Posted on Mar 19, 2013 | 5 comments
Block & Grinder just opened in Charlotte, and its concept is unique: think full bar, wine shop, butcher counter, and restaurant all mashed into one location. The focus is on fresh ingredients, what the owners call a “back to basics” approach. Block & Grinder specializes in premium, all-natural meats and wild game. The meats are fresh and cut and ground in-house daily, giving patrons a “butcher block to grinder” experience. Even the corned beef and pastrami is brined, steamed, smoked, trimmed, and cut in-house.
Most seats in the restaurant offer a full view of the open kitchen, which is headed by executive chef Kent Graham (who previously served as chef for the Atlanta Braves). At any given time, you can see half a dozen cooks methodically knocking out orders as the line man calls them out.
Not everyone comes to Block & Grinder to dine–some come simply for the prime meats. For these folks, there’s a butcher counter located right at the front of the store.
As for the beverages–the bar is well-stocked, offering wine, craft beers, and signature hand-crafted cocktails, plus a large bourbon collection.
Last week, I attended the pre-opening Meat & Greet event, and our meal started as all do when you dine at Block & Grinder: Grandpa Leonard’s biscuits. The biscuits are made from a secret family recipe passed down to Chef Graham and are served with sorghum butter. These are not your typical fluffy biscuits, rather they’re dense and crumbly as shortbread. Given the family history, I wanted to love them, but found the hard “biscuits” paired with the hard butter pretty undesirable.
The appetizer selection is meatcentric, but broad, and includes ribs, pork belly, sweetbreads, and roasted bone marrow. I opted for the goat cheese deviled eggs, which were a fun spin on the traditional preparation. The crispy prosciutto was the perfect salty garnish.
There are several seasonal vegetable sides available, which currently includes asparagus, herbed mushrooms, sweet potato hash, and macaroni and cheese. Each is served in a mini cast iron pan. My favorite side was the Brussels sprouts. They’re sautéed with pancetta, doused with vinegar, and topped with Parmesan cheese.
After the disappointing biscuits, my dinner mission was to get my hands on some great bread. The bun on my shitake mushroom burger was perfect–soft and chewy, but firm enough to hold its own against the juiciness of the meat and mushrooms. The meat itself was fantastic, and my only complaint was the garlic aioli–it was overshadowed and indiscernible.
The bourbon barbecue wild game meatloaf was the best dish of the evening. I’ve never had a more flavorful meatloaf (sorry, Mom!). The mashed potato croquets that came along side were also outstanding.
It’s no surprise that there’s a heavy emphasis on meat at Block & Grinder. Where else can you get duck, rabbit, steak, pork belly, bone marrow, and charcuterie under one roof? There are, however, a few vegetarian options, such as the mushroom pappardelle, lentil and mushroom based anti-veggie burger, and a handful of salads. I noticed pancetta and prosciutto are used in many of the dishes, including the Brussels sprouts, so if a meat-free meal is your aim, be sure to get clarification on the ingredients from your server.
We ended the night with a little bread pudding (little because the serving size was small). The bread was warm and studded with cranberries and only slightly sweet. Upon review of the grand opening menu, it appears this dessert did not make the final menu cut, which is good news because it didn’t knock my socks off.
Overall, the restaurant concept is fun and the food is fresh. There are several sandwiches and grinders on the lunch menu, ranging from $9 – $12. Dinner prices vary greatly, depending on the selection: burgers are $11, meaty entrees range from $18-$25, and prime cuts of meat hover near $35. I’d definitely recommend lunch or dinner at Block & Grinder.
Block & Grinder provided all Meat & Greet attendees with gratis food and drink. Other than the delicious meal, I was not paid for this review. This blog post and comments within are based on my own, honest opinions.