One of our favorite date night restaurants is Urban Butcher in Silver Spring. While we’d never be considered regulars, it is a standard go-to for nights when we want to do something a little more special. We went there for Dan’s birthday last year. So when I saw that they had started offering an early bird three-course menu, I was curious. We had a free evening, so we decided to have a little date night.
Urban Butcher is a meat-centric restaurant with a laid-back, though stylish, vibe in downtown Silver Spring. They have their own meat cellar where they produce house-cured meats and their own aged cuts. This is definitely not a vegetarian restaurant, although a vegetarian could probably find a few things on the menu. But the meat is what Urban Butcher does best.
To call them a steakhouse would be to somewhat miss the point. Yes, they serve steak (and a pretty good one, in my experience), but they offer so much more. Favorites that we’ve had in the past include two kinds of tartare, a tuna ceviche, house-made pastrami, and a braised oxtail dish that was out of this world.
But our most recent visit was to check out the Early Dinner Menu. The menu consists of three courses: a charcuterie plate, a main course, and either a dessert or a drink. There is little choice, but the value is excellent. The dessert is a single choice each day, and the drink is from an abbreviated version of their cocktail, wine, and beer menu. We decided to have one dessert and one included drink, and then add an additional drink.
Our first course was an assortment of charcuterie, plus one cheese. It came with two cured meats, two salami, a pate, a cheese, and accompaniments of pickles, mustard, and grilled bread. The cures were a lamb bacon and the pork lomo, both of which were excellent (the board came with three pieces of each and neither Dan nor I could decide which one we wanted two of). The salami were the salami Toscano and diabolo. The diabolo had an appropriate amount of kick, given it’s name, but not so much it burned my mouth, and the Toscano was delightfully peppery. The cheese was a shepherd’s sheep’s milk cheese and nicely creamy and mild to balance the stronger flavors of the meats. And the pate (my favorite!) was a chunky, country-style pate that went well with the bread, mustard, and pickles. It was a delightful way to start our meal — a nice taste, without being an excessive amount of food before our main event.
The primary main course choice is their Steak Frites, but they’ve recently added a new option to the menu: the Meat Mountain. Of course Dan and I went for the Meat Mountain. This comes out on a small tabletop grill (although it’s already cooked and it’s not terribly hot) loaded with a ribeye steak, lamb chops, pork, chicken drumsticks, sausages, and some grilled potatoes and broccolini.
It is… a lot of meat. Dan and I soldiered valiantly, but still took enough home for a brunch of steak (and lamb and pork) and eggs the next day. All of the meat was excellent, immaculately flavored and cooked perfectly. They do tend to cook the ribeye a bit rarer than asked, so we asked for medium rare and received a perfect slightly-more-than-rare steak. And it was obviously well-rested because, despite it being quite rare, it did not bleed.
My favorite was the pork with latin spices. The spices were subtle and not overpowering to the flavor of the pork, but enhanced it beautifully, and it was cooked perfectly. While Dan agreed that the pork was excellent, he referred to the sausages as “the Platonic ideal of a sausage.” One thing that Urban Butcher does well is meat. That said, I was surprised by the care and flavor that went into the potatoes and the broccolini, the latter of which was perfectly charred, with a smokey flavor, but not burned or overcooked.
One of the reasons we had to restrain ourselves a bit with the Meat Mountain was because we knew we had a lovely dessert coming. Churros with chocolate are one Dan’s favorite desserts, an artifact from his semester in Spain in college. Sadly, the chocolate sauce was a bit thin the night we went, although we’ve had it in the past and it was thicker, so it might have just been a bad batch. But the subtle orange and spice of the chocolate sauce tastes delicious, and the churros themselves were perfectly cooked, crispy, and fresh from the fryer, while somehow not being too greasy or burn-your-fingers hot. It was the perfect end to a wonderful meal.
One of the advantages of the Early Menu is the value. The standard menu (with Steak Frites) is $35 per person, while the Meat Mountain adds a supplement of $20 for two. So our entire dinner, including an extra beer that wasn’t on the menu selection, came to just over $125 with tax and tip. If you’re interested in checking it out, the Early Dinner Menu is offered Tuesday-Saturday from 5-7 p.m. and all day on Sundays. More information on Urban Butcher can be found at their website: http://urbanbutcher.com/