For those of us who loved the original butcher, food was important, but the ambiance and service kept us coming back for more. And from that point of view, this iteration is running at full speed. Thank GM Chad Waldon for bringing together many of the original stars, providing a truly smooth, friendly and fun dining experience. This patio is still one of the best in town, and as the city center comes to life, this beer garden will regain its status as a place to relax. This Butcher’s Tale is only in its first chapter, but so far it’s a book I’ll enjoy coming back to again and again.
The Butcher’s Tale
1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis