Photo by Parts & Labor
I rarely talk about my MOST favorite anything – beer, cocktail, restaurant…or even chicken (but, let’s be honest, it’s Millie.). But last year, I went on the record about my favorite restaurant. It was PABU. Most of my friends were not surprised about that: I was there almost every week. It was not just because of the creative cocktails Nick would make me (I love when a bartender just mixes up something and says, this is something I’m working on, I want you to try it). Not just the freshness of the fish or those damn happy spoons. Don’t you miss happy spoons? It was more than any of the food or beverage options – it was the sum of all of it, and the people. The people made it. And when PABU closed, I actually received texts, emails and messages on social media asking if it was true, was I okay, and joking, “Oh dear God, where will you eat?” Enter Parts & Labor.
Parts & Labor is a lot like PABU in that I like a lot of different aspects there. It’s run by the folks at Woodberry Kitchen and they really know what they’re doing – everything from the decor to food and beverage to the staffing, top notch. First, the butcher shop out front is fantastic – they break down whole animals, wasting nothing. The shop is led by George Marsh and his band of young, enthusiastic butchers (yes, there are a LOT of mustaches, beards and cool aprons) and the cheese buyer is Kari Nye, and her cheese selections so far, to me, have been spot on. I have enjoyed the OH SO weird beer washed Talleginator and so many others since they opened in April. You can also get locally made products in the shop (open 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.) and at lunchtime, fantastic sandwiches. I highly recommend the pit beef sandwich and the pastrami sandwich, and so do a bunch of their local chef fans. When a chef says “get the pastrami,” you get the pastrami. (But I really also loved the pit beef.)
The beer. This may be what I love most (wait, no…it’s really the meat). But the 20 draft beer selections — many local — are all interesting and diverse. You can get small pours of multiple beers, so you can try a few, and you can also get full pints, of course. On my last visit a few weeks ago (probably visit number seven or eight) I tried the Brewers Art Charm City Sour, Six Point Brewery’s Apollo Kristallweizen and Frey’s Brewing (Mt. Airy, MD) Farmers Armor Saison. I love trying new things, so every time I go I tend to get the small pours of something I haven’t had yet…after a libation (cocktail) to start. The Remingtonian has been my favorite so far – whiskey, maple, house and orange bitters, hop rinse. I am such a whiskey fan these days. It goes with so many things. The quality of the bar program at Parts & Labor is no accident. It is run by Jayce Flickinger, a quiet, smart, extremely talented beverage pro. Oh, I also should remind you that they have growlers that you can fill with your favorite beer on tap and take home. And if you’re like me and would like a slightly smaller amount, get a growlerette – it’s only 32 ounces, as opposed to the usual 64. ￼ ￼
The menu is split into several sections: snacks, salt house, salads, steaks and more. I tend to focus on the steaks…I am a total carnivore. But I went recently with a vegetarian friend and she was pretty happy, too, feasting on what might be my favorite side right now, potatoes grilled on the hearth, along with a salad, braised greens and roasted elephant garlic. All delicious, but let’s get back to the meat.
Of course, there is also charcuterie — coppa, bologna, andouille, sopressata and more, all made in-house and the list ever-changing. The steaks are mainly cuts that you don’t as often see on menus, like culotte, tri-tip, barrel, and others. Your server will help you decide based on what sorts of cuts of meat you usually enjoy. I need to stop here and give love to the steak sauce and the herb relish that accompany the steaks. The server tried to take my empty plate and it still had herb relish on it. I looked at him (he had waited on me before so we had a good rapport…) and without a word, he brought me some bread for dipping into this insanity on my plate. Eyes closed, I dipped that hearth-toasted goodness right into the tasty green puddle on my plate. Yep, now…now, you may take my plate.
I am not a huge dessert fan (I know, weird, right?), but many of my dining pals have shared bites of their desserts with me…most recently my friend Sean and his daughter shared their brown butter blondie and I was pretty happy to be partaking in that.
My advice: Go and try lots of different things. Share. Let your server guide you (I always did that at PABU and it never failed) and try to get a table in one of the side booths, or sit at the bar. The stools on the communal tables are not the most comfortable to me, and in the booths it’s a little quieter. And, at the bar, well, you always get the best service at the bar – anywhere.
If you go to Parts & Labor, you just might see me there. Just ask James, the manager. I’m a little obsessed.