Finally, the Where’s Waldo-esque game of where Bobby Benjamin’s new restaurant will be located is over. Unlike the tedious “Where’s Bobby Flay?” game, this Bobby chose not to muddy the mystery of his next move by revealing he’ll open Butchertown Grocery at 1076 E. Washington St., the location where The Blind Pig and Meat were simultaneously slaughtered by infighting owners two years ago.
The plan is to open by this fall.
“That’s a great location in a great neighborhood, and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Benjamin, whose run with the Falls City Hospitality Group ended, for all intents and purposes, with the closure of La Coop Bistro a Vins Dec. 31. “The menu will be simple and focus on great ingredients, integrity of flavors and serious technique. I really want my cooks to understand technique, because it explains why you cook every ingredient the best way possible. You’re not just sauteeing and grilling.”
Historically, the late-1800s building once was Butchertown Grocery, and that open market feel will be featured in its first floor, 100-seat dining room. Benjamin said “customers will get to see everything they’ll eat, everything they’ll put into their bodies” when they dine there.
Such a display, he believes, not only shows customers the quality of ingredients, it helps make the connection between those ingredients and the kitchen’s prepared products.
“It’s also exposing me as a chef to do that; it’s kind of keeping me honest,” Benjamin said.
Asked to explain the food he’ll cook, Benjamin said, “It’s basically a journey through my childhood, what I ate then and things I’ve learned to make over the course of my career.”
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean rice cereal, PB&J and fine French food. Look forward to a mélange of well-cooked food without the defined boundaries of any cuisine.
“My style of cooking is not to go crazy on any one thing,” he said. “It’s to cook simple food as good as I can possibly make it.”
Expect a casual bistro approach blending iconic French, Italian and American standards expressed simply and seasonally.
“I know that sounds a little crazy, but it really won’t be confusing once you see it,” he said. “I promise it’ll make sense.”
For those who loved the big burgers he was doing at La Coop, know that they’ll re-emerge here, bookended by house-made buns and fries cut in house.
“Everything will be made in house. You name it, I’m not kidding,” Benjamin said, before backtracking briefly. “I will bring in Blue Dog bread for sure. It’s the finest bread I’ve ever eaten.”
The second floor of the building will feature a speakeasy-style bar, space for private dining and live music. It’ll be a nice spot for late-night drinks and snacks, he said.
Benjamin declined to disclose the names of his investor partners, but he did say the operation is under his sole direction.
He has yet to choose a front of the house manager, but said, “my chef de cuisine is incredibly talented. I can’t tell you who that is yet because he still has a job, and I don’t want to jeopardize that. I’ll take my time to get the right people, though.”