Designed to entice diners during a traditionally slow time for restaurants, prix-fixe promotions all too often showcase restaurants at their worst, with penny-pinching kitchens churning out short ribs and crème brulee and servers struggling to keep up with a crush of overly demanding customers.
But Butcher & Bee is now taking a different approach to Charleston Restaurant Week. For the current edition of the biannual event, the North Central restaurant is ditching the standard multi-course menu format in favor of a family-style tasting of “seasonal favorites,” priced at $25 a person.
“I’m always trying to do something different,” says Butcher & Bee owner Michael Shemtov, who in past years has advertised an all-vegetarian menu for the event.
This time around, though, he wanted to create an experience which more closely mirrored the experience that guests can expect on a non-Restaurant Week night.
In part, that’s because Restaurant Week-goers are likely to chronicle their meals on social media and online review sites, so it’s pointless to offer a sirloin steak which will never be served again. But Shemtov says he also wanted to weed out diners who aren’t on board with Butcher & Bee’s food philosophy since they’re unlikely to return to the restaurant.
While he acknowledges that certain eaters will hesitate to book a table when they don’t know exactly what will appear on it, Butcher & Bee is intentionally courting a different group with a true taste of the restaurant.
“With food delivery the way it is now, you have to make it about more than just food,” Shemtov says. “We want to pull in the people who are in it for the experience.”
Although Butcher & Bee isn’t revealing its Restaurant Week dishes in advance, all of them will represent the handiwork of the restaurant’s new chef. Butcher & Bee experimented with moving away from an executive chef model following the departure of Chelsey Conrad, but recently hired Rick Ohlemacher for the traditional role.
Ohlemacher was previously executive chef at The Heritage on the outskirts of Chicago, where Butcher & Bee recruits avidly in the wake of winter storms that could sour even lifelong Midwesterners like Ohlemacher on snow. Prior to his tenure there, he was chef de cuisine at the now-closed GreenRiver, Danny Meyer’s Michelin-starred restaurant.
“He’s looking at things we’re doing now and making them more interesting,” Shemtov says.
Charleston Restaurant Week was supposed to begin on Sept. 4, but was delayed by Hurricane Dorian. In deference to the delayed start, its been extended to run through Sept. 22. A list of participating restaurants and their menus can be found at lowcountryhospitalityassociation.com.