I recently talked to the young chef, Darin Koch (pronounced cook, natch), who is opening Butcher Block, the new restaurant going in to the old Fugaise spot in Northeast Minneapolis. Our conversation was odd, mainly because Koch told me about 16 times that the restaurant plans to make no profit at all, that they’re going to specialize in in-house butchery but are opening without a butchery area, will be open till 4 a.m. on weekends (and would be open 24 hours a day if Koch had his druthers). It will offer 29 chicken wing flavors.
Does any of this sound credible to you? Well, it’s what I was told. Here’s more of what I was told: Butcher Block will be all about in-house butchery, and will open June 18. Koch has a cooking background that includes a long stint at Osteria I Nonni. Before that, he worked at the Napa Valley Grille under the talented Eric Scherwinski, and somewhere in the mists of time he had a cooking job at W. A. Frost under local nose-to-tail evangelist Lenny Russo.
Butcher Block is planned as a meat-heavy gastropub, or in Koch’s words, trattoria, with nothing on the menu priced over $15, and will have a full bar as well as wine and liquor license. Their claim to fame will be their butcher, Filippo Caffari, a former Osteria I Nonni chef who will be hand crafting all sorts of old-school European delights like lamb prosciutto, pork guanciale, and coppa salami. They plan to have a burger or two on the menu at all times. They hope to open with one made of lamb and garnished with a special variety of minty lettuce they’re having specially grown just for them.
The restaurant will work as a caterer by day, delivering upscale corporate box lunches, and serve in-house dinner by night. In addition to butchering all their own meats—meats such as wild boar, veal, beef, pork, and lamb—Butcher Block will also specialize in chicken wings, through a menu section called “Basket of Robins,” which will offer 29 chicken wing flavors, including mango curry with yogurt, and blackberry balsamic red wine reduction. Koch told me you’ll get 15 to 24 wings for $10. (Basket of Robins, of course, is a play on Baskin Robbins, with their 31 flavors; no actual robins were harmed in the typing of this sentence.) This Basket of Robins, and all Butcher Block menu items will be available until 4 a.m. weekends, 2 a.m. the rest of the time.
“We don’t want to make any type of profit,” Koch said. “We’re just totally passionate about great food.” Koch also told me that the former Fugaise space is no longer recognizably Fugaise. The prison-gray walls have been repainted. There is a black and white photograph of a butcher scale on one wall, and that Fabrizio Cicconne, another co-owner, will be managing the front of the house. Fabrizio Cicconne, of course, is a local restaurauteur who has had a hand in restaurants including La Bodega, Nochee, Arezzo, Café Agri. “We’re basically an old school Italian Trattoria with trans-global flavor,” Koch told me. “I just wish passion paid the bills.”
The Butcher Block
308 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis