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Restaurant Review: The Butcher Cooks the Meat at Hudson & Charles Dinette

Curated for you via The New Yorker.

According to conventional wisdom, a great butcher is one who will not only sell you meat but also tell you how to cook it. Might it stand to reason, then, that the very best butcher is one who will go so far as to actually cook it for you? At Hudson & Charles Dinette, a new restaurant in the West Village, you can test this supposition: it’s an extension of Hudson & Charles Meats, next door, which opened in 2013 and expanded to the Upper West Side in 2016.

In an age in which stand-alone butchers are starting to feel like relics, and the ethics of meat-eating have never been under sharper scrutiny, Hudson & Charles is part of a small group (see also: Fleishers, Dickson’s Farmstand, the Meat Hook, Marlow & Daughters) that has managed to find an edge by offering meat that is, at least, as conscientiously raised as meat can be. Everything at Hudson & Charles is a hundred per cent local and sustainable, sourced from small farms in the Finger Lakes, the Hudson Valley, and the Poconos, where all animals are “pastured,” and where cows are not only grass-fed (which is said to result in leaner, more flavorful, and more nutritious meat) but also “grass-finished,” which means that they’re not, as is the practice at many farms, fattened up with corn and soy just before slaughter. With Dinette, Hudson & Charles also joins a handful of specialty shops, like Russ & Daughters and Murray’s Cheese, that have thought to advertise their wares—and take advantage of liquor margins—by opening restaurants.

Raising and eating meat like this is, of course, as old as it is new, and Dinette, as its name suggests, trades, to some degree, in nostalgia. The vibe of the small, spare dining room is vaguely diner-like. The narrow window looking into the kitchen is lined with voluminous pies—chocolate peppermint, recently, and lemon-thyme meringue. There is beef Stroganoff with mushroom-cream sauce on the menu, as well as burgers of the straightforward American drive-through variety, made with fairly thin but impressively juicy, bright-tasting patties, griddled until their exteriors are crispy and sandwiched in squishy potato buns with an optimal ratio of shredded iceberg lettuce, onion, pickles, and American cheese.

The burgers are soundly satisfying, especially accompanied by a pile of thick, perfectly golden-brown French fries, cooked in beef tallow—just like McDonald’s used to make theirs—and a cold Mexican Coke in a glass bottle, or a craft lager on tap. On a recent evening, I overheard a diner asking her server to remind her of the name of the sauce that came slathered on the patties she’d just polished off: it was Catalina, a nineteen-sixties-era ketchup-based concoction that falls somewhere between French and Russian dressing. “If I were going to have another child,” she said, “I’d name it Catalina.”

I was disappointed, though, by what the kitchen chose to do with Hudson & Charles’s steaks and chops, and by how few of them are on offer. One night, the single steak of the day—an unmarbled and unmemorable “bachelor” cut (also known as a “clod”) from the shoulder, seared simply—was overpowered by its side of oily roasted beets and wilted greens. A pork chop met a similar fate at the hands of too-sweet Brussels sprouts and butternut-squash purée, and was cooked more conservatively—which is to say, well done—than I’d expect from champions of meat.

Skip these in favor of another butcherly art: the sausage. The snappy “borscht” links are a phenomenal marriage of brilliant-magenta beet purée, caraway, and fatty ground pork, served on a bed of finely diced braised cabbage and carrots, with a generous dollop of crème fraîche. I thrilled to a spin on chicken parm: a whole peppery ground-chicken coil that was breaded, deep-fried, topped with chunky tomatoes and a drippy slab of burrata, and ringed with garlicky sautéed broccolini. And, if you want to see how the sausage is made, you have only to go next door. (Entrées $14-$34.) ♦

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