All the ingredients for a special dining experience have come together at one of New Albany’s newest restaurants — experience, vision, an inspirational setting, and a commitment to excellent service.
Brooklyn and the Butcher, which opened in February, is the latest venture for Ian Hall, who established his reputation with The Exchange Pub & Kitchen, considered by many among the best dining spots on either side of the Ohio River.
As you enter the simple white-walled and tiled-floor lobby, there is a dark wood reception desk behind which old-style room keys hang on the wall. To one side is a welcoming lobby with a large, carved antique bar, exposed beams and brick walls decorated with period photos showing the location’s history as a meeting place.
When you “check in” at the reception desk, you are given an antique key. This gives you access to a “Speakeasy” downstairs from the lobby bar where you can order either an after-dinner drink or cocktails and a light menu while enjoying jazz on the weekends.
The “Brooklyn” motif is reinforced with a huge photo mural of the Brooklyn Bridge in a front dining area that looks out on New Albany’s Market St. through large windows. The “Butcher” component is a rear dining area similarly styled in white, light grays and natural wood, but with a bustling open kitchen.
As a friend said, “The place is very classy, but also aged and comfortable. You can go either dressed up or just casual.”
Learning the Old-Fashioned Way
Ian Hall had the good fortune to be raised by a restaurateur. His father, Mike Hall, was the former food and beverage manager for the Hyatt Regency’s original restaurants — the upscale Spire and Lamb’s Café. As a result, Ian and his sisters (one of whom is Rachel Smallwood, proprietor of the popular Orange Clover in Jeffersonville), were exposed to good food at an early age.
“I suspect it was Dad checking on the competition, but often we were eating in fine restaurants like Casa Grisanti’s,” Hall said. “I even tried escargot when I was eight years old.”
During high school, Hall did valet parking and bused tables at Standard County Club, and gained front-of-house experience working at Buckhead Mountain Grill during college. He later moved into management at Buckhead and helped open their restaurant and Rocky’s Italian Grill in Jeffersonville.
While his wife, Nikki, worked at Jewish Hospital, Hall did stints bartending at the Horseshoe Casino and Proof on Main in the 21C Hotel. Together, the couple decided to take the plunge in 2010 and opened “The Exchange,” in what turned out to be a problematic spot on the outskirts of New Albany. That first location of The Exchange could be seen from the arterial Grant Line Road, but required navigating an odd web of back streets to get to.
“We focused on being a good bar with chef-driven, high-quality food,” Hall said. “When the Louisville paper gave us a good review, we became a destination spot and got our heads above water, but access was still a problem. Downtown New Albany was beginning to ferment, and boosters like Steve Resch and Mike Kopp got us to consider downtown in a serious way and we haven’t had to look back.”
Hall moved The Exchange into a renovated historic structure on Main St. across from the new YMCA. “We opened with only four employees – my dad, sisters Rachel and Olivia, and our chef – but had pretty quick traction, and business doubled in the first year.
Due to its reputation and success, Hall was frequently approached about opening another Exchange in Louisville. “We looked at Fourth Street and out on Westport Road, but my feeling was instead of re-creating the same thing across the river, to do something new here,” Hall said. That is when Hall started talking with developer Matt Chalfant, who was taking on the project of renovating the old three-story hotel at the corner of Market and Bank St.
“You just can’t replace the historical character of these structures, and being a fourth-generation New Albany resident, I feel like a steward,” said Chalfant, who put more than $2 million into restoring the 1871 structure. “And Ian is a really gifted restaurateur and a person of high integrity. It is a great fit and another asset in our community.”
Mix and Match
“I really like steak, but ate so much researching the options, I almost got tired,” Hall said with a laugh. “Everything is niche in this business. We didn’t want to be a place that you only go to on a certain day of the year, but to be a place that is a little more fun, a bit more casual.”
Hall’s team of Chef Robert Temple, Sous Chef Patrick Carter and beverage manager/sommelier Brian Keeler created a menu of small plates, sides and à la carte offerings which can be shared and combined in a variety of ways along with a series of “composed plates” which offers an easy access to a full meal.
“I like sharing and saw it happening with our customers at The Exchange,” Hall said. “I also like letting people try multiple dishes that you do rather than being judged on one dish. So our motto became ‘Small plates and steaks.’ ”
Among the small plates, which include salads, shrimp cocktail, and charcuterie and cheese boards, are taste treats like tuna tartare with ginger wasabi aioli and fried wontons; Korean BBQ ribs with kimchi; roasted cauliflower with peppers, capers, Capriole goat cheese and curried tomatoes; steak chimichurri; lump crab cakes with edamame; and roasted bone marrow.
The eight steaks offered range from an 8-ounce flat iron cut or a tenderloin filet, through a 10-ounce Wagyu sirloin or 16-ounce Angus ribeye, to a 28-ounce dry-aged ribeye or a 32-ounce porterhouse. While these last cuts could satisfy any cowboy’s appetite, in keeping with the small plates concept, they also make perfect sense for sharing.
The full dinners Hall calls “composed” plates in-
clude salmon, champagne chicken, a gourmet burger, steak frites and flat iron au poivre. This concept is excellently represented by a seared tuna served with nori, buckwheat noodles, edamame and sesame ginger vinaigrette or a generous, double-bone pork loin chop with sage cornbread stuffing, braised greens and a raisin chutney.
“We get our meats from 3D Valley Farms in Ramsey, Ind., and our seafood from Blue Fin,” Hall said. “Whenever possible we’ll use a small purveyor, but quality is key.”
Complementing the food offerings is a strong program of artisanal cocktails, and a small but well-thought-out wine list. Sommelier Brian Keeler talked our table through the options and helped us settle on a Gamay to complement our table’s diverse choices of the Wagyu sirloin, seared tuna with edamame and noodles, and the two-bone pork loin chop.
At weekend brunches, Keeler has also developed a menu of ingredients allowing patrons to invent their own cocktails. It’s a spin on the craft cocktail idea that lets the patron have some fun with a “Race, Win, Place and Show” menu of ingredients from which to choose, i.e., spirits, fruit purees and syrups.
It is no surprise that Hall, who was a sports administration major and cross country coach, has a firm grounding in both a team approach and the importance of training.
“You have to reinvent yourself. The wheel is still there,” Hall said almost as if reciting a koan. But his suggestion that hard work and attention to detail is what makes a creative idea shine is well represented at Brooklyn and the Butcher.
Bar service is from 4 p.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with dining from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch is served Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p,m., with dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. F&D