Lunch at White Gold Butchers: High hopes dashed

May 31, 2017 | By | 8 Replies More
Dining Room at White Gold Butchers

Dining Room at White Gold Butchers

For several reasons, we had high hopes for our lunch at White Gold Butchers, which opened last November on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (UWS). 

1) We confess. We are true carnivores (even though we tend to ration the meat we consume for health reasons.)

2) We love the idea of eating in a small “restaurant” that sits within the walls of a retail food market. Food service is counter-to-table, usually with a limited menu that changes day-by-day or meal-by-meal. A relaxed informality derives from the setting and you count upon whatever you eat to be fresh.

Places like this have a European flair. We enjoyed eating at Can Ravell in Barcelona, set in a delicatessen of sorts (xarcuteria, in Catalan); and at La Baita Vecchia Malga in Bologna, a cold cut store (salumeria in Italian) that serves regional (Emilia Romagna) meats, cheeses and pastas.

3) On a visit to our son in Manhattan, we were drawn to White Gold Butchers because of the fanfare and positive reviews associated with its opening and ownership—including Pete Wells’ New York Times review praising it as an epicurean mecca on the UWS, an area he noted as largely barren of destination restaurants worth-visiting.

This restaurant in an old-fashioned-style butcher shop is a partnership between Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield, who also own the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village. Food and Wine named Bloomfield “Best New Chef” in 2007.

Setting

White Gold Butchers occupies the southeast corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 78th Street, a largely residential area on the Upper Westside. Oddly, there’s no signage above the attractive black-and-white-striped awning but this wasn’t a problem because we had noted the address beforehand.

White Gold Butchers on Amsterdam Avenue

White Gold Butchers on Amsterdam Avenue

With large glass windows on two sides and a bright gold tin roof, the colorful room is filled with both natural and artificial light during the day. The walls and shelves are lined with kitsch butchery graphics and pig paraphernalia.

View of Amsterdam Avenue through a mirror at White Gold Butchers

View of Amsterdam Avenue through a mirror at White Gold Butchers (Credit: Jerome Levine)

One refrigerated case displays fine meats and another, sausages and charcuterie—presumably from less desirable parts of the whole cows and pigs that arrive here.

Meat counter at White Gold Butchers

Meat counter at White Gold Butchers

One of the butchers at work at White Gold Butchers

One of the butchers at work at White Gold Butchers

Sausages and charcuterie and White Gold Butchers

Sausages and charcuterie and White Gold Butchers

Admittedly, I couldn’t stop gazing at the hunks of museum-quality marbled steaks (priced that day at $32.00 a pound).

A number of wooden tables (faux butcher block, perhaps?) are placed against the remaining walls with a few more taking center stage closer to the meat cases and kitchen pass-through. Each table has an oversized Coleman mustard can on top with serve-yourself napkins and utensils.

Service

We didn’t expect white-glove service but the loose management/organization of the place was somewhat rattling. One person manned the register, which entailed a bit of a juggling act for any one person. She answered questions, took and placed orders, processed cash or credit card payments, and served drinks. At the completion of the lengthier-than-need-be transaction, she handed each patron a number on a metal holder that was to be placed at the table for waiter delivery of the order.

Open kitchen at White Gold Butchers

Open kitchen at White Gold Butchers

Just made foods on the counter

Just made foods on the counter

Only one spotted (dirty) menu was available to be shared among all of us waiting in line to order. When we got to the front of the line (shortly after opening at noontime), we learned that not everything on the short menu was available.

Four dishes (three sandwiches and a pasty) eventually arrived at our table, unfortunately one-by-one, with unexplained 10-minute time lapses between them. There were no apologies even though the food deliverer saw that each of us wound up eating alone because of the timing. Adding insult to injury, the server came to clean up the table and rush us out before the last sandwich was eaten.

What we ate

As a party of three, we ordered several dishes to share for lunch at White Gold Butchers:

Chopped Cheese, a sandwich of chopped meat, onions, pickles and melted cheese on a seeded roll, a staple of many NYC bodegas.

Chopped cheese sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Chopped cheese sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Roast Beef Sandwich, rare thin-sliced roast beef that was tender and served pickled red onion on a poppy seed bun (All the sandwiches are served on the same rolls).

Roast beef sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Roast beef sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Pulled Pork Sandwich, special of the day. The pulled pork was tender and zesty but overwhelmed by the vinegary pickled onions on top.

Pulled pork sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Pulled pork sandwich at White Gold Butchers

Potato and Cheese Pasty, finely mashed potatoes and cheese with onions in a flaky, empanada-style crust.

Potato and Cheese Pasty

Potato and Cheese Pasty

The Bottom Line

Perhaps, we arrived with over-the-top expectations. Perhaps, the choices would have been more appealing at dinner (Yelp reviewers seem to enjoy dinner at White Gold Butchers, although some mentioned it was pretty expensive).

While the fare we ate was tasty, the meats weren’t remarkable and, unfortunately, the less than satisfactory service overshadowed the meal.

Perhaps, it was just an off day in the butcher shop (no manager was visibly on site) and our lunch at White Gold Butchers was an outlier. Or, perhaps, we should try the Spotted Pig for a better taste of the April Bloomfield mystique.


IF YOU GO

White Gold Butchers website

Previously on More Time To Travel:

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Category: FOOD & WINE

Comments (8)

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  1. Laura K. says:

    That’s a very helpful review. Maybe you can do a follow-up visit in a few months to see if they’ve worked out the kinks. Although hard to do with so many other great restaurants in NYC!

  2. Laura says:

    My initial reaction is that they were understaffed, particularly with one person doing everything up front. It sounds like the volume required at least one person ringing in orders in person and another taking phone orders. Line up places usually have several people taking orders during peak times. Is there a chance that because you were sharing (if you mentioned it ordering) that they intentionally spaced out delivering each dish? Maybe if you tweet your review and tag them, you’ll get a response and/or an invitation to come back for free?

    • Actually, we cut the sandwiches in quarters because we were starving but we hadn’t plan to share in that way:-) Wish there had been an on-site manager to complain to~!

  3. Sheryl Kraft says:

    Ouch. Doesn’t sound promising at all. Makes you wonder what all the fuss is about…

  4. Lauren M says:

    I don’t like those restaurants/cafés where the customer has to go to one spot to place the food order, then go to another spot to pay, then trot off to another spot get the beverages and bring them to the table, and then place the numbered order card on the table. It’s too tense and it seems to create possibilities of tension between the customers. It’s all too much like work for me!

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