This months-old venue on Marietta Square has “instant hit” written all over it. The Butcher The Baker replaces the former Simpatico with a country-cool look that uses unfinished wood, Mason jars, soft golden lighting and an antique drinks fridge to place things clearly in Southern farm-to-table territory. Married owners Micah (the butcher) and Katie (the baker) Pfister get their produce from the same local farmers who supply the Marietta Farmers Market, according our waiter. Everything is made from scratch from the baker’s bun croutons garnishing the heirloom tomato salad to the berry mostarda set over crunchy little nuggets of sweetbreads.
The bourbon cocktails were tasty and strong, and our waiter (though a bit harried) did an excellent job of communicating the personality of the restaurant and the details of the food and drink. I don’t want to sound too snotty here, but it felt like intown rather than suburban service.
Same goes for the menu, which bristles with the kind of edgy, intriguing ideas you’d associate with Empire State South or One Eared Stag. The kitchen doesn’t execute its food with the finesse of either of those restaurants, but I think it shows potential.
I best liked our entrees. This oil-crisped piece of fish paired nicely with its bed of celery- and carrot-studded farro. The jam on the side was sweet enough to make you want peanut butter, and the little tomato skins had toughened considerably during cooking.
This duck dish was all-around yumstown, with an umami hit of beech mushrooms and a sweet-tart balance to the cherry sauce, so it played well with others. That cornbread puree was a delicious backdrop, and it did a brilliant job of bridging Southern and German flavors. We need more of this kind of cooking in Atlanta.
The menu goes ham on small plates and sharesies — just the kind of food you want when you’re sitting at that inviting bar — but our choices didn’t deliver as well as we had hoped. This salt-lick hummus didn’t do justice to the tasty strips of warm flatbread. Good idea, needs work.
Springy shrimp, unripe melon cubes, dry feta nuggets and old-fashioned, spice-heavy watermelon rind pickle. Hmmm….
Cool idea, but the house-made bologna was grainy and one piece was (yikes) a bit raw in the center. The components on the plate need to communicate with each other as those on the duck entree did so well.
Desserts end the meal on high note. We really enjoyed this creamy cane syrup pudding as well as a warm peach brown butter tart in a well-constructed pâte sablée crust — cohesive but fragile enough cut and crumble with a fork. The warm house rolls were terrific, as well.
The energy in this room is palpable, and I don’t mean in a shrieky bar-scene way, but in a Marietta’s-where-it’s-happening way. This is where interesting folks come out to play, and I bet their feedback will make this restaurant get better by the day. Check it.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog