It was my first time opening the door, hearing the gentle ding of an entry-alert chime and walking up the short flight of steps to the space shared by Cabalar Meat Co. and Voodoo Brewery in the 300 block of North Queen Street.
I noticed the aroma first, before my feet even hit the first step off the entryway landing. It was the smell of smoke and meat, that of smoke-stuck-on, and a multitude of well-pelliculed meat parts permanently elevated to a place of smoky nirvana.
The room opened up to a handful of thick, butcher-block-sized wood tables, one cold case with grab-and-go drinks like small-batch sodas and kombuchas while another had a variety of prepackaged broths and livers, suet, oxtail and marrow bones.
I ended up purchasing a bag of beef bones and subsequently made bone broth at a fraction of the cost of what it is to buy it already finished. At the risk of me never being able to find beef bones at Cabalar Meat Co. again, I recommend you do the same.
The metal stools in the space are powder blue and have intentional weathering around the edges, and the trash cans are industrial-style, vintage yet full of function.
Some of the tables are intimate, with only two seats, while others are large enough for a small party or for just rubbing elbows with other hungry and thirsty strangers on a busy night. Mounted to the wall above the condiment table is a water tap, something that’s always appreciated, especially at places serving beer.
First, you’ll find Cabalar Meat Co. From the entrance you’ll follow the path wending its way around tables to get to the counter. Grab a menu board, take a look at even more meat in the counter-side case and salivate over bone-in pork chops (cut to order), sausages, pork ribs, ground beef and bacon. On display for easy access are various sizes of smoked dog treats of which Stanley, our family’s mountain feist, would tell you were delightful.
The menu offers snacks and sides (the poutine was robust with savory gravy and reminded me of Nova Scotia), burgers (the barbecue bacon my husband chose appeared sloppy in the most satisfying way), sandwiches (my choice was the pork banh mi with an impeccable amount of char siu glaze that messed up my fingers without making the bun soggy), salads (one selection has no meat at all) and even churros with cardamom sugar and dulce de leche for dessert.
Along the aisle leading deeper into the space and toward Voodoo Brewery’s taps and cocktails is bar seating, some along the partitioned wall for Cabalar Meat Co.’s work area and others along the expressive windows of the historic Keppel Building. Keeping with the tradition of the building’s former occupants, who rolled cigars and made chocolates, I recognize the beauty in seeing it revived and used once more for handcrafted wares. There’s a sadness in abandoned and unused spaces when faced with the knowledge that there was once life, vitality and vibrancy within those walls. To see a building transformed and repurposed is a boon to the community.
There were six beers on tap when I visited as well as cocktails like a pineapple mule, barrel-aged mojito and maple Manhattan. There’s also wine if you’re craving a bold red to go with your chin-dripping Cabalar burger.
I tried three of the beers at Voodoo, and since I never mix beer with liquor, I do plan on heading back someday soon to try those cocktails.
Killapilz was a 7.5% Imperial lager. It poured bright gold with a touch of amber, crystal clear and was topped with a dense white head that lived on in delicate lacing. The aroma was full of clean, grainy malt, pine and honey. In flavor, there were orchard apples, a berrylike quality and a definite bitterness on the backend of every sip with citrus pith and pine resin. Served in a footed stange glass, this wasn’t an ultrarefreshing lawn sipper lager, but it confidently stood up to the bold flavors in my banh mi in all the most enjoyable ways.
A West Coast-style IPA, Hoodoo hit 7.3% and looked nearly identical to Killapilz in color, clarity and head. In the nose was vanilla, mango and passion fruit alongside equally dominating pine and resin; peach, passion fruit and mango ended with a precise bitterness in every sip while bready malt and softish mouthfeel ended clean and somewhat dry.
Wynona's Big Brown Ale
If brown ales are your thing, try the imperial style of it with Wynona’s Big Brown Ale. This wasn’t much bigger than Hoodoo at 7.5% alcohol by volume. It poured a dark copper brown with decent clarity and a creamy tan head. There was semi-sweet chocolate and roast in the nose along with malty sweetness, and that sweet malt carried through to the body with mild chocolate, gentle roast and dark fruits like raisin and prune. There was a fine balance between sweet and dry alongside the roasty bitterness and a body thin enough to make it not feel oppressive and heavy: an easy drinker.
Contact Amber DeGrace with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on Twitter at @amberdegrace.