Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

Birch + Butcher Is a Winner

Great choices at the shop, creative cooking at the restaurant. Not to be missed.

By - Nov 28th, 2018 01:03 pm
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Birch + Butcher. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Birch + Butcher. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

At the corner of Water and Pleasant, Birch + Butcher serves up a menu with a wide variety of flavors and textures to give your palate a trip through Chef and owner Miles Borghgraef’s unexpected, unique twist on contemporary cuisine.

His ambitious menu starts six days a week at 7:30 a.m. in The Shop, where you can purchase meat and cheese for your larder, or linger with coffee and something from the limited menu that includes Avocado Toast, Chili and Cornbread, and my breakfast, Ham, Egg and Cheese, served on a bagel. According to my server, the bagels, made daily, are boiled in barley malt syrup to give them the extra brown crisp crust I raved about. The combination of a crunchy cheesy bagel, frizzled ham, and an over easy egg, made a simple, yet flawless breakfast.

Bagels. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Bagels. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

They also sell small pies from Hatched, nice to know, because Hatched doesn’t yet have a brick-and-mortar location, and these little pies with their flaky crusts, thank you lard, are another excuse to visit The Shop.

And for their ultimate homespun treat, come on a weekend when you can purchase a house-made cinnamon roll dripping with cream cheese frosting. To make this sumptuous roll, the pastry chef wrapped yeasty dough around a rich crunchy sugar center, creating something so delicious it would be too easy to make it a regular weekend morning habit.

That’s The Shop. There’s much more to discover at Birch + Butcher, starting with the weekend brunch which I enjoyed with two companions. After we asked our server to describe the dishes we noted on the menu, he said, “We call it contemporary midwestern cuisine.” When we noted a date on the paper menu, he explained, “It changes often, depending on what’s available, and what the chef wants to make.”

With that in mind, we ordered three dishes that sounded as if they were chef-inspired, not likely to be found at your average breakfast bistro.

For the Rosemary Biscuits with sausage, charcuterie gravy, and a poached egg, the chef made a biscuit neither solid nor flaky, one that made a perfect platform for the gravy which somehow tasted of the essence of charcuterie.

The first bite in the Pulled Pork dish said butter, lots of it in the roasted mushrooms, followed by creamy polenta, and a poached egg. Hidden in the polenta, juicy pulled pork, and at the bottom, lost in the polenta like an afterthought, the hollandaise. I wanted more hollandaise, a minor blip to a memorable brunch dish that spoke to the elegance of simplicity.

Our third entrée, the Naan Bread with spicy N’duja chorizo, roast broccoli, ricotta, and a poached egg, had serious spicy heat from the chorizo spread. Ricotta and naan toned it down, while roasted broccoli added color to the plate.

Again, at dinner, my companion and I went for the menu choices we thought would be the ones most likely to be rotated out or disappeared when the seasonal menu changed. Each of our choices were small plates, intended to share, which we did.

The most unique plate had to be the Sunflower Seed Risotto. Our excellent server, Megan said the chef pressure cooked the seeds, then treated them like rice when he made the risotto. King trumpet mushrooms added flavor, but overall, this was a bland dish. It needed contrast, some tart vitality, to accentuate the flavor of this unusual risotto.

For a unique twist on a vegetarian dish, we ordered Hen of the Woods Mushroom and Chickpea Panisse, Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Smoked Yogurt. Thanks to Megan, we learned how the chef smoked the yogurt. If you’re expecting the usual smoky flavor from smoked meat, you’re in for a surprise. Megan said the chef held a piece of smoking wood close to the yogurt to give it the smoky flavor which dominated the dish. The panisse, a fried chickpea flour cake, added bulk, but not much more. Mushrooms, snap peas, and asparagus, rounded out this admirable vegetarian creation.

Roasted Beets with Whipped LeClare Farm’s Cheve, and Toasted Pistachios was a nicely balanced small plate. Beet cubes sat in a puddle of cheve, topped with toasted pistachios and baby spinach. This aesthetically pleasing dish had everything you could wish for in a salad: texture, crunch, complex flavors and an artful presentation.

For something traditional, we ordered the Roasted Meatballs with Yellow Corn Grits, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese Fondue. If you like beef and pork meatballs with polenta, and some really good cheese to intensify the flavors, this is a dish to savor.

Despite the oft changing menu, Megan said a few favorites will remain: Bibb Salad; BBQ Parsnips; 3 Brothers Farm Whole Grilled Chicken; Grilled Beef Skirt Steak; and Coal Roasted Dry Aged Ribeye. She noted the steaks will be served medium rare unless you request otherwise.

Kudos to Chef Borghgraef for taking risks with his edgy creative combinations served in a casual setting. Whether you come in jeans or dress-up date night clothes, you will fit into the laid-back vibe here. Birch + Butcher may be the new kid on the block, but they are the one to watch as their menu changes and rotates with the seasons.

One thing that won’t change, that indescribably, delicious, indulgent, weekend only, cinnamon bun!

On The Menu

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The Rundown

  • Location: 459 E. Pleasant St.
  • Phone: 414-323-7372
  • Hours: Café: 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mon-Thu, 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Fri-Sat; Dinner: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mon-Thu, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Fri-Sat; Brunch: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sat-Sun
  • UM Rating: 4.25 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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