food finds: the city butcher & barbecue

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written by daniel ernce / photographed by matt loveland

SINCE NOVEMBER OF 2014City Butcher and Barbecue has been filling our bellies with the finest BBQ Springfield has ever seen.

Cody and Jeremy Smith (who, ironically, are not brothers) are the masterminds behind the tastiest BBQ I’ve had since tasting the perfect beauty that is Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Both chefs by trade, and locals by nature, Cody grew up in Rogersville and attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Austin, where Jeremy grew up in Nixa, and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona, which he will tell you, is the superior of the two institutions. The duo is kind-hearted, jovial, and generous, trading quips with each other, as well as guests in line. It’s all part of the experience at City Butcher.

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It all started as a small charcuterie business, Le Cochon, pedaling treats like duck pastrami, country pâté, and hand-made sausages at the farmers market on weekends. However, when it came time for the pair to take the next step and open a brick-and-mortar location, BBQ happened naturally, a product of paying tribute to their butchery heritage—the roots of BBQ. Together, they have created simple, honest, food, where the time, care, and effort is evident in every bite.

Before getting to work on their restaurant, the Smiths traveled to Austin, Texas—the mecca of BBQ—on a flavor pilgrimage, seeking out the best BBQ in the city (and arguably the world). They waited in line for four hours at Franklin Barbecue and witnessed Arron Franklin, the poster child for modern BBQ, present and in action, being a genuine person, cooking up genuine food. They ate everywhere from gas stations, with surprisingly excellent BBQ, to The Salt Lick, a BYOB BBQ staple in Texas, to Salt & Time, a full scale butcher and charcuterie shop that provided crucial influence for City Butcher. Their trip resulted in inspiration which has carried on into their restaurant, from the colorful, vibrant feel, paying tribute to the Austin culture, to the food itself – “The people’s barbecue,” as Cody says.

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There’s nothing fancy about the food at City Butcher, and Cody and Jeremy will be the first to admit that. The food is humble, in a sort of, by the people, for the people, type of way. There are no secret recipes. No secret ingredients. It’s salt, pepper, and 14 hours of oak wood smoke. That’s it. Their brisket is carved to order in thick, juicy slices, and served with nothing but pickles and onions, should you so desire (although there are three sauces on the table, not that it needs any).

When you go, skip the instinct to order the pulled pork. Not that it isn’t good; it is. But the pulled pork is on the menu to appease the harshly-undertrained, overly-dedicated, unadventurous palate of the Springfield diner. The brisket is where it’s at. It’s salty, smoky, juicy, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth, slap-your-moma good. And though I’ve been praising the BBQ, the charcuterie is second-to-none. The duck ham and duck pastrami are playful flavor experiments that evolve on your tongue. The pâtés are fatty and craveable. And the dry aged meats carry delicate and superb flavor.

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So you may be asking, is it worth the hype? Yes. Here’s how you know. City Butcher sells out of BBQ every single day. City Butcher has a line out the door every single day. And it’s not a gimmick. It’s not like they want to run out. It’s not like they don’t want to serve you. They’re cooking as much food as their smokers can hold. But they’re doing it fresh, every day. Nothing gets thrown in the fridge overnight and reheated in the morning (which is what the vast majority, if not all of BBQ joints do in town). Why do they do this? Because they believe in freshness and quality. They believe in the flavor that is only achieved from fresh BBQ. So, is it worth the line? Yes. Should you go? Absolutely. Should you order the brisket? If they haven’t sold out yet. Should you get twice the food you think you’ll eat because you’ll want to have it again that day? By all means.

Cody and Jeremy Smith are doing BBQ right. They’re doing it the way God meant it to be. They’re making simple food, done extremely well, with time, love, care, and a hell of a lot of smoke. The restaurant is lively. The staff is friendly and helpful. And the food is inspiring. If you haven’t been, go. Go now. If you have been, I know you’ll want to go again.   DM 

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Jeremy Smith, co-owner of City Butcher and Barbecue in Springfield, Missouri.

Editor’s Note:  City Butcher now offers more seating, taking their seating capacity from 38 to 98 seats to accommodate more barbecue lovers than ever. Primarily a lunch restaurant, they now hope to serve food later into the day, and they’ve also expanded their hours to include Sunday lunch. Though they have tripled their smoker capacity to bring even more meaty goodness to the masses, we predict that they are still going to sell out every day, so get there early. You won’t regret it! 

City Butcher and Barbecue is located at 3650 S. Campbell Ave Springfield, MO.

Contact:  citybutchersgf.com or 417-720-1113

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Daniel Ernce served as Deitra’s Food Editor for two years and is now the R&D Assistant at Food IQ  and co-creator of Whiskey & Waffles food blog. Follow him in Instagram @daniel_ernce.