Since B&B Butchers and Restaurant opened its doors last May, Houstonians have flocked in droves to experience the uniqueness that sets this modern concept apart from the sea of boring, old-school steakhouses.
As the restaurant closes in on its one-year anniversary, Eater caught up with B&B Butchers owner Benjamin Berg to talk everything from managing the crowd, finding the perfect cut of meat and what else – bacon, bacon and more bacon.
Eater Houston: It’s been a big year for B&B Butchers. Why do you think Houston was so responsive to this concept?
Benjamin Berg: For a new steakhouse we offer something very different than your "big guys" such as Smith & Wollensky, The Palm or Del Frisco’s. I think our location is one of our real strengths - the building, the different kind of character and atmosphere we provide. We’re very accessible to downtown from almost every area of Houston from the Heights, River Oaks and Galleria, etc. It’s just very easy to get to.
We definitely have all of the steakhouse classics but we really expanded on them. To Chef Tommy Elbashery's credit, we have a huge menu.
EHOU: What have been some of the biggest challenges?
BB: Honestly, it’s a good problem to have but one of our biggest challenges has been how popular we’ve been right off the bat. Today we’re much better at handling the crowds. I am amazed with the ease with which we can do it now. Space has also been a challenge – we’re tight. I wish the building was bigger.
EHOU: What’s been the most rewarding part of opening B&B Butchers?
BB: The biggest reward has been the work and time all of us, especially my chef and key manager, have put in on this for so long before hand. Also, that Houston gets the vision and the guests are enjoying it. That’s the best. We were looking through our books from the first year and found that we have guests that have dined with us over 45 or 50 times. That makes me feel great, the amount of return is just great.
EHOU: What has surprised you the most in this first year?
BB: Our bacon – I didn’t think it was going to be this popular. That’s more of a New York steakhouse thing. Other steakhouses are doing it at times, but they put it on as a side dish. We said no let’s put it out as an appetizer and it has just taken off. Now we have our lamb bacon which nobody else here does. It’s amazing how people are just jumping on it.
We knew the carpet bagger appetizer was going to be successful - you put bacon, filet mignon and a fried oyster with bleu cheese and hot sauce together in Houston and it is going to be popular. We did not expect the high volume that we are going through. On a nightly basis, we make probably close to 300 (and that’s times four for each plate). We have one line cook who basically his whole job is to prepare the carpet bagger. They are labor intensive.
The other dish I’m really surprised with is the Wagyu beef and how well it sells. We wanted to put a lot of meat on the menu and give more options. When you think of Wagyu beef, it’s an expensive item and just by price you think it wouldn’t move as fast but it does.
EHOU: What's the most popular item on the menu?
BB: Definitely, 100 percent the carpet bagger appetizer. Also, our dry aged ribeye. Tommy’s bacon has taken off as well.
Are there certain items that are maybe not as popular, but hidden treasures?
BB: There are two which are my favorite: our veal chop Oscar is phenomenal. It’s just a perfect piece of veal. We also do a real classic beef wellington. I love beef wellington. That’s the one I had to have on my menu.
EHOU: What would you suggest for a first-time diner at B&B Butchers?
BB: I would ask the server to put together a plate of the bacon three ways with one carpet bagger on the half shell. I would then go with the crab Louie salad, followed by the dry aged bone in New York because it’s my favorite steak.
EHOU: Clearly the bacon dish is a big hit. What makes it such a stunner?
BB: It’s funny because it started off with just this thick cut slab bacon. We cut it way thicker than anyone else does. It’s smoked and we pepper it properly, but it’s more about the cut. Even though it’s bacon, it almost has that pork belly feel to it. My chef and I couldn’t believe how much the bacon was being ordered.
We thought what kind of hors-d'oeuvre can we create out of bacon that’s not just people just eating bacon? We had a truffle that he had just dropped into a can of honey at one point, he just wanted to infuse the honey with the truffle but he had kind of forgotten about it. We had this great smashed blue cheese and we decided to try it all together. We drizzled some honey on top and that became Tommy’s bacon. It is flavors that no one really thought to put together. It’s original and not good for the diet.
Then there’s the lamb bacon. I love lamb. We heard of a guy doing lamb bacon in California. The problem with the lamb bacon was that lambs have to be over 100 pounds when they’re slaughtered to have a big enough belly to make bacon. It took us almost four months to find the right lambs with the right size. We’re curing it in house and smoking it ourselves and that has just taken off. We’re just finding different ways to do it. Of course, everyone loves bacon.
EHOU: What might we see different in year two? Any changes to the menu?
We’re kind of tweaking the menu. We are going to have some pretty cool meats coming in - different cuts. Right now we’re doing a spinalis special, but it hasn’t hit the menu yet. I call it the butcher’s butter. It’s the best part of the ribeye, we remove from the ribeye. It’s probably the most tender, flavorful piece of meat. It’s just an amazing piece of meat.