Meat and greet
As I arrived to meet friends for dinner at Butcher’s Kitchen Char-B-Que—Reno’s newest eatery featuring meats cooked “low and slow”—the wonderful aroma of cellulose combustion permeated the parking lot. There are few things that get me more excited than the scent of wood smoke and the promise of smoky good eats, and the eats were indeed good.
The menu is a blend of traditional barbecue with twists that reveal the owner’s background as both chef and butcher. We started with a pulled pork burrito filled with Spanish rice, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa ($6.75). We pushed it over the top with the addition of brisket, avocado, and caramelized onion ($1 each). The result was tender, juicy, smoky, spicy, and about the size of my forearm.
Plates come with a choice of two sides and either toasted French bread or warm tortillas. The menu lacks a sampler plate—my favorite way to try new ’Q’—but you can add items to a plate for a little more cash. We ordered three plates—tri-tip ($10.75), grilled salmon ($12.75), and a half-rack of ribs ($14.75)—to which we added a couple housemade sausages ($4 each) and rotisserie chicken ($6).
The tri-tip had plenty of smoke and good seasoning, though slightly chewy. Unfortunately, it was served with a coating of sweet barbecue sauce I didn’t care for. There are several housemade sauces available at the condiment counter; I would have preferred to make my own choice. The hot barbecue sauce was much better, so I’ll know next time to have them leave off the sweet stuff.
Six bucks sounded a bit steep for a piece of chicken, until we were presented with an enormous breast on-the-bone with wing attached. It was a tiny bit dry, but more or less what I expect from rotisserie chicken. The flavor was just fine.
The sausages were worthwhile, a pair of links at least a quarter-pound apiece. The weisswurst had a very mild flavor and smooth texture I paired with a mustard-based white barbecue sauce with a powerful rosemary note. The bratwurst was more robust in both flavor and texture and made me long for a side of sauerkraut.
Although at first glance it looked nicely done, the grilled salmon filet turned out to be quite rare in the center. Once re-fired and returned from the kitchen, the fish was fine, and the staff was very quick and courteous in correcting the issue.
Spare ribs trimmed “St. Louis-style” were coated in a decent dry rub ($14.75). Each of the six bones had been partially pre-cut, rendering them easy to pull them apart. The meat was tender and held onto the bone just enough to easily pull away. I enhanced the rub with hot barbecue sauce. Soul-satisfyingly good.
As for sides, all were quite good. The mac and cheese features an au-gratin crust on top and cheese béchamel sauce at the bottom, so be sure to stir it together first. Roasted vegetables were cooked just right with a good mix of squash and root vegetables. An ancient grains pilaf of farro, quinoa, amaranth, and wild rice cooked in chicken broth with diced veggies and toasted nuts combined great flavor with enhanced nutrition. A quick pickle of thin-sliced pear mixed with cucumber, onion, and carrot in what tasted like seasoned rice vinegar was refreshing and not too sweet. Southern-style pinto beans with ham hock delivered stick-to-your-ribs taste, and an excellent Southern slaw of mixed cabbage, carrot, green onion, and bell pepper was one of the better slaws I’ve been served. I’m not big on coleslaw, but I really enjoyed this more-savory-than-sweet variant.
Overall, I’d say this butcher knows his way around a kitchen. The lure of smoked meat will soon draw me back, and there’s a pulled-pork and bacon burger called “The Cleaver” with my name on it. Can’t wait.