There are two kinds of diners—those who go to restaurants primarily for inspiration and those who go primarily for satisfaction. One of them is all over the Butcher’s Table, the new Denny Triangle steak house from the man who gave us Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.
Here, Kurt Beecher Dammeier wants to create an icon. “I imagine it’ll be in my family a couple generations,” he muses lovingly, and for his sake I find myself hoping so. Dammeier relishes a grand gesture—the elaborate Pike Place Market curd-swirling operation at Beecher’s, the barbecue truck Maximus Minimus that’s shaped like a pig—but the Butcher’s Table is his grandest, with two levels for dining plus a butcher shop selling trimmed steaks and lunchtime sandwiches.
In all, it’s a beautiful take on two timeworn conceits: the loud, buzzy window-clad happy hour emporium at street level and the hushed black-leather-banquette lair downstairs, replete with the private rooms and suit-and-tied waiters essential to a windowless steak house. The design is striking, the old building’s noble timbered bones lending gravitas.
It all contributes to an appropriately throwbacky vibe, which the menus (mostly noshes at street level and mostly steak dinners downstairs, though both menus are available in both rooms) help along. Happy hour on the main floor fed and watered us familiarly—a mini cast-iron skillet of creamy Beecher’s mac and cheese enhanced with housemade sriracha and breadcrumbs, exquisitely tender beef on skewers, crunchy elongated tater tots that we wanted to wring for grease—delivered by a bunch of friendly servers (who nevertheless kept not bringing a missing fork) and one breathtakingly rude one.
This floor of the Butcher’s Table fits its location: amid the big happy hour destinations—Barolo, Mistral Kitchen, now the Butcher’s Table—clustered at the downtown portal to South Lake Union. Downstairs is a quieter affair, staffed by a fleet of old-school waiters whose initial formality—at first seemingly pretentious—gives way to deep knowledge about the meat and admirable deftness at reading tables. They’re selling American-raised Wagyu, from a company Dammeier also owns, and whose products are lush like butter, served in neatly trimmed eight-ounce portions of varying marbling.
Newsflash: The ultra grade was best! But was it $20 better than the four-star grade? This is where the Butcher’s Table loses me, as the beef is simply not that interesting. Other meaty plates, like a pork chop over smoky grits with peaches, were solid renditions of generic conceptions. In a city that now has steak houses inflected with Vietnamese (Seven Beef), French (Bateau), and Korean (Girin, Joule) dialects—perhaps the unreconstructed meat-and-potatoes schtick simply no longer intrigues.
Designed, in short, for the satisfaction crew, not the inspiration crew. Mind you, satisfaction is no insult—especially when it comes with Dammeier’s real dedication to freshness and seasonality, as in a late-summer nectarine salad with smoky ribbons of prosciutto and Beecher’s Flagship Reserve cheese. Pastry is another satisfier: knobs of beef-fat brioche or fine cinnamon-chili doughnuts to dredge through dulce de leche. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one legitimately winning inspiration: steak tartare so bright with pickles, sprouts, and tarragon—and an egg yolk for richness—the plate delivered a perfumey reimagination of the prototype.
I would like the Butcher’s Table to do more of that, but there are a lot of folks out there who would loudly disagree. Between bites of beef-fat brioche.