butcher and bee charleston

When you go to Charleston, make sure to eat at Butcher and Bee. They began as a sandwich shop and late-night-BYOB-burger joint, then they jumped across town and built a beautiful spot from the ground up, launching an entirely locally-sourced concept with a rotating menu for every meal. It’s impressive. Their online presence has not updated from the burger joint days which worked in their favor: I arrived expecting a rundown beach restaurant with $9 burgers but found an intentionally designed space and a remarkably diverse menu.

I sat at the chef’s counter to watch the action (if you’re a party of 1-2, I highly recommend sitting here). The most striking aspect was the efficiency and calmness of the kitchen operation. It was like watching an engine humming along with no visible effort. You realize immediately that Executive Chef Chelsey Conrad has a good system in place and a great ability to lead. Now it’s time to eat.

Start with the whipped feta and fermented honey. It comes as a small appetizer, but if there was an option for a bottomless bowl, I would have ordered that and so would you. Presentation is simple and focused, arriving with house-made pita which you’ll use to mop up every ounce of the spread. The bright notes in the feta combined with the sweet of the honey and a subtle spice from the fermentation process form the perfect combustion of flavor.

Next I’m having the lamb tartare because I’m a sucker for meat pure enough to eat raw. The lamb is rich and it arrives standing alone, proudly. Bold move–if you’ve eaten much tartare, you know it is typically served atop toast or another crunchy carb because texture variation is key when you’re dealing with raw meat. Conrad solves this problem with crispy sunchokes on the side. (Confession: I had to google what a sunchoke was–it’s a high fiber root vegetable akin to potatoes.) To a simple man like myself, the crispy sunchokes are reminiscent of a potato chip and I made sure to include one with every bite.

As long as you order those two items, try anything else that catches your eye–and don’t be shy as the waitstaff is quite knowledgeable. Just make sure to save room for dessert: house-made ice cream. Chocolate rye-whisky is an essential choice. While rich, the most pronounced characteristic is how smooth it is. My server Hailey recommended pairing the chocolate with a scoop of rhubarb; the sensation of those two scoops together certified Hailey as an ice cream genius.

Butcher and Bee was a delightful experience all the way around. An added bonus was conversing with one of the line cooks, James, who seemed like he’d been there since the place opened but confessed in due course that it was only his second day. When I asked him why he chose to work there, he highlighted the diversity of the staff, the energy, and being part of a highly creative team. Near the end of our conversation, James said, “When you come in here, you can tell something special is happening.”

He’s right, there is something special happening at Butcher and Bee. You can taste it.