When Bavette La Boucherie closed its original Third Ward den – digs it occupied for nine years – I started to feel what I call Restaurant Attachment Disorder. I thought back to that summer night I met a friend for a charcuterie plate, after which I biked the Oak Leaf Trail home to the serenade of legions of crickets. I worried that this storefront where the diner feels embedded in the action – sausage-making to sandwich-carving – would lose its Bavette-ness.
But then, weeks later, after the baton officially passed to the new locale two blocks away, the clouds part and my wistful yearnings … wait, what wistful yearnings?
The new space is bright, open, modern, bigger. The few shelves of products Bavette had back on Menomonee Street have grown to a modest marketplace of glass- and tableware, along with crackers, condiments, frozen meals and such. You can choose to eat at the (full) bar or sleek upholstered banquette. Chef/owner Karen Bell can still see you eating your butcher’s cut steak frites while she plates dishes in the open, tile-surrounded kitchen. The tile, soft lighting and colors (pale green, peach), exposed brick and beams – they all just work. While the old space felt more like a shop, this place on higher-profile Broadway smacks of a restaurant. The menu is a mix of old and new.
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I’ve had a couple of good meals here, and about the only thing I miss from the previous location is Wednesday burger night. But Bavette has remedied that by adding a burger to the regular menu, and it’s a nice one – a juicy inch-or-so-thick patty of grass-fed beef fancily topped (at this writing) with Rush Creek fondue, mushroom duxelles, ham crumbles and grilled pickled onions ($18). With a deep fryer on the premises now, you can have the burger with properly crisp, rich frites fried in beef fat. That is a treat.
Among the new items on the menu is the seared octopus-brandade starter with wispy sliced chorizo and salsa verde. ($18). The revelation here is that rich brandade, a creamy puree of salt cod and potato. In large-ish plate territory, the pork coppa steak – a well-marbled, flavorful loin cut – is lifted by a luscious mix of subtly layered mole negro sauce, salsa macha (chile oil), briny pickled radish and sweet pineapple ($28). There’s a good, hearty Spanish-tinged stew of house-made linguica (a Portuguese sausage), clams, fennel, potatoes and leeks in a bold, boisterous tomato-red pepper sauce (called romesco) served with grilled bread ($26). And the skate cheeks (truly the cheek of the fish) are tender hunks of pan-seared succulence, strong enough to carry the richness of a brown butter caper sauce laced with curried raisins and pine nuts ($28).
Yes, the new location will make you want to taste everything that’s new, but I fall back into routine with dessert – Bavette’s terrific potato chip-chocolate chip cookie ($3). I have to cave to my attachment disorder somewhere.
217 N. BROADWAY | 414-273-3375
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Vegetables/soup $10-$14; sandwiches $15-$18; plates $24-$28