Quick Takes: Urban Butcher

Checking in on a Silver Spring butcher shop.
Raynold Mendizabal fuses a restaurant, meat counter, and lounge at Urban Butcher. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Raynold Mendizabal fuses a restaurant, meat counter, and lounge at Urban Butcher. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Given the ambitious aims of chef/owner Raynold Mendizabal—his project is a coffee shop, cocktail bar, butcher, and restaurant—you might expect a high-concept designer to have whipped these disparate elements into a silky emulsion of a space. But no. The lounge brings together mismatched furniture, and the dining room appears to have been cobbled together from Ikea. The cocktail bar looks onto the butcher shop—you can gawk at a pig’s head while nursing a Sazerac.

The food tries to speak to the moment while appealing to a range of diners. The sensibility is nose-to-tail, plates are portioned somewhere between appetizer and entrée, and the result is a global eclecticism that can take you both everywhere and nowhere.

What is the strategy for eating here? I haven’t figured it out. I loved a lamb tartare, but the house-made pastrami was tough. A lamb shank with lentils was too fatty, though its flavors were complex; ox brisket was just as fatty, and just as flavorful. The last thing I’d expect to find is a chocolate soufflé, but it is one of the best items on the menu.

This is one of the more interesting projects to come along in the past year, and I hope it works through its problems. The staff is not bad but often seems clueless as to the larger mission. Then again, with a space and menu like this, I can’t exactly blame them.

This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

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