On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Seattle’s cult favorite butcher shop lays a few place settings and assumes its twice-weekly alter ego: wine bar. But just a few weeks in, Beast and Cleaver co-owner Kevin Smith realized, “our wine bar quickly turned into a steak bar.”
It may not have been the intention, but Smith and wine director Nick Davis have built one of the town’s most enjoyable steak house experiences inside a place that isn’t even technically a restaurant.
On a recent night, the compact menu listed a few cuts you’d expect to find at a place that exalts beef—a portion of rib eye, some Japanese A5 Miyazaki Wagyu, and something that rang totally unfamiliar. A London royal?
“It’s really a London broil,” Smith confesses cheerfully from the other side of the counter. In America, this cut’s reputation ranks somewhere between seasonal allergies and Hee Haw reruns. That’s because, historically, we broil this tough cut, typically a top round, into flavor oblivion.
With help from the six-burner range situated in the butcher workspace (and a great deal of butter), Smith transforms this cut into a sliced platter of the most tender meat, so rare it’s practically blue, with garlic and fresh rosemary instilling their flavors into that butter.
It was stunning. Did I mention this steak cost $25?
Incorporating a restaurant into the shop has been the plan ever since Beast and Cleaver opened in the innocent early days of 2020, says Smith (thus the stove installed behind the counter). “People say cooks can’t butcher and butchers can’t cook—I don’t believe in any of that.”
Cooking is also another way to make good on his commitment to using a whole animal. Beast and Cleaver fills its case with 10 types of sausage, foie terrine, and pate en croute so ornate it deserves its own Instagram.
By day, a zealous fan base of carnivores lines up for pork chops and well-marbled zabuton and steaks aged with koji for an extra whisper of funk. Smith, impressively, sources nearly all his meat from Washington or Oregon, save the occasional foie gras and marbled influx of A5 Wagyu from Japan.
The Tuesday and Wednesday night wine bar consists of two tables, a handful of counter seats, and a menu of rotating cuts plus complementary dishes like duck confit, honey-roasted parsnips, or fingerling potatoes crispy with duck fat. If rethinking everything you ever knew about the London broil doesn’t sound appealing, diners can also request any cut from the butcher’s case to be basted in butter under Smith’s watchful eye. Beast and Cleaver’s owner even makes the dessert, that night a cardamom pudding topped with miso chocolate—a creation you’d be pleased to encounter in any high-end restaurant.
The experience also hinges on a surprisingly broad, unexpectedly fun wine list proctored by Davis, a master sommelier whose resume includes Canlis and Bateau. Smith figured people might drop into this vaguely defined weeknight wine bar for a bottle and a few snacks. Instead, “it’s packed solid with people ordering steaks and chops,” he says. “We need to come up with an actual name for it.”
At this point, Beast and Cleaver swaps its butcher identity for some sort of restaurant alter ego six nights a week. On weekends, it becomes the Peasant, serving five- to seven-course tasting menus that redirect the spotlight away from the trophy steaks.
“If you know how to utilize them, you can turn the crap cuts of meat into the best stuff,” says Smith. In the past he’s topped raw beef with ikura, or fashioned individual pot pies of smoked ham hock, confit rabbit, and prunes. The scant number of seats books up almost immediately when the Peasant releases a new month of reservations on Tock (folks who subscribe to Beast and Cleaver’s newsletter get a heads-up). On Sundays, Davis pairs library wines with some sort of thematic meal, like a vertical tasting of aged beef, or the current ode to St. John’s restaurant in Smith’s native London.
That’s a lot of culinary horsepower for a place that's technically a butcher shop, not a restaurant. But to Smith, "they're actually the same thing."