Everything at Butchertown Hall seems to be a star attraction: an eclectic beer selection, creative agave drinks, inventive and well-executed food and a lofty dining room that brings new meaning to the phrase beer hall. Butchertown Hall is a Texas barbecue themed restaurant with a Southwest flair that doesn’t stop with brisket, sausages and pork. You’ll find tamales, tacos, mole chicken and borracho beans. The restaurant has been open for two months. It’s the latest offering from Holland House and Pharmacy owner Terry Raley, who grew up in the Hill Country of Texas. Raley has help from former Holland House front of house man Shane O’Brien and chef de cuisine Benjamin Houk. As the branding implies, this is a beer-centric restaurant and Dan King, who does such a good job selecting unique brews for the Pharmacy, has amped up the approach with the official title of Beer Program Curator at Butchertown. A beer curator? It may sound a bit Portlandia, but then you notice the Private Selection local beers. They’re craft brews from Tennessee breweries that are unique to Butchertown. One sip of a Cool Springs Rosehip Raisin Dubbel or a Little Harpeth Bison Bock Vienna Lager is enough to forgive the title. Curate away, we say. There are several Private Selection beers and then another whole list of unusual and hard to find beers filling out an extensive list of tappers.
While we’re on the subject of drinks- prepare yourself for an agave extravaganza. You’ll find many interesting tequila and mezcal choices, for drinking straight and mixed up in a revolving list of cocktail choices. Mezcal is hard enough to find anyway, so seven or eight varieties of high-end mezcal is quite fun. They have a small wine selection and if you want another liquor they just have a few bottles of staples. Clearly you are supposed to be drinking agave drinks here people. We’re happy to oblige. Mezcal in a bloody Mary is always a good idea, it gives brunch a smoky start. The white Negroni is a refreshing and sweet knock-off the of the original with mezcal, vermouth and Suze bitters standing in for Campari.
Did we mention the interior yet? You are welcomed to the restaurant with a view of the bustling open kitchen, with logs burning away for the smoked items. Then you step into one of the most inventive dining rooms in the city- soaring ceilings and gleaming white tiles from floor to roof. Meat hook lifts support lighting and a rock partition is a mossy Zen-garden art piece. The effect is a grand meat market transformed into an upscale eatery. It fits the history of Germantown, certainly in the German influence in Texas barbecue, and as the Butchertown web site points out, the number of butchers that used to serve residents in the area. This is a truly astonishing section of town these days, with town houses and condos having popped up seemingly overnight and a new retail/restaurant section development preparing to open just down the street at Fifth and Taylor.
So, let’s get to the food. The brisket is good. It’s tender enough and with decent flavor. The house-made knackwurst and barbecue rib meat also decent. However, when all three are combined with a sweet tomato sauce, stewed onions and excellent thin-sliced Texas-style toast (first rate bread) it becomes the Texas Trinity sandwich, which is now in my top ten list of favorite sandwiches in town. The so-called “coal” slaw is fermented and char grilled, before being served cold. It’s a tangy twist to the Cole slaw world.
They serve brunch and lunch starting at 10 a.m. on the weekends. For a different take on the chicken and waffle craze, Butchertown presents hot chicken and Johnnycakes. Those cakes are sweet and wonderful with the mezcal-honey syrup. The hot chicken is a dainty piece of chicken breast with a thick crust and a fiery Mexican bite reminiscent of mole and that supper-complex, thick, dark and spicy red salsa you get at the better food trucks. Bravo to the chef for pushing hot chicken in new directions!
You can get meat by the pound in what they call large format. Given the inventiveness of the kitchen, though, we would suggest working your way through the menu items to see what they do with that meat. It is a tight menu, but there are a surprising number of items for vegetarians.
Veggie Eater: Meat Eater enjoyed this joint so much, that he returned the very next day with me in tow and I’m grateful he did. I was initially annoyed by the hipster vibe of both staff and patrons, but was won over by our phenomenal server. She was enthusiastic (actual quote: “it’s one of the best Vienna style bocks I’ve had”) and knowledgeable (a look of horror and disbelief masked her face as she witnessed me eating part of a Johnny cake supplied by the Meat Eater-she seemed flummoxed at how to break the news that they were cooked in meat fat. The Johnny cake was then hastily returned to it’s original owner’s plate). There’s not a ton of veggie options, but what there is can keep me happy. I opted for the nachos borrachos. Fresh fried flour tortilla chips are topped with drunken beans-the beans are kept whole and slightly brothy (these are veggie safe). Velvety queso is dribbled over the affair and pickled onions and jalapenos are then mounded atop. The mezcal bloody Mary paired wonderfully with this, adding tartness and smokiness. I found myself bobbing my head to really awful 80’s tunes, acknowledging the guilty pleasure of it all.
Meat Eater: Yeah, yeah, yeah….it should have been obvious to us that a Johnny cake would be cooked in lard. Perhaps the Veggie Eater wanted to forget that fact for just a moment? The in-depth menu knowledge of the staff really stands out at Butchertown Hall. The patio is spacious and looks like it may be one of the better outdoor dining choices in the city. Butchertown Hall adds to making Germantown one of the top eating neighborhoods in Nashville, especially when one considers the several planned restaurants on the way for the neighborhood.
I paid $26 with tax and tip for a sandwich, side and a beer. While that may seem on the high end, we paid $56 for brunch with two cocktails, a beer and tax and tip. That’s a good deal. We’ll be back.