REUBEN-ESQUE: Blind Butcher’s pastrami egg rolls

Restaurant Review: Blind Butcher

The folks behind Goodfriend Beer Garden present a tavern focused on cured meats and craft beer.

Those who flock to Blind Butcher with curiosity will dig into the restaurant’s past, wondering what it used to be. Fielding these questions is co-owner Tony Bricker, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. “I tell them it was the Service Bar, and they either go, ‘I never went there,’ or their eyes light up and they go, ‘Oh, the Service Bar.’ I had one couple where the man looked at his wife and said, ‘Look, honey, they built the kitchen where we used to do cocaine.’ ”

That kitchen—where chef Oliver Sitrin now cures his own sausages and makes some of the best meat-forward bar snacks in town—is where the stripper pole, stage, and DJ booth once stood.

Bricker and co-owners Matt Tobin, Josh Yingling, Ryan Chaney, and Sitrin are pulling in the crowds without the pole. Of the owners, five are bearded, four are tattooed. Tobin and Yingling began their work relationship at Vickery Park, where Yingling started out as an over-qualified barback under owner Tobin’s watch. The duo opened their first restaurant together in East Dallas (the beloved Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House), then set their sights on starting a deli across the street, where they could sell cured meats and alcohol. While they were waiting for a zoning variance to sell beer out of what they named the Goodfriend Package Store, they hatched Blind Butcher. Plans for the deli are still underway. It should be open by the end of the year.

MEAT AND GREET: Matt Tobin, Tony Bricker, Josh Yingling, Ryan Chaney, and Oliver Sitrin

My first visit to Blind Butcher fell on a Wednesday at 9 pm. Even without a reservation, I was seated immediately. The crowd changes daily, depending on the weather. Springtime patio weather could mean a one-hour wait. If it’s cold and rainy, you might get stuck inside next to a group of tipsy college grads screaming at the top of their lungs. 

Outside, on benches under strings of white lights, we ordered pastrami egg rolls. This fried, Reuben-inspired snack—consisting of sauerkraut and pastrami stuffed into an egg-roll wrapper—is quickly becoming Sitrin’s signature. Crispy pig ears that look like Medusa’s hair are a playful alternative to regular fries, especially when you’re lucky enough to bite into
one with a good chunk of gelatin and a little chew. Covered in salty chile powder, paprika, and sugar, they come with a zesty, orange fennel aioli. Not dipping is out of the question.

BUTCHER BLOC: beef tartare
Service is fast, servers are enthusiastic, and you might even get one who reminds you of Kristen Wiig, like ours did. It was her third day on the job, but we couldn’t tell by the way she rattled off the beers and their various attributes. Want something with refreshing carbonation and a palatable hop? Get an entire liter of the local Franconia Mearzen, brewed specially for the restaurant. It complements almost everything on the menu, starting with the cheese board that we shared. Six cheeses fill the board, the most notable being the  house-made ricotta, flavored with honey provided by a friend of Sitrin who harvests it from hives near White Rock Lake.

Sitrin—a graduate of El Centro’s culinary program and previously Tre Wilcox’s sous chef at the Village Marquee Texas Bar & Grill—doesn’t believe in making a large ecological footprint. “I’m big on not wasting anything. I make everybody compost,” he says. “That’s part of being a chef. You have to look at the big picture of our impact on the environment, our impact on the food chain.” 

This philosophy trickles down to his dishes, such as the savory bread pudding made from the end pieces of breads, buns, and crostinis. The pudding changes daily, depending on what ingredients are lying around. It was dry and hard to swallow my first time, with crusty pancetta pieces lodged inside the crevices. The second time, it was easier to cut with a fork and consisted of tarragon, thyme, rosemary, pancetta, and cheese curds.

Bone marrow

I tried the duck foie gras sausage on three separate occasions, and it made me swoon every time. It is served with an ever-changing chutney (sometimes red onion, sometimes tomato and celery) that gives it a sweet kick. Sheathed in a thin wrapper and seared on all three sides, the sausage has just the right amount of bite-resistance, oiliness, and pink coloring in the middle. The same goes for the English bangers and mash, an ode to Sitrin’s mother, who hails from the U.K. Caramelized-onion gravy covers the sausage and mashed potatoes like a thick, brown blanket. Needless to say, his mum should be proud.

The meat-centric restaurant, however, doesn’t abandon the vegetarian contingent. There’s a vegan hot dog; poutine made with fries, cheese curds, mushroom gravy, and scallions; a seared broccolini starter; and a hefty salad section. One Monday night, I brought a friend who was on a Lenten meat fast. After she pushed all the smoked chicken aside, she had the best time going after the elbow salad—a rainbow of white cheddar, Spicer’s mixed greens, arugula, and spinach, smoked chicken, pickled celery, radishes, beets, shallots, carrots, egg whites, and egg yolks, dressed in a pickled ranch. This Willy Wonka version of a Cobb is
one of the best salads I’ve had in Dallas, and it pairs well with one of the hoppy, rotating Scottish BrewDog beers on draft. 

Shrimp poutine
Rounding out the main menu is a short, three-item dessert selection. Nothing really stands out, even if you count the gigantic ice-cream sandwich with two bigger-
than-your-face chocolate-chip cookies with Carnival Barker’s vanilla ice cream wedged between. It sits in a pool of Franconia Mearzen glaze. The dense, saucer-sized cookies are more puffy and cake-like than an ice-cream sandwich needs, but they’re perfectly agreeable as a standalone item. 

They’ll probably figure that out. They’ve figured out the rest. Even though Blind Butcher has only been open six months, it runs like it has been open for years. Everything about the place invites people in, from the communal seating options to the servers who shake your hand and ask you your name. It’s become my go-to spot. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if every first-timer who gets sucked in by its charm starts claiming the same. It’s quickly making its own history.