Butcher and the Rye has rich and creative food, drink and atmosphere | TribLIVE.com
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Diners at Butcher and the Rye downtown on May 23, 2014.

Butcher and the Rye is the sexiest thing I have seen Downtown since my Kris-Letang-on-Penn-Avenue sighting of 2013.

The two-floor restaurant space features a wall of whiskeys, two bars, antler chandeliers, bartenders in work aprons, warm-hued wallpaper, shelves of leather bound books, meat cleavers, and an assortment of well-placed taxidermy. Nowhere else in the ‘Burgh is this old-timey, eclectic aesthetic so masterfully executed. It is intricate, playful and a touch alluring.

Owner-and-chef Richard DeShantz and partner Tolga Sevdik certainly know how to make a restaurant cool, further evidenced by their first joint project, Meat & Potatoes, just down the street.

The Butcher and the Rye menu also takes a cue from its sister spot and favors meat heavily. The legitimate wall of booze sets this joint apart in terms of drink selection. Whiskey is the main attraction, with the option to sample through flights or to try a twist on a classic. With one sip of a Sazerac or a Blood and Sand, it is clear that Butcher and the Rye is at the top of the craft-cocktail game.

Non-whiskey drinkers will also find reasons to rejoice. The James Beard Foundation, which recognizes culinary achievements across the nation, even spotlighted the establishment with a semi-finalist nomination for the 2014 Outstanding Bar Program award. High praise for the master tenders of the bar.

The food keeps pace with the cocktail selections, and the rich, mostly meat-centric choices are quality complements to the creative pours. The menu breaks down as such: small plates, charcuterie, salads, cheese and large plates.

Small plates are easily shared and feature a variety of nibbles, from P.E.I. Mussels to Marrow to Brussels plates. The standouts include the Pig Candy, candied pork-belly bites; the Mac N Cheese, a baked combination of five cheeses; and, surprisingly, the Cauliflower, lightly fried and served over farrow grain with a yogurt sauce.

For lovers of the good things in life, the Baked Camembert from the cheese section is a must order. Capped with a phyllo crust, the warm Camembert embracing bits of apple spreads perfectly on the accompanying grilled bread. Continuing on the goodness train, the Country Ham charcuterie is a knockout, complete with marmalade and tiny biscuits. It’s like a visit to Colonial Williamsburg without the three-corner hats and melodic fifes.

The large plates offer a diversity of wildlife like rabbit, chicken, duck and scallops, among others. The Wagyu Flank Steak, paired with bite-size potatoes, is not the most creative dish, but certainly the most likely to be melt-in-mouth.

Saving room for dessert is critical. The Deep Fried Brownie is the kind of after-dinner treat that might result in a hospital trip (for caloric overindulgence), but it would be worth it. A soft-and-chewy brownie is delicately beer-battered and fried and served with a chocolate sorbet and caramelized bananas.

After a decadent meal, guests can record musings in the small books that carry the dinner bill. Diners’ deep thoughts fill the journals and sometimes offer up advice, like this gem found on a recent visit: “Avoid fast women and slow horses.”

And a final note: Always make a reservation to dine less than two hours after arrival. The hostesses will shoot a look of abject horror and disdain to guests without one, even though there are communal tables in the front of the space for walk-ins. I have personally received the “you are not welcome here” stare on multiple occasions. This is not a good time and the only unpleasantry one might expect to encounter at this otherwise finely tuned and well-designed culinary production.

Laura Zorch is one of the food-savvy ladies of eatPGH.com. They contribute weekly dining reviews to Trib Total Media.

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