The Vegetable Butcher-SLO’s Hottest New Eatery
The name alone would make you assume, naturally, that this great new eatery is a vegetarian restaurant but think again! Chef Becky Windels knows that most Americans love meat, so she hired Chef Bernard Livingston to handle the meat choices on the menu. That’s because she is a vegetarian who doesn’t like handling raw meat, according to her husband John T. Windels–which he told me that before he knew I was a restaurant reviewer. I appreciated that total honesty. But still, she does create all of the menu selections and let me tell you, we love her superb, gourmet cuisine!
Although the menu leans to upscale Mexican cuisine, there are other international dishes like the Korean forbidden sesame cauliflower on black forbidden rice with her housemade gochujang sauce (a savory/sweet sauce) and gold pea shoots–totally delightful and irresistible. Her organic-blue-cornmeal bread (like a giant-sized muffin) is filled with bits of fresh corn kernels and brunoise of red bell peppers. I loved the cake-like texture but it’s not dessert-like sweet. In fact, this bread lover had to have it on two visits and will again.
We’ve been there four times already, but we admit the cornbread is a bit heavy if you have ordered a lot of food–and we always do here, Chef Becky’s cuisine is that good and we are totally craving many more tastings. We can’t wait until they are out of the soft-opening stage!
From the very first dish we were served, the forbidden sesame cauliflower, we were smitten. It was so delectable, it disappeared fast. From that fantastic start, we would experience many more great foods like the charred steak sticks with chimichurri sauce and charred green onions, as well as the vegetable fundido.
Those chimichurri steak sticks are a must order if you love steak like we do. And the charred green onions are righteous eaten with the saucy beef chunks. Two friends of mine complained the tacos were small, but we found them perfect. After all, no chef creating dishes of the quality of the foods served here provides giant plates of food. We thoroughly enjoyed four of their tacos over our visits: The Tennessee hot fried free range chicken with jalapeno poppy slaw, radish, and gold pea shoots; the Modelo braised short rib with ancho pasilla bourbon-demi, avocado, corn, and radish salsa; the ancho chocolate turkey mole with hibiscus pickled red onion, toasted sesame, and lime crema; our last perfect taco was the albacore, which was likely Dan’s favorite, even though we both enjoyed them all.
The Vegetable Butcher skillet fundido is another must try, loaded with the freshest veggies from the Farmers’ Market, topped with queso which is melted under the broiler–it’s like eating a healthier version of nachos and it’s every bit as addictive!
Dan loved the house smoked trout fritters with sour pickles, fried capers, and cherry bomb pepper mayo. They were very good but not my fave.
We’ve had two excellent good value wines while dining here, and on the third visit we brought one of our favorite Roses from Casa Dumetz in Los Alamos labeled Clementine Carter (it was winemaker Sonja Magdevski’s nickname). The corkage fee is a reasonable $15 at the Vegetable Butcher.
One of theirs was the Codorniu Brut Raventos Cava Reserva, and the other was the Chateau Gassier Provence France.
Service, led by Chef Becky’s husband, the personable John T. Windels (CSW) who runs the front of the house, is alway excellent. John is a certified sommelier who is responsible for the fine selections on the wine list. The Windels have two decades of experience working in the hospitality biz in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. I must say, we are so happy they landed here on the Central Coast. We must add, this is the type of upscale Mexican cuisine we’ve been waiting to see open ever since we moved here 21 1/2 years ago. The Vegetable Butcher is nothing less than top-notch, and we love the entire concept. The fact that Chef Becky hired such talented people as Bernard and Patricia as sous chefs tells of the Windels commitment to making this a destination restaurant. We know it will definitely become one of our most popular dining spots in San Luis Obispo.