I think I speak for every vegetarian and vegan when I say I am not vegetarian or vegan.
There’s always a place in my heart for a good meat, both figuratively (in my eternal love for the flesh of a slain animal) and literally (in the cholesterol that will probably eventually kill me). Parts & Labor, the only local whole-animal butchery in the city of Baltimore, satisfies every part of that desire.
The store is split into two parts (and consequently two labors, see what I did there?), with the right side being a butcher shop and the left side being a restaurant.
Make no mistake, when you visit, you will experience both sides, whether you’re going to buy some of their house-smoked sausages and you catch a whiff of the amazing aromas wafting over from the kitchen, or if you’re visiting the restaurant, ordering a steak, being walked over to the butcher shop to pick out the exact one you would like.
Farm-to-table is a widespread and often cliché concept nowadays: Everyone from professional chefs to the Fresh Food Café (FFC) is turning their focus toward finding sustainable sourcing and local food suppliers.
While others butcher the concept, Parts & Labor butchers with the idea in mind. They source their ingredients from regional farms like Moon Valley and Hawks Hill, incorporating them into dishes with a respect that you can taste.
They are not shy about the more than $1.8 million that has been spent on their three main growers: Rettland Farm (which you may recognize supplied Berkshire pigs to foraged., the local Hampden eatery), Whistle Pig Hollow (also a supplier for .foraged), Liberty Delight Farms and Whitmore Farm.
Their emphasis on local doesn’t stop at the food. They feature wineries, cider producers and, most importantly, brewers from as far as 100 miles away to as close as walking distance.
The restaurant is about raw enjoyment, reflected in the smooth flow of the service and the openness of the space. The rustic, laid-back nature of the place gives you a chance to enjoy the food without worrying about some pretentious snob pointing out that you’re doing it wrong.
You can watch the beauty of the cooking process, from placing chips fried in pork fat to the hearth behind the counter to the awe-inducing stacking of bread and meat.
On the butcher shop side, peering beyond the wondrous display, you can watch the mesmerizing art of the whole animal butchery. These guys aren’t kidding around. I’m always impressed at how good butchers are at their craft — the big sharp blades and the technique evolved through experience.
The menu is packed with both the indulgent and the innovative. The appetizers are plentiful and make for a pleasant snack, by themselves or before a full meal.
The meats are, obviously, where this restaurant shines. The Pork Chop Express, a personal favorite, is a beautiful mess of sliced, folded, grilled pork loin with the very spicy and subtly sweet “sticky icky sauce.” It is then slathered with mayo and topped with kohlrabi and fresh onion to help cut through the fat of it all.
Their take on the classic cheeseburger, in contrast, is a neatly assembled stack, featuring a flavorful, tender beef patty and Hawk’s Hill (Street, Md.) raw milk cheddar on a surprisingly delicious whole grain bun. For the more adventurous, they serve up a raw cheeseburger with a perfect 63-degree egg and Seven Sisters cheese from Doe Run Dairy (Chester County, Pa.).
Parts & Labor’s unadulterated grilled pork chop is the best way to experience the pure pork flavor that so much mass-produced crap misses. It induces that “I didn’t know pork could taste like that!” feeling. The herb butter only enhances the delicious flavors of the pig we love.
A brainchild of James Beard Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde, Parts & Labor has earned its place in both Dish Baltimore’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list and Baltimore Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list. Also, they accept J-Cash.
With friendly service and delicious food every time, Parts & Labor has risen to another level of exceptional casual dining. So go pick up a growler of craft beer, a slab of locally raised beef or a sandwich that is capable of curing the most virulent ailment. You won’t regret it.