Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Butcher Block

Visited on Thursday, March 10th

Entrance to Butcher Block

Erin's Review
Ben is addicted to buying Groupons and other such coupons lately, and as I have mentioned, we also have a whole bunch of restaurant gift cards that we've had for over a year. The expiration was quickly approaching on our groupon to Butcher Block, so Ben's sister graciously agreed to hang out with Annie for the night so we could go out.

We left shortly after Annie went to bed at 7, and had no problem getting a table for 2 when we got there. It was still pleasantly full there, though, not too many open tables at all. They do a pretty good job of making up for their lack of windows with a nice exposed brick wall and pressed tin ceiling. I usually feel kind of claustrophobic in window-less spaces, so I was glad to see that it still felt open and well lit.

Inside Butcher Block

Ben does a good job describing our pre-dinner experiences, so I will leave that to him, but will note that I was pleasantly surprised by how affordable the wine list was - nothing by the glass was extravagantly priced which I definitely appreciated.

Chicken parmasan

When it came time for food decisions, I told Ben I wanted to split one pasta dish and one meat dish. I was feeling unadventurous that evening, so stuck with the chicken parmesan, mostly because it was paired with mashed potatoes which sounded appealing at the time. Our food came out almost shockingly quick, which is really never that great of a sign. The food was good, but nothing that blew me away. I don't know that I've ever actually ordered chicken parmesan at a restaurant, I was kind of surprised to see the thick layer of melted cheese on top. I am a cheese lover, as you may have realized, so this was a-ok with me. I only had a few bites of Ben's pasta, it was quite rich and I wanted to save room for dessert.

Creme Brulee

After having our fill of our main courses, I checked out the dessert menu. It was pretty standard fare, and I went with the creme brulee. It was very close to over-torched but this actually made the crust nice and crunchy which I love. The custard was smooth and delicious.

I enjoyed our time at Butcher Block, but wouldn't rush to make a return trip. It was kind of a ho-hum Italian place with nothing remarkable about it (besides Ben's favorite server ever), so definitely isn't worth a special trip across city lines for me.

Ben's Review
I find it difficult to turn down a good Groupon deal, so I picked up the deal for the Butcher Block in NE Minneapolis several months ago (November?), thinking that the expiration date of 4/2011 was so far in the future that we wouldn’t have a problem using it by then.

Of course, it’s getting close to April and we still hadn’t used it, so we made plans to have my sister come babysit Annie on a Thursday night while we went out to use the Groupon.

The Butcher Block is located on Hennepin Ave., just north of University. We parked in the ramp behind Kramarczuk’s and walked over. We didn’t have reservations, which wasn’t a problem at all, we got a table immediately. We were seated at the first table next to the door and the tiny bar, which I thought was one of the worse tables, but it turned out to pay dividends later.

inside Butcher Block

Our server stopped by to see if we needed any drinks or appetizers. I wanted to have some wine with our meal, so I wanted something different beforehand. We were in no hurry and weren’t going to order for a little while, so I ordered a bourbon old fashioned and Erin got a glass of wine.

Old Fashioned

Our server brought our drinks out and we told him we were taking our time and he said he’d stop back later. He came back to check on us and the drinks and remarked that he doesn’t get many old fashioneds ordered, though he said that since Mad Men became popular, more people were ordering cocktails in general. He went on to talk about Sazeracs and we talked booze for a minute or two. He left and Erin and I continued our conversation.

A few minutes later I was nearly done with my drink when out of nowhere the server appears beside me and quickly asks “that old fashioned must be getting sweet by now, right?”. Before I could even answer he took the shot of bourbon that he had brought over and dumped it into my drink. I was dumbfounded. After realizing what had just happened, I declared him to be the “best server in the world” to Erin. And he is. And he probably will be forever in my mind, till the day that someone else can top that feat. The only thing that would have rescinded his title was if that shot had showed up on my bill (it didn’t).


We eventually got around to ordering our food, we ordered two entrees that we intended to share, the chicken Parmesan and a rigatoni pasta with creamy sauce and sausage.


Our food came out quickly enough, with my glass of wine as well. The rigatoni was rich and creamy with small chunks of sausage throughout. The portion sizes were certainly large enough, especially given the bread we had beforehand. The chicken parmesan was good, but nothing special, with the standard red sauce and breaded chicken topped with melted cheese.

Erin was easily persuaded (by herself) to order dessert and got the creme brulee, which she allowed me to nibble at a bit. It was very good and I liked it more than I remembered liking creme brulee at other restaurants.

We had a great night out at Butcher Block and I would recommend it. As for the world’s greatest server, we discovered soon after he freshened up my drink that he was actually the bartender, just helping out by covering the table nearest the door. My initial displeasure at the table selection was completely reversed by the stroke of luck of getting an awesome bartender to take care of us.

Service: Best service I will probably ever get.
Food: The food is good, but nothing extraordinary.
Drinks: Full bar, with reasonable beer and wine selections. The bar itself is tiny, fitting only four or five people.
Ambiance: It wasn’t loud, but the volume was at a level where I didn’t feel like people were eavesdropping on us. Friendly people and atmosphere.
Convenience: I believe there is metered parking on Hennepin, but I think it’s pricey. We usually use the parking ramp instead, just so we don’t have to carry quarters.

inside Butcher block

308 E Hennepin Ave