I love Wisconsin. I more proudly speak of the Midwestern state of cheese and beer then I do about my home state that shall not be named (hint: it’s the land of fist pumping, shore loving, Sopranos). When Michael White, of the famed restaurant Altamarea restaurant group, decided to open a Wisconsin style cocktail bar and supper club in Tribeca, it quickly topped my hit list.
I invited my friend, Mike, another UW alumn, to join me with the promise of our beloved cheese curds. To my dismay, cheese curds only graced the menu for a short period of time, and I hope this review serves as inspiration to revive their off-the menu existence. We want curds! But with the University of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball game on TV, and other alumni filling the bar, the Madison vibe filled the room.
Once I got over my initial disappointment at the lacking cheese curds, I was quickly impressed by everything else on the menu, both drinks and food. Everything is vintage with a modern twist. Classic cocktails get a new spin, croquettes are filled with New York favorite ingredients.
Weekday Happy Hour from 4-7 offers discounted cocktails and snacks, always an amazing deal. The majority of the starters that caught my eye graced the happy hour menu, making the meal slightly less expensive.
While waiting for Mike, I snagged a seat at the bar, talking with the bartender and inquiring about all of the cocktails that I usually avoid ordering on any menu in fear or seeming ‘old.’ It’s every drink you’d imagine your grandparents ordering during the Mad Men era; Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Grasshopper. He explained to me that these drinks have come a far way from the 60’s, with little twists to modernize each cocktail.
I began with a Rusty Nail, an old school cocktail typically made using only Whiskey and Drambuie. Here, the Butterfly replaces the liquor with Mescal, Reposado Tequila, orange bitters and a hint of vanilla simple syrup. Of course, the drink wouldn’t be complete without a branded orange peel.
If you don’t like tequila, do not order this drink. Drinks here are the real deal, super strong. The simple syrup at first is barely noticeable, along with the orange bitters, but gradually you taste their presence, making the drink much more smooth. After the first sip quickly goes to your head, it’s time to order some food.
During Happy Hour, a few favorite appetizers appear on the menu at a discounted price. We quickly ordered the Reuben Croquettes, along with the Maple Bacon Skewers.
Croquettes that taste just like the classic Jewish diner staple, the Reuben. The fried balls are stuffed with Corned Beef and Sauerkraut, coated with rye breadcrumbs then deep fried to mimic the sandwich. All of the elements are there, with the signature thousand island dressing on the side to give a bit of acidity and added flavor to the silky croquettes. Their strong cocktails help to wash down the slightly heavy treat.
Next the bacon, the ridiculously awesome, sticky, sweet bacon.
Bacon and Brussels Sprouts have become a classic combination in the culinary world, but add pineapple and you’ve got yourself a whole different treat. I absolutely adore grilled pineapple, the smoky sweetness mixed with its slightly burning acidity that’s weirdly addictive. Combine that with charred bacon coated in maple syrup and you’ve got yourself one hell of a treat.
Wisconsin is known for their Bratwurst, even hosting a Bratfest(ival) ever summer to honor the beloved treat. The Butterfly used their house made Brats on Sliders instead of the typical long sandwich, making it slightly more whimsical and definitely easier to eat.
The brats are sliced open, allowing them to have a crispy crunch. Each slider is topped with home made mustard and sweet pepper relish, making this sandwich reminiscent of the Italian classic sausage and pepper, with a bit of German-Wisconsin flare. Toasted, buttery potato rolls house the sandwich, absorbing the juicy brat and slightly spicy mustard. Bratfest should add this dish to their menu.
While small bites are phenomenal, we decided in order to call this a real meal, we needed to order a main course. To pair with our Midwestern Patty Melt, I ordered a Mai Tai, a cocktail from the beaches far, far away from chilly middle America.
A gorgeous, and definitely less potent cocktail, this Mai Tai was refreshing without feeling like I was drinking pure sugar. A wonderful alternative for those who don’t like the strong taste of liquor, straight up.
A patty melt finds itself in a completely different category from your average burger. No bun will be found in this neck of the woods. Instead, two toasted pieces of rye house the juicy burger, with a blend of Gruyere and American cheese binding the caramelized onions to the patty. It’s rich, like all things on The Butterfly’s menu, but pretty damn good. With crispy fries on the side, tossed in a mixture of fresh herbs, you really can’t go wrong with the classic.
Like all Michael White/Altamarea’s restaurants, there’s something charming and special. It’s a little bit different then the other types of places trying to do the same thing. The Butterfly is no exception. While gluttony is clearly the name of the game here, everything is done tastefully. It’s not over the top with extra calories just for the sake of being ridiculous. Everything has a purpose and a sophisticated level of restraint that gives a bit of modern New York flare to Midwestern classics. Just add Cheese Curds to the menu, and I’ll be back every Badger game day.
The Butterfly – 225 West Broadway – New York, NY
Location: TriBeCa, NY
Type: New American
Perfect For: Drinks, Casual Meal, Happy Hour, Sports on TV
Reservations: Not Available
Favorite Dishes: Reuben Croquettes, Maple Bacon Skewers