Wood-fired delights await at Birch + Butcher, which opens today
The restaurant portion of Birch + Butcher, the superette style butcher shop and eatery at 459 E. Pleasant St. which debuted its shop last weekend, opens for its first public dinner service today at 5 p.m.
We got a first look at the space and menu during the restaurant's soft opening on Thursday, Nov. 16. And there's every reason to put the restaurant on your list of spots to visit.
Among restaurant openings for 2017 Birch + Butcher has been among the city's most anticipated. The restaurant, owned by Bartolotta alums Chef Miles Borghgraef and Rebecca Zwiefelhofer, is unlike any others in the city for more reasons than one.
First, there's the atmosphere, which aptly captures the spirit of Scandinavian coziness, hygge, with its bright modern design, muted color palette and subtle touches like cozy cubbies displaying wine, books and stacks of rustic firewood.
The focal point of the restaurant is its open kitchen, which features a Milwaukee first: a wood-fired hearth where numerous dishes are lovingly coaxed to smoky perfection.
The menu at Birch + Butcher, described as "contemporary Midwestern," juxtaposes elements of both modern and rustic, as reflected in both technique and presentation.
There are multiple ways to enjoy the menu, which showcases dishes (starters, sides, entrees and platters) in shareable portions that lend themselves to countless combinations for vegetarians, omnivores and carnivores alike.
That includes a nice selection of vegetables, many of which are traditionally forgotten on restaurant menus. Take, for instance, the butter poached celeriac with Korean togarashi and lemon broth ($9) or the French onion stuffed leeks ($9) – both of which are typically more likely found as ingredients in dishes, rather than showcased on their own. Such is also the case with wood-fired parsnips, which showcase earthy sweetness, a bit of woodsmoke, salt and char that's balanced nicely by a yogurt harissa sauce alongside ($10).
There are also shareable starters like housemade bread service with cultured butter ($5), charcuterie and cheese ($6-25 for one, three or five selections) and housemade soft pretzels served alongside 'nduja and whipped cheddar spread with pickled jalapenos ($8).
Tender beef carpaccio is enhanced by the flavors of smoked whitefish, tangy remoulade and textural elements like beauty heart radish and frisee ($14).
Fish dishes include grilled whitefish with tomato butter and mustard ($17) or butter-poached steelhead with speck and salsa verde ($20). A generous portion of dry roasted mussels are tossed in a green curry sauce with prominent notes of lemongrass ($18).
Main dishes are built for single diners, but portions accommodate two or three guests when shared. Additional options include sunflower seed risotto with trumpet mushrooms ($14) and pork loin with grilled lemon and dijon ($15). Meanwhile, a hefty aged pork shows off an intense meatiness, beautifully presented atop creamy baked beans and topped with cranberries ($32).
There are also platters (which feed 2-4) of grilled beef ribeye with Brussels sprouts and salsa verde ($36) and seared New York strip with red cabbage and agrodolce ($26).
On the beverage side there's a curated selection of domestic wines, American craft brews and craft cocktails – including a cranberry old fashioned; the Aquavit with vermouth, bitters and lemon oleo sacharrum; and the Ampersand, a riff on brandy and Benedictine ($10 each). Classic cocktails are also available with the guest's choice of spirits (pricing varies with selection).
Desserts include a mulled wine poached pear with Rush Creek Reserve and rosemary shortbread ($9); sweet potato cake with chevre fondant and candied pepitas ($7); a honey financier with lemon curd, Summit tea ice cream and almond crunch ($7) and chocolate almond linzer cookies with vanilla buttercream and panna cotta ($8).
Birch + Butcher is open for dinner service Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. Breakfast and lunch is available for purchase at the shop beginning at 7:30 a.m. daily with Sunday hours from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (butcher shop only). Reservations can be made online at birchandbutcher.com or by calling (414) 323-7372.
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