This funky, stylish storefront eatery offers European-style artisan breads, pastries, desserts and an intriguing menu of creative sandwiches, salads, greens and grains, plus espresso drinks, beer and bourbon out front of its expansive bakery kitchen. Nope, it’s not Blue Dog, but it follows a similar path to deliciousness as the Crescent Hill icon: We’re looking at you, Butchertown Grocery Bakery.
Opened late in October on East Main Street where Butchertown meets NuLu, Butchertown Grocery Bakery occupies the substantially renovated industrial building formerly occupied by Electric Motor Repair & Rewind Inc.
Like a lot of other light-industrial businesses that once lined East Main and Market streets, EMR moved to a Jeffersonville industrial park in 2015, declaring on its website that it’s now comfortable in “a larger building, better location and all-around nicer area.”
Nicer for factories, anyway.
This story captures in miniature the journey that NuLu and Butchertown have taken over the past two decades: out with light industry, in with boutiques, specialty shops, restaurants, bars, hotels… and, suddenly, a trendy neighborhood is born.
Butchertown Grocery Bakery fits that model well. A sister establishment of Butchertown Grocery, the popular eatery opened by Chef Bobby Benjamin in 2016, its renovation has converted the 45-year-old factory building with its 20-foot ceilings into something with a warm look of greater antiquity, in a good way.
Dark gray and white paint cover concrete block walls. A long communal table that can seat a dozen is made of rough-hewn wood. Comfortable swivel chairs provide seating along a low bar facing large windows on the front and sides.
Butchertown Bakery Grocery is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with breakfast and lunch items served all day (“or until an item runs out,” a counter server explained). Baguettes, biscuits, buns, muffins, focaccia, bialies and bagels, viennoiseries, tarts, cookies and desserts are all made fresh daily in the commercial bakery at the back.
Five breakfast sandwiches range from $6 (for egg and cheese on English muffin) to $9 (for a ham and pimento cheese biscuit). Eight more substantial lunch sandwiches are $12 (for a grilled white cheddar with tomato soup) to $25 (for a muffuletta on sourdough made with a Bourbon Barrel soy mash starter). Three greens, grains and hummus salad-type plates are $7 (for a quinoa and lentil salad) to $12 (for a citrus and peanut salad).
Artisan breads range from $2 (for a baguette, bialy, bagel or biscuit) to $7 (for brioche loaf, kalamata olive focaccia or sourdough). Spread ‘em with your choice from 10 jams, jellies or fruit butters ($2 to $3) and throw on any of a half-dozen sides ($2 to $5).
I sipped a light, properly bitter Good Folks coffee cappuccino ($3), and we started to eat all the food or as much of it as we could, anyway.
A French curry, quinoa and beluga lentil salad ($7) made a refreshing yet hearty starter. A healthy, tasty bowl of chewy quinoa seeds and blackish lentils were mixed with lentil-size, chopped bits of flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, cucumber and mild white onion. It was dressed with a mild vinaigrette with just a whiff of curry, which is probably why it’s a French curry and not an Indian curry.
An impressive looking plate of carrot hummus ($9) boasted great flavor, akin to traditional hummus but more mild, sweet, light and creamy. It was topped by a mound of tart and spicy shredded giardiniera and surrounded by eight quarters of light and flaky, fresh-baked piadina, pita-like flatbread in the style of Bologna. This dish was delicious, and it was big enough to serve two.
A few years living in New York City turned me into an insufferable bagel snob, and I can’t rate Butchertown Grocery Bakery’s model as an exact replica of the original. But I liked it! Its attractive, golden crust and tender, chewy quality certainly put it into NYC bagel territory, and I’d gladly take another. The current seasonal lunch sandwich ($8) was topped with slices of just-ripe Brie dusted with crushed pecans, with “autumn spice” cream cheese served alongside so you can schmear it to your liking.
A sausage biscuit ($7) started with a large and lofty biscuit, a little bigger than a hockey puck but much more delicious, more crumbly than flaky. It was sandwiched with an appetizing, spicy breakfast sausage, a dab of mayo and a rather limp and mushy slice of winter tomato that could just as well have been omitted.
Our lunch for two came to $38 plus a $7.20 tip. We also grabbed a cookie and a chocolate turtle to go from the extensive list of pastries, cupcakes, cookies and chocolates, adding another $6 charge and $1.20 tip to the toll. •
Butchertown Grocery Bakery
743 E. Main St.
Noise level: The room was filled, and we shared a long communal table, yet the noise was surprisingly moderate. (Average sound was 72 decibels, in the range of normal conversation.)
Accessibility: Seating and the nicely appointed unisex restroom are accessible to wheelchair users, but a double bump over a metal threshold and half-inch step at the entrance, while not an insurmountable barrier, could be difficult for some.