Friday, January 11, 2013

Lunch | Butcher & Bee

Back in late September, Alice was kind enough to ask Marcus and me if we wanted to join her and Jimmy on a weekend trip to Charleston (wait for it) . . . to eat at Chef Sean Brock's two well-renowned spots, Husk and McCrady's. Our first response? Totally down! I'm embarrassed to report that I didn't know much about the Charleston scene (or any Southern scene for that matter) -- I think as a food blogger up in the Northeast area, I sometimes get caught in this microcosm, so much that I focus much on what's going on in our neck of the woods before I can start thinking about other regions. With that being said, I'm quite thankful to Alice for giving us this opportunity to experience, taste, and absorb a different part of the U. S. -- a less metropolitan place (but by no means any less sophisticated) in comparison to my familiar territories of Chicago and the Bay Area. When foodies (pardon my use of the word -- it just fits!) travel with other foodies, there's no question that the majority of the trip (if not of its entirety) is centered around food and drink. A getaway of any kind to us is an exercise in hedonism and gluttony.

We arrived mid-afternoon that Saturday to Charleston, dropped off our things are our little airbnb weekend rental, and set forth for what would begin our two-and-a-half-day exploration of the Holy City. As we had our first big dinner that evening at McCrady's at 8:15, we wanted to make sure to have lunch to hold us over until then -- one that would satisfy our post-flight hunger but one that wouldn't ruin our appetite for dinner. With a recommendation from Everyday Musings, we decided on {1Butcher & Bee, a sandwich shop/comfort food joint on King Street.

01 - interiors
{2} Run by owner Michael Shemtov and Chef Stuart Tracy, Butcher & Bee is open for lunch (known for its "honest to goodness sandwiches") and then again for late-night dining until 3 AM. Its offerings on the menu are full of big ideas, and the shop even has a garden growing behind the restaurant. I love the mosaic of woods against the white tiled walls with a ribbon of chalkboard running atop it. Definitely has a modern-rustic café feel to it. {3,4} The eclectic industrial furniture makes the ambiance laid back and casual along with {5}old-fashioned cash registers that you'd find in a midwestern saloon.

On top of it all, the menu is constantly changing and developing, filled with sandwiches, salads, coffee, and other tasty items. You can track the changes daily on Butcher & Bee's Twitter.They're growing a garden out behind the restaurant, and their menu's constantly changing and developing. I found the menu on the day we went over here.

Marcus tried a bottle of Fentiman's Curiosity Cola (just a fancy way of saying cola), which was quite flavorful yet less carbonated than most colas I've had.

The Burger and Fries with American cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and LTOP (i.e., lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles). Atop a well-buttered brioche bun, the patty itself was nicely charred and very juicy -- it was divinely with the melted American. The Thousand Island dressing was a tangy touch which makes it so different from most classic American burgers that pervade restaurants and diners alike. The fries were hand-cut and crunchy -- it had that "straight-from-the-potato" texture to it.

As one of the recommendations from the gentleman who took our orders, I opted for the pulled squash sandwich with smoked slaw, barbecue sauce, and pickles -- ultimately a "pulled pork sandwich" for vegetarians and veggie lovers. Thoroughly coated with some savory barbecue sauce, the julienned squash remained snappy and had some wonderful texture to the sandwich overall, especially with the smoked purple slaw and vinegared pickles. Undoubtedly something I've never had before but am glad I tried -- the pulled pork sandwich is just delightful! Oh, and the baguette! Loose crust, soft interior -- one bite, and it was gone. No tugging or difficulty eating. It was the kind of bread you wish you had with all of your sandwiches.

Jimmy had the Chinese pork sandwich with hoisin, cabbage, and peanuts. It worked exactly as it sounded in the description -- like an Asian-style salad on a baguette. For an American sandwich joint to pull this combination of ingredients off so deliciously, I was happily impressed. It was so tasty that Marcus even said he wished he had ordered it, too!

Alice went for the other recommendation we received (i.e., the other most popular lunch item on the menu) -- brie and broccoli grilled cheese with roasted tomatoes, mustard, and a side of tomato-bacon soup. The brie melted onto the bread into a creamy ooze that melded right onto the housemade multi-grain bread covered in benne seeds. While the inclusion of the tomato is familiar in the world of grilled cheese sandwiches (though they being roasted here garners bonus points!), the tossing in of broccoli made the sandwich stand out. It all complemented each other, and with a careful dunk into the intense tomato-bacon soup, you will surely surrender yourself to this sandwich and leave no crumb or bite behind.

Findings: There is no false advertising at Butcher & Bee -- "honest to goodness sandwiches" come to life in its kitchen with the best ingredients and resulting combinations for them to put in between two slices of bread (yup, seriously the next best thing since sliced bread). It is worth venturing out to the north part of King Street, just for the bread alone. Seriously.

Given it was our first meal in Charleston, all in all, every single one of our choices really hit the spot and gave us the warmest welcome to this city. I wish we had more time to stick around and explore the late night menu, but there's always next time, right? ;)

Price point: $9-11 for each sandwich, $12 for each burger.

--January 5, 2013

Butcher & Bee
654 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403

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