The Review: Butcher & Bee
The familiar and the unexpected make delicious “breadfellows” at Butcher & Bee (B&B), where the daily buzz includes a tempting array of sandwiches and sides like none you’ve seen before.
Owner Michael Shemtov and chef Stuart Tracy are responsible for this unique shop—serving lunch, late night fare, and the occasional pop-up dinner—which offers all the comforts you’d expect in an urban café, with a few rough-hewn touches thrown into the mix for added charm. Design details blend lofty views of brimming country cupboards with an eclectic collection of community tables and amusing seating options: think ’50s kitchen meets farm tractor roost. The small courtyard at the entrance provides a close-up view of commercial and industrial neighbors who anchor this destination spot, which is located just off the beaten path of rapidly expanding Upper King.
B&B’s concise menu, chalked on the wall and available on Facebook and Twitter, features an adventurous array of fresh daily specials including sandwiches and sides paired with really good breads baked in-house, and sometimes a simple dessert or two. Locally sourced ingredients provided by area farms, fishermen, and purveyors are highlighted in the daily market list along with natural lamb, beef, and multiple iterations of favorite seasonal specialties. Vegans and vegetarians are also well-served here, with many choices that are meat-, fish-, or dairy-free.
Every day brings creative reinventions of the traditional sandwich, including unusual pairings and preparations that complete the experience with flavorful depth. Excitement on our first lunch visit peaked with a sandwich made of crisp bacon, Bibb lettuce, roasted heirloom tomato, and avocado pressed between thick toasted slices of rustic bread served on a signature aluminum tray. A simple side of sweet watermelon drizzled with local honey lightened the finish. Tangy hummus and Israeli salad, roasted cauliflower with harissa yogurt and charred onions, and mildly pickled green beans with cherry tomatoes are examples of unusual sides that can also make a satisfying meal. Sunday brunch included plenty of smooth Batdorf & Bronson coffee from Georgia and creamy Geechie Boy grits with a perfect, gently poached egg and spicy vegetable ratatouille.
For night owls, the late-night menu served from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. offers hearty grazing—with different twists including music that’s lively without being loud—to please the “after hours” crowd. Burgers and bánh mì sandwiches make regular appearances along with breakfast items like our favorite egg and bacon sandwich made with two fried eggs, crisp Caw Caw Creek bacon, spicy tomato mayo, and melted American cheese tucked into a golden grilled brioche bun, with rich barbecue sauce for extra heat. An unusual beet extravaganza paired roasted beets with avocado, apple, and horseradish finished with red wine vinaigrette, expertly encased in ciabatta. Peppery slender-cut fries with silken hollandaise sealed the deal, which we enjoyed with a Meyer lemon soda and a favorite Malbec brought from home. (Guests are invited to bring their own beverages as desired, with no corkage fee.) We added a warm chocolate chip cookie on the way out.
In a market where it’s not easy to be different, Butcher & Bee makes a welcome splash with this “anything but typical” sandwich house staffed with caring employees who understand the nature of the business they’re in. And given their fresh focus, it’s no surprise that an urban garden may also be in their future.
Butcher & Bee
654 King St., (843) 619-0202, www.butcherandbee.com
Lunch: Daily, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; Late night: Thursday-Saturday, 11 p.m.–3 a.m.
Average entrée: $10