Parts & Labor, the new meat-centric project from Woodberry Kitchen restaurateurs Amy and Spike Gjerde, is something new for Baltimore: a combination restaurant and butcher shop.
The restaurant's culinary focus couldn't be clearer. It's meat. It's not all meat, all the time, but it comes close. The menu's centerpiece is a changing selection of five or so dry-aged butcher's cuts, which the menu describes as "under-appreciated" cuts like "plate steak" and "petite tender," which the waiter will helpfully tell you is not at all like a filet mignon.
Along with recommended cooking temperatures, the menu provides detailed information about each cut's marbling and muscle location. And what the menu doesn't tell you, your waiter, without much prompting, will.
You can also order up a charcuterie board, a dry-aged burger. a maple kielbasa sausage, or a serving or two of organ meats and "off-cut" items, things like pickled trotter on toast, or a massive peach-glazed ham hock that looks impermeable but that yields up hunks of charred and smoky meat for dipping into a bold porter mustard.
Parts & Labor, it has to be said, has gone whole hog. And whole steer.
Your enjoyment of Parts & Labor may come down to what you can and can't have at your meal.
At the beginning, you can have beer — and wine — on draft. The beer list has a regional focus, the wine list does not. You can get a glass of locally produced cider or sour mead. And you can get a good stiff drink, like the Grapes of Wrath, made with brandy, hard cider, honey, orange bitters and verjus.
And at the end, you can get a nectarine-rhubarb crisp or the house specialty, a chocolate layer cake made with lard. But, at least for now, you can't get a cup of coffee, although the restaurant plans to add coffee service at some point.
Along the way, you can have pickled snacks, perky salads and savory side dishes, all of which are treated at Parts & Labor with great care. But you can't have a piece of fish. There's no chicken, either. That's odd, I know, or at least unusual, but it doesn't feel that way when you're dining here.
Of the snacks, we most loved a dish of pickled kohlrabi, one of those vegetables you don't think about much, if at all. It turns out that pickled kohlrabi, which is in the cabbage family, is a crisp and crunchy delight, especially with a touch of ginger. The exceptional salad is one composed of young kale, liberally coated with peppercorn dressing, with nuggets of raw-milk goat cheese. The best of the side dishes is coal-roasted rutabagas with maple butter and pickled fish peppers.
As for the steaks, they are prepared and presented simply, with a steak sauce and an herb relish. You'll find that you enjoy some cuts more than others, which is part of the fun. The steaks are portioned, and priced, moderately — all are $20 and under — and most are delivered sliced and fanned, so a table can share and compare meat notes.
The exception, the quick steak, is served intact, and is topped, deliciously, with peppercorn gravy and a duxelles, a coarse and buttery mixture of chopped mushrooms, parsley and shallots. It was our favorite.
A dinner here is brisk and uplifting, tended to by an energetic staff. You certainly don't feel like you're dining in a butcher shop, and it's not like diners are taken into the meat locker to point out the part of the carcass they want to have on their plate.
The setting for your meat-fest is The Tire Shop, a renovated industrial building in Remington that also houses Single Carrot Theatre. The interior's industrial past has not been obliterated. But it's been softened by warm wood, sunlight and brick. A row of community dining tables runs down the room's center, flanked on one side by a row of wooden booths and on the other by the open kitchen.
The dining room's dominating feature is its aroma — the smell of meat being seared over a hickory flame.
Parts & Labor
Rating: 3.5 stars
Where: 2600 N. Howard St., Remington
Contact: 443-873-8887, partsandlaborbutchery.com
Open: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Reservations: The community dining tables are first-come, first-seated. Reservations are taken for the tables along the side wall.
Prices: Appetizers: $2-$12; Entrees: $16-$20
Food: Meat, mostly, but side dishes and salads, too
Service: Very informed and enthusiastic
Parking/accessibility: A free lot is across the street for Parts & Labor guests.
Children: There is no children's menu, but there are high chairs, and crayons, available.
Special diets: Most of the menu is gluten-free or can be adjusted to accommodate. Gluten-free bread is available on request, and the bar stocks gluten-free beer, ciders, meads, cocktails and wines as well.
Noise level/televisions: Normal conversation is fine in main dining room, even when it's full. There are no televisions.
[Star key: Superlative: 5 ; Excellent: 4; Very Good: 3 ; Good: 2 ; Promising: 1]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun