Finding a seat at Butcher & The Brewer

We’re not into loud, crowded restaurants so it takes a certain strategy to finding the right moment to visit Butcher & The Brewer on magical East 4th Street in Cleveland.

The place always seems to be packed on Saturdays… and during the week before and after sporting events… and pre- and post concerts.

We previously thought we were on the right track getting there at 5 p.m. on a Saturday, but, nope. (Flashback!) So this time we decided to go on a Sunday… at 4 p.m…. with no Cavs or Indians game… nor a concert. Success!

So, if you haven’t figured it out yet by all the talk of crowds, the food is pretty good here.

The place has a beer hall feel to it with a long bar and picnic tables to foster communal sitting so when this place gets cranking it’s pretty loud and hard to find seats.

And while I’ve heard good things about their beers (hence “The Brewer” in its moniker) both Jeannene and I are more cocktail types. And we usually order different ones just to try as many as possible but “A Taste of Honey” ($12) caught our eyes and neither would back down from the thought of combining bourbon and honey so we each got a glass. Neither of us was disappointed as the honey really lightened up the usually bold taste of bourbon. We’re already planning on trying to replicate this summery drink at home.

The restaurant features both small plates and entrees as well as flatbreads and salads. This time around we decided to share three small plates – bacon-wrapped stuffed dates ($9), crispy calamari ($12) and beef sliders ($15).

The three dates were pretty big, and the bacon was quite thick. Oftentimes in a dish like this the bacon will crisp up too much and fall off whatever it’s wrapped around but these provided a proper mouthful. The sweet dates were stuffed with chorizo as well as manchego cheese and normally will have piquillo pepper sauces drizzled on it but we had it on the side out of a certain someone’s fear it would be too spicy. However, it wasn’t that hot and added just a little zing to the denseness of the bites.

The black chili oil on the white plate holding crispy calamari makes for a bold statement at Butcher & The Brewer in Cleveland. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)

The heaping plateful of calamari was not too chewy and the breading was just slightly golden brown. The most interesting thing about the dish was the two sauces. Under the calamari was a smear of lemon aioli and around the edge was a drizzle of black chili oil, a jet blackness you usually don’t see on a plate and did seem a little intimidating. You could taste the lemon in the aioli but barely while the chili sauce, again, wasn’t overpoweringly spicy. The sauces were almost too thick for the lightness of the calamari but I thought it still worked.

ButcherBrewer- Sliders
Pimento cheese melts on the juicy sliders at Butcher & The Brewer in Cleveland. (Jeannene Mathis-Bertosa)

There was nothing subtle about the three beef sliders – Juicy beef with pimento cheese that had already pretty much melted away by the time it got to our table, a spicy mayo and pickles all on brioche buns that soaked up all the juices. It’s what a burger is all about (Hence the “Butcher” in the moniker). And we devoured them and thought about ordering another round.

But instead we just shared another cocktail – a “Squeeze My Lemon” ($14) that had not only limoncello but also vodka and prosecco to go with lemon curds. It tasted just like a lemon bar…with alcohol.

Oh, and it was still not too crowded at 5:30 p.m. so we’ll be checking to see when the Indians next have a road game on a Sunday.

John Bertosa is likely out and about sampling the Northeast Ohio dining scene.

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