The Loveliest of Meat Markets
Bavette La Boucherie is a butcher shop and restaurant with far more than meat to eat.
In this butcher shop/restaurant, noon sunshine pools in every corner as we pull our chairs up to a thick, solid, recycled butcher block-like table. The squawk of our chair legs on the concrete floor, like fingernails on a backboard, announces our arrival. Bavette, around the corner from the Broadway Theatre Center, bustles at lunch time, filled with what appears to be an arty crowd. We spy a man bun and many jeans-clad diners. Perhaps they drift in from MIAD or the current offering at the Chamber Theater. Skulls and antlers decorate the walls, reminding us this restaurant is indeed about meat.
I had anticipated a menu that listed some viscera — beef heart, pig cheek, lamb liver — along with crowd-pleasing meats like sliced beef and roast pork, but only the corned beef tongue reuben steps outside the usual customer-friendly cuisine. Perhaps the others are found on the charcuterie plate which I did not sample.
We enjoy watching the activity in the open kitchen. Someone with quick hands turns raw meat into little balls for the Tomato-braised meatball sandwich that isn’t ready for my friend’s order. She switches to Roast beef with cheddar, roasted tomatoes, and horseradish and says, “There’s a ton of tender roast beef in this sandwich.” The melted cheddar and tomato pops add complexity; horseradish clears her sinuses. “It’s very good,” she adds.
Roasted seems to be a theme here. There’s roasted cauliflower in a salad with roasted grapes and pickled pepper vinaigrette. There’s a roasted carrot salad with baba ghanoush and roasted strawberries with chicken liver mousse. There’s roasted delicata squash with apple and beets in another salad and roasted broccoli in a chicken curry sandwich. On the Snack menu, roasted shallot crème fraiche is served with smoked sea salt and a salt pretzel.
Similar to the roasted theme, we notice many iterations of pickled on the menu. We read of pickled vegetables with beet pickled eggs, pickled pepper vinaigrette with that roasted cauliflower, pickled mustard seed aioli with the corned beef tongue, and pickled jalapeno aioli in my BBQ pork sandwich with cabbage-apple slaw.
That sandwich, a memorable combo of pork that’s dark, on the cusp of burned, with deep rich flavor, is complemented by crunchy red cabbage and the aioli, a perfect foil to the densely flavored BBQ.
It’s stuffed with so much meat that it spills out of the bun. I carefully take a bite. A chuck of meat lands in my lap. In lieu of the customary fries, sandwiches come with a bag of chips.
As noted, things on the menu that are roasted and pickled represent what’s currently available at local farm markets. I would say the same for the vegetables in the Smoked trout nicoise with green beans, potato, tomato, black olives, horseradish dressing, and egg crumbled into the ravigote sauce.
Another companion orders Bahn mi — chicken with pickled carrots, cucumbers, and miso-sriracha aioli — and says, “There’s just enough heat to make it tasty.” Other than the protein, sliced chicken rather than beef, pork, or lamb, it’s a typical bahn mi, a little dull but satisfactory.
The only sandwich that didn’t elicit a rave or even a half-hearted recommendation is the Roast pork with feta, ratatouille, sun-dried tomatoes, and romesco sauce. Small slices of pork buried inside the mess of ratatouille and feta are tough, some inedible. The romesco sauce, potentially a delicious addition, is lost, overpowered by the abundant ratatouille. A juicy, tasty sun-dried tomato surprises me as I work my way through the increasingly soggy sandwich.
A peach and blackberry galette rescues my taste buds. The peaches are, well peachy, while two blackberries add color, texture, and flavor.
Since Bavette is also a meat market, a small selection of complementary local artisan products such as jams, sauces, pickles, relishes, and mustards may be purchased as well as wine and craft beer. Customers may enjoy that wine and beer in the restaurant for a small corkage fee.
Already sated, I spot the word caramel three times in the Desserts. Since the menu changes daily, it’s smart to take it when you can find it. My sweet tooth yearns for Monkey Bread with caramelized apples and almond crème anglaise, or Flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream, or Butterscotch pudding with caramel. But not today.
Here’s a thought, an App for the likewise obsessed to alert them every time Bavette adds a new caramel-inspired dish to the menu.
Bavette La Boucherie
- Location: 330 E. Menomonee St.
- Phone: 414-273-3375
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Tue, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wed-Sat
- Walk Score: 92
- Website: http://bavettemilwaukee.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BavetteButcher
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bavettemilwaukee/
- UM Rating: 4.1 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)
- Menu size: 46
- Price range food (small plates): $6.00-$10.00
- Price range food (entrees): $10.25-$14.00
- Cuisine Style: Butcher, sandwiches