Columbia has a new restaurant that embraces the “whole animal” concept wholeheartedly. The Barred Owl Butcher & Table at 47 E. Broadway (Inside Columbia’s former home) is a full service restaurant with a retail deli/butcher shop. The shop allows the restaurant to use locally sourced and sustainably raised animals in their entirety by serving delicious and inventive charcuterie such as sausages and pâtés, not just traditional cuts such as chops and steaks, says Ben Parks, seasoned chef and one of Barred Owl’s three owners.
Parks and his partners, butcher Joshua Smith and general manager Brandy Hughes, pooled their talents and experience to make the unique eatery a reality.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Parks is the former chef at bleu restaurant and has worked at Sycamore, 44 Stone and the former Trattoria Strada Nova. Smith and his wife, Columbia Farmers Market manager Corrina Smith, returned to Columbia to be closer to family after a stint in New Orleans where he was a James Beard Award Semifinalist as a Rising Star Chef of the Year. He also has Sycamore experience and served as executive chef at Les Bourgeois. Hughes has extensive front and back of the house experience, as well as serving in dining management roles throughout Columbia including bleu, Sycamore and the Club at Old Hawthorne.
When discussing Barred Owl’s “more adventurous” food offerings, Andrew Zimmer’s name comes up. Zimmer is the host of the popular Travel Channel show, “Bizarre Foods.”
“I feel like his whole concept ties in with what we’re doing,” Parks says. “His philosophy isn’t necessarily about eating the weirdest things out there, it’s about eating everything that’s out there. Because that’s the responsible thing to do when you’re slaughtering an animal to eat meat.”
Barred Owl offers locally sourced beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, rabbit and duck. Parks and company recognize some of the offerings may be a little daunting.
“People say, ‘I know what ground beef is. I know what a hotdog is.’ But they might see a beef tongue in a butcher shop case and it’s unfamiliar,” says Parks. “We can present things in a way that’s a little less intimidating and educate people. A really well trained staff on the service and the butcher shop side of things really comes into play.”
Parks and his partners know that there will still be a hunger for the familiar, and Barred Owl certainly keeps that in mind: “We do hamburgers. We do hot dogs, and things like bologna or more traditional mortadella,” Parks says.
The menu will be fluid, with some daily changes, depending on what products are available and what produce is seasonal. Barred Owl’s flavor profiles veer toward the Southern side —“things like grits or Creole seasoning, braised greens, and corned bread” — with Italian and Latin-inspired dishes, as well, Parks says.
“We want to be approachable and accessible” — an ethic that extends to Barred Owl’s open kitchen and windows that look in on the curing and cutting rooms.
“We’ll be completely transparent figuratively and literally,” Parks says. “People are much more aware of what they’re eating. They want to know where it comes from and how it’s prepared.”
The restaurant has a rustic farmhouse look, featuring earth tones and unfinished woods and rusted metal. It seats 100; a private dining room can be closed off from the main area by sliding barn doors.
The Barred Owl deli/butcher shop fronts on Broadway with a separate entrance to its retail operation: “If you’re looking for wine, cheese, charcuterie, this’ll pretty much be a one stop shop,” Parks says.
You can learn more at www.barredowlbutcher.com.