The place I was most eager to visit in Minneapolis was The Herbivorous Butcher. What started as a farmers market favorite in the Twin Cities became a brick and mortar store earlier this year. Like the vegan’s equivalent of Space Mountain, when Herbivorous Butcher first opened, there were hour-long lines to get inside.
They sell a variety of plant-based meats that are all made in house. The selection varies by the day, but expect things like seitan steaks, ribs, cold cuts, sausages, and plant-based cheeses.
(Wonder why vegans would eat something that tastes like meat? Check out this post.)
The interior is set up like your standard butcher shop with workers in crisp aprons, slicers, and scales to weigh your cruelty-free meat before wrapping it in white paper. There are also playfully subversive touches like cleavers in the wall and in place of a door handle.
Herbivorous Butcher shares its daily offerings on Facebook, and every day since they opened I’ve followed along, wishing that I could get a taste for myself.
Those wishes came true when I visited earlier this month. I arrived during the day on a Wednesday, and there were just a few other people in the shop. As I perused the piles of options and wedges of cheese for sale, I hardly knew where to start. I wanted everything. It’s a good thing our hotel room had a mini refrigerator! In addition to their own house-made items, they also have a small selection of packaged vegan items for sale along with Herbivorous Butcher t-shirts and bags.
I ended up choosing three kinds of plant-based cheese – brie, pepperjack, and garlic pepper havarti.
The brie had a lovely soft consistency like a well-made cheesecake. The flavor was mild, and the texture smooth in the mouth. The pepperjack had a delightful bite of heat, and the havarti didn’t overpower in its garlicky quality. All of the cheeses were soft and easy to spread.
As for the plant-based meats, I chose pepperoni, pastrami, BBQ ribs, and chorizo.
Here’s how I used it:
The pastrami was easily my favorite of the bunch. Thinly sliced with a smoky edge, it was wonderful by the fingerful or in a homemade reuben sandwich. I don’t think I’ll be able to go Herbivorous Butcher again and NOT buy it. It made me excited to try their other cold cuts in the future as well.
I used the pepperoni for a couple of wine and cheese nights, and I put it on a pizza. (Pepperoni and sauerkraut for me. Pepperoni, pineapple, and mushrooms for David.) The pepperoni has whole peppercorns in it, and it’s especially good when browned in a pan before using.
We had the chorizo in tacos. It comes in an oblong sausage form, but it’s easy to crumble into a pan. I wasn’t crazy about the particular spices in the chorizo. They weren’t exactly what I was expecting, and I probably wouldn’t buy it again. However, I talked to a fellow customer in the store who was addicted to the stuff. So it’s definitely a personal preference thing.
I had the BBQ ribs on the grill with an extra coating of barbecue sauce. On the side, mac & cheese and collard greens. Now, that’s comfort food!
Visiting Herbivorous Butcher was every bit as fun as I hoped it would be, and their products were very high quality. I can’t wait to go back again and try more things.
A few blocks away from Herbivorous Butcher is Pizza Nea. It’s a non-vegan pizza place that stocks several of Herbivorous Butcher’s meats and also their mozzarella. You can use it on any of their pizzas for a small additional cost. At the time I visited, they didn’t have the specific seitan products listed on the menu yet. So you just have to ask your server what is available that day.
Pizza Nea is a small café with a few tables out front for sidewalk dining.
The first time we visited, we had the Siciliana. It was topped with artichokes, olives, garlic, capers, basil, the Herbivorous Butcher pepperoni, and the HB mozzarella. Pizza Nea sliced the pepperoni very thin, and they were able to get a nice dry crispness to it around the edges. The mozzarella was in dollops around the crust and melted beautifully. I usually opt for a cheeseless pizza, but this was perfect. The cheese enhanced what was already there instead of masking the other flavors of the pie.
Just a slice into our meal, David and I were already plotting a return visit.
We came back in the evening a couple of nights later and ordered bruschetta as an appetizer with the HB mozzarella on it.
For the main event, we shared an outstandingly good pizza with mushrooms, Herbivorous Butcher sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella. David is still talking about the crumbled sausage on it two weeks later.
All of the staff was so warm and welcoming. We chatted with the owner, Mike Sherwood, before we ordered as well. He left for the night while we were enjoying our dinner, but when we went to pay our tab, we found out that he had covered our drinks, which was a very thoughtful gesture.
If you want to try the Herbivorous Butcher products, but don’t have a mini fridge back in your hotel room, Pizza Nea is a great place to try it. I may have had a better pizza somewhere else, but I really can’t think of where that would have been.