The best thing about the farm-to-table movement of the last decade has been its success in broadening the dynamic range of proteins that we can habitually obtain in restaurants. What used to be a limited few cuts of moo-cow and piggie now includes formerly shunned cuts that offer new flavors and cooking choices.
Beef cheek, flat iron steak, pig ear, and pâté are additions just from the old staple animals. Add to that demand for lamb, spurring seriously good quality production in places like Colorado, duck, quail, and venison all stepping out of their niches with the farm-to-table movement and dinner becomes a lot more interesting. Both less cooked like tartare, and more cooked like stews and casseroles.
Enter Blind Butcher
, a curiously named gastropub in the near-chain-free Dallas restaurant hub of lower Greenville Avenue. It is taking on the mantle of meat curer and sausage maker. Your vegetarian friends will get a quite serviceable salad here, but the meat is the thing. Executive chef Oliver Sitrin knows fine food, he was formerly at Marquee Grill under Tre Wilcox, and he brings the standards expected there to the very casual, boisterous atmosphere of this noisy gastropub.
Most memorable were the pigs ears
($10) from the snacks section of the menu. Here is a dish where you almost do not know what to expect. Deep fried and seasoned I would place it closest to chicharrons or crackling in texture and flavor, illustrating yet another part of the pig that can be made into a chewy snack. Orange fennel aioli is an enjoyable dipping accompaniment. Blind Butcher works on an artisan scale of course, but if they could scale this and bag it, this could compete with chips and jerky at the retail counter.
A cup of bone broth
($3.50) would not be out of place in the temperate climes of northern Europe but is rare for Dallas (I can’t think of anyone who does it). Made from a mixture of all the bones the kitchen uses (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) it has a warm brown color, similar to a beef stock, and possesses an earthy flavor.
At our waitress, Sarah’s, suggestion we tried the meat and cheese board
($25) next. Consider this a showcase of what is the heart and soul of Blind Butcher’s repertoire. Sitrin takes us through the 9 preparations on the plate. Referring to the picture: at 8pm we have wafers with goat pastrami on a smear of goat cheese. At 9pm is chicken pâté ‘three ways’ (barbecue, chili, and plain), making for a striking tricolor through each tranche. Just to the right of the pâté and slightly above it is goat head cheese, a juicy ‘compote’ of meat cubes embedded in aspic and edged with a lardon. Moving left, and up again, we come to a tranche of chicken pâté, ground to coarse pâté de Champagne texture imparting a bucolic quality to the preparation.
Due south on the board is a piped white pickled ricotta cheese, made in-house and delivering a firm acidic tang to complement the earthy meat flavors. Just north, is bacon bratwurst, sliced on the bias, with honey mustard. At top center is chico viejo from Pachi Pachi
, a McGregor, Texas cheesemaker of artisanal Spanish and Venezuelan cheeses from local milk. To the left, horseradish pecan cheddar from Brazos Valley Cheese
and, left again, fresh goat cheese from Lost Ruby Ranch
We had only scratched the surface of one of the house’s expert focus - sausages, so they prepared us a sample of four of the ones currently offered (they are always experimenting so expect menu rotation).
Going clockwise from bottom left there is bangers and mash
with caramelized onion gravy. The banger was the spitting image of what I grew up eating in England, from the coarse grind of the pork right down to the rich sage flavors in the stuffing. The gravy was even better by virtue of the addition of caramelized onions. Top left is a sloppy, messy simply adorable boudin sausage, but show respect to the house-fermented hot sauce it sits on, it’s the hottest thing on the menu.
Top right is golden raisin curry chicken sausage on chutney. It underplayed the curry (cumin, coriander?) flavors but stood out in its own right as a milder, lighter alternative by virtue of being made from chicken. Bottom right is a brisket, cheddar and jalapeño ring with housemade pickles. Dense chewy meat here, it was good with that mustard slither on top. In the center, pretzel bread (just in case you wanted a sandwich).
We could have done poutine
, that Canadian mashup of cheese, fries, and gravy. Blind Butcher has a whole section of the menu devoted to them. But that is a whole other, in Québécois, avoirdupois.
A modest selection of desserts vary daily but I doubt that many people have space for one.
Drinks deserve a mention. Beer is the prime focus, with even a local exclusive from Franconia brewing available. Lots of craft ales are on rotation. Cocktails are also respectable in number. Perhaps surprising is the care given to wine. There aren’t many on the one-sided card (it can’t be glorified with the name ‘list’) but they are chosen by an informed palate. One omission: there are no Texas wines (yet), which is at odds with the local mantra that pervades the rest of the menu.
Overall, food that very clearly punches above its weight, in both its conception and execution make Blind Butcher one of my favorite places in Dallas and a place that I would recommend visitors check out. DAL is just a 20-minute Uber/Lyft away and DFW 35 minutes. And who knows, maybe one day those sausages will be available to buy and cook at home.For more Dallas dining and travel news, click here.