By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
It's Sunday night, and the graffiti-stamped walls of the Butcher Shop, a Wynwood restaurant/beer garden, are vibrating with the sound of what must be the work of Skrillex and Marilyn Manson's love child. Things could be softened by two beers, one beer, anything. But the busboy can't find the waitress, and the hostess just now notices our frantic waving. "OMG," she says without irony. "You haven't ordered drinks yet?"
A brunet waitress stumbles over to take our order, and soon a fattoush salad arrives. It's a pretty dish, layered with radishes, cucumber, toasted pita, and squirts of labneh cheese, but its dressing is cloying enough to sweeten a cup of tea. The greens drown in this syrup, which has formed an unsightly pool on the bottom of the plate.
Then, just when all feels lost, bossa nova squeaks through the speakers. A honeyed dressing becomes more tolerable. Slow service suddenly doesn't seem so bad. The mood lightens. And dinner starts to look up.
165 NW 23rd St.
Miami, FL 33137
Region: Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
Well, for a moment.
View the slide show: Closer Look: The Butcher Shop in Wynwood.
In July, the Butcher Shop debuted in the same hipster neighborhood occupied by Gramps and the Salvation Army. For months, it teased Wynwood-goers with soft openings and parties. It launched with an innovative concept, mashing a beer garden with a restaurant/butcher shop.
Inside, a 24-foot meat case shows off cage-free Cornish hens, house-made sausages, chorizo, and different cuts of USDA Prime Black Angus beef. Outside, a square bar serves craft beers from bottles and taps like Wynwood Brewing's IPA and Bell's Amber Ale. Flat-screen TV sets play the football game. Beneath globe lights, picnic tables crowd around an outdoor grill. During the day, children sit on these wooden blocks and color with crayons while their parents eat a steak by the bar. At night, the Butcher Shop is all burgers and beers.
It seems like the perfect concept for a young, budding neighborhood. Before its debut, Wynwood had craft brews and restaurants, but it didn't have a place to get both suds and extensive fare. This place offers both.
Too bad it's good for only drinking beer.
And even that can prove difficult at times. On our second visit, during Second Saturday Art Walk, purchasing a drink became a herculean task. On what should be the busiest night of the month, there was one bartender behind the bar. There was one dude working the outdoor grill, flipping flavorless burgers and dried-out sausages while sloshing pork in an underseasoned chimichurri sauce.
Sure, the restaurant is affordable. But before you can indulge, you must attract someone's attention first.
The trick: Stay focused.
During our Sunday visit, a server delivered three dishes to the two guys sharing a communal table with us. They had been at the restaurant for only 30 minutes. We had been there for more than an hour. We should have known something was up. We should have realized their meal looked familiar: duck sausages, rib eye steak, and chicken wings. But it was only as they devoured the meat that we realized it was ours.
Soon, another server appeared and placed Hungarian mettwurst and a New York strip at our table. He realized what had happened. A Freaky Friday bit momentarily confounded this bastion of hospitality. But then he spawned a solution: He delivered this food to our neighbors, its rightful owners, and left us with nothing.
A congregation of employees dressed in black huddled around the men eating six dishes — theirs and ours. A manager didn't come by to see us, and neither did an owner. Everyone looked confused. Finally, our nervous waitress popped by, admitted it was her second day, and promised the meal would be comped.
That's when we received a second fattoush salad, a dish we had already eaten. Chicken wings followed, though we had canceled that order. It was a good mistake: The wings were delectable — sticky, sweet, tender, and messy. So was a rib eye steak, which was cooked to a perfect medium-rare.
But the rest of the food achieved a stunning accomplishment. Somehow, it was both loaded with fat and tasteless — a difficult achievement, indeed.
Packed with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs, the duck sausage was parched. Its accompanying rye bread lacked freshness. A side of sautéed spinach, spiked with garlic and ginger, was smothered in excess grease and lacked salt. The kaese spätzle, an egg pasta dish, should have tasted wonderful — the noodles were, after all, cocooned in a cheesy sauce with bacon. But it was as disappointing as everything else at the Butcher Shop.
So although the meal was free, we finished our beers, left the food, and just ate cold cereal at home for dinner instead.