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The Butcher & Larder Ready To Open

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jan 13, 2011 5:00PM

The Butcher & Larder, the whole animal butcher shop created by the team behind the dear, departed Mado is just about ready to go. We got a sneak peek inside of January's most-anticipated opening yesterday and talked with Rob Levitt, the driving force behind the new temple of meat. We've been a big fan of Levitt's work for years, so it was exiting to meet him and talk about the new space - and trust us, it's going to be something special.

Butcher & Larder looks to be like no other butcher shop in Chicago. For one thing, there are no mile-long coolers displaying their glistening red wares to the customer. There is just one tiny cooler for charcuterie and daily features. "If a customer asks for a pork chop, we're going to ask 'How thick?' and go and cut it for them," Levitt told us. All meat will be custom cut, and nothing will be pre-wrapped, which means we might be able to find some of those odd cuts of beef that cookbooks are always telling us to use. The wonderful charcuterie we loved at Mado will be a large part of the store's offerings, and they will offer homemade bacon and sausages. Levitt even talked about selling home-cured hams for holiday dinners, once things are up and running.

Another distinguishing feature that will prove shocking to some but drool-worthy to others: all of the butchery will be done in the open. Butcher and Larder has no back rooms and no hidden spaces. There is a walk-in cooler for storage, but the main butchering space is a giant wooden table right behind the antique cash register. The meat slicer, meat grinder and sausage stuffer are all right in the open, and anyone who wants to get a look at Rob's technique (or the animals that they are eating parts of) will be able to look right in. Levitt acknowledged that this might be shocking, but reminded us that there will be no blood and guts - it's mostly cutting and sawing. Additionally. Levitt believes that it is important for customers to remember that they are eating real animals, not pre-packaged bits of protein.

The shop will offer some bits and pieces besides meat. Some of Allison Levitt's wonderful pastries will be available, the shop will serve coffee (the machine was being assembled during our visit) and they will offer a couple of sandwiches each day. But remember, Levitt cautions, that this is a store, not a restaurant. "Some people have written about us like we're going to be a BYOB cafe," Levitt remarked. "There will be two sandwiches, one hot and one cold. And if someone wants to BYOB, they had better leave some for me!" Butcher & Larder will host some special dinners, but the space is primarily meant for retail.

According to Levitt, the health inspectors have approved the shop and the only thing remaining is the official city license. "Our lawyer is going to check on things tomorrow," Rob told us, so hopefully we will have some news soon. We will let you know when the shop opens - you can join us in line.

The Butcher and Larder is located at 1026 North Milwaukee Avenue.