The new Butcher and the Boar opens today in an unusual location: the former Mpls.St.Paul Magazine office space in Minneapolis’s North Loop. Bellying up to the generous mahogany bar, anchored by a taxidermied boar’s head and an amber row of bourbon bottles, it’s difficult to imagine the restaurant as the austere suite it was just a year ago. Transforming a space designed for industriousness into one for revelry is no small feat — but the tantalizing scent of charred meat that permeates the neighboring hallways is the first signal of the new restaurant’s success.
This is the reimagined Butcher and the Boar, of course, helmed by local hospitality group Jester Concepts (of Borough, Parlour, P.S. Steak, and others), which bought the rights to the restaurant in 2021. The original Butcher and the Boar was brought to life in 2012 on Hennepin Avenue by chef Jack Riebel, who made an indelible mark on the local scene with his American craft menu of oak-smoked sausages, pork chops, and steaks, all paired with fine bourbons. Butcher and the Boar earned Riebel a James Beard nomination in 2013, before he left the restaurant in 2014. Later, in 2017, founding partner Tim Rooney passed away; Riebel, who’d gone on to become chef and co-owner of the Lexington, died of cancer in 2021, leaving a mourning restaurant community in his wake. By then, the original Butcher and the Boar had closed in 2021 amid financial strain.
Chef Mike DeCamp and Brent Frederick, co-owners of Jester Concepts, knew Riebel well, and understood Butcher and the Boar’s inimitable place in the local restaurant scene. “We were sad to see it go, and we knew someone had to resurrect it,” says Frederick. “We said, ‘Why not us?’ This concept belongs in Minneapolis.”
In reviving the restaurant, Jester faced a mammoth task: recapturing the restaurant’s spirit without attempting to reproduce every familiar detail. (Taking over the original location wasn’t an option — chef Peter Botcher, who replaced Riebel at the restaurant in 2014, partnered with Kaskaid Hospitality to open a new restaurant there, the Butcher’s Tale.) Jester announced in 2021 it had found a new space at the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine offices, an unadorned suite that nevertheless had good bones: a brick exterior, exposed timbers in the ceiling, and concrete floors. They brought on local firm Shea Design to complete the transformation.
The end result is a distinct restaurant that feels undeniably familiar. The dining space has an organic feel and an inviting amber glow: A velvety, tufted banquette frames the restaurant’s edges, and a line of intimate booths oppose the bar, taking another leaf from the original’s book. There are a number of private dining spaces, too. One, the Riebel Room, has pristine glass walls. “It pays homage to Jack,” says DeCamp. “Jack was fairly private, but he lived his life on display, and very loudly. It’s an all-glass room — so it’s private, but you’re on display, just like Jack.” The penny-tiled floor, another nod to the original space, lines the bathroom hallway. The whole space favors warmth and conviviality over sleekness and separation.
The office locale may seem offbeat — step through the door to the left of the restaurant’s entry and you’ll find yourself strolling down a beige hallway lined with other suites. But, Frederick says, converting work spaces into restaurant spaces is part of the fabric of the evolving North Loop, a dining hotspot that was once the city’s manufacturing center. “Borough and Parlour was a gasket manufacturing [business], and it turned into an apartment with retail at the bottom,” says Frederick. “The Freehouse is in an office building. We carved out our own little area in this building — the restaurant space doesn’t look like an office building.”
As far as the food, expect a few favorites to reappear. The double-cut pork chop, for example, is back, though it’s served with a pineapple rum glaze and macadamia nut salsa, not blueberries and whipped honey butter. There are some new dishes, too, like buffalo sweetbreads and an especially juicy and aromatic pheasant wild rice sausage. All of the meats are served sliced and meant to be shared, as are the bevy of side dishes, from the cast-iron cornbread crowned with miso butter to the cheesy grits. The house pickle plate, perhaps the most humble appetizer on the menu, is also one of the best. The smattering of fruits and vegetables — including peeled slices of honeycrisp apple pickled with spices — is served with a grilled baguette and horseradish cream.
The cocktail menu offers variations on six themes: Old Fashioneds, gold rushes, martinis, Manhattans, highballs, and margaritas. The throughline, of course, is the bourbon, which adds a warming enhancement to any rich, meat-heavy meal. Each category has a nonalcoholic option, with booze-free spirits made in-house by bar manager Michael Lindgren.
A sister component to the main restaurant, the Char Bar, is in the works in an adjoining space, and will open in the coming weeks. Expect a cocktail menu with a bit of a daring edge (think: a Scotch, banana, and coconut cocktail; a Rye Tai with orgeat and curacao) and a separate food menu. Butcher and the Boar is open for reservations starting on February 7; hours are Sunday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight.