Open Secret


Butchers Hill Society was named to underscore owner Malcolm Mitchell’s hope that it becomes a go-to for the neighborhood, a kind of secret society supper club. A tiny commissary in the basement level opens at 7 a.m. and sells breakfast items, grab-and-go sandwiches and charcuterie as well as wine, craft beer, milk, eggs, pasta and random ingredients. “Anything we have in the kitchen, we’re happy to sell you,” Mitchell says.

Chef. ­Mitchell, who grew up in Columbia and spent summers in New York City, is best known for his turn as a finalist on Team Bobby (Flay) in season eight of “Food Network Star.” He started cooking because he liked to eat. Traveling the world with the U.S. Navy, Mitchell would save up to dine at the best restaurants he could afford. “I wanted to live like that,” he recalls. “I wanted to eat at great places without having to worry about what it cost.” Later, he’d attend culinary school at Stratford in D.C. on the GI bill. He worked at chain restaurants and hotel kitchens, and as a personal chef for celebrities, finally landing on reality television. These days, he lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., even as he operates two restaurants in Baltimore (the other is Ryder’s bar down the street, with its workspace “smaller than a kitchen in a Manhattan apartment”), and has his eye on another project in Station North. He’s not ruling out the idea of a New York restaurant, he says.

Food. “My mom was my first culinary instructor,” Mitchell says. Originally from Charleston, S.C., his mom “cooked her butt off,” according to the chef. He’s drawn to Gullah cuisine, a hybrid of American Southern cooking and African flavors brought by slaves to South Carolina. Mitchell tries to make what his mother made, “only more cheffy.” The Butchers Hill Society menu has inexpensive kitchen snacks, like pheasant rillettes served with house crackers and harissa spice; shareable plates including lobster tempura with parmesan-crusted frites, flatbreads and salads; and entrées such as grilled chicken with five-spice maple glaze, and scallops with fried shiitake mushrooms and butternut squash purée. Don’t miss the sweet potato beignets for dessert, or the Campfire, with a rock of flourless chocolate cake, marshmallow ice cream and a shortbread graham cookie.

Drink. The wine list is a bit scattered, with a selection of affordable bottles from what Mitchell describes as “boutique” makers. A colorful chalkboard lists the evening’s selection of draft beers, and there’s a solid list of bottles and cans. (“You’ll never find Natty Boh here,” Mitchell says.)

Décor. The interior—with dark beams and floors, tables set on vintage sewing machine bases and colorful paintings—is dominated by a long polished concrete bar, befitting of its desire to be the place where everybody knows your name. Whether the ambitious chef can pull it off remains to be seen.

Final Verdict. Even if Butchers Hill isn’t your ’hood, you’ll want to join this Society.


Butchers Hill society
32 N. Chester St.

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