(Posted Jan. 18, 2021)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
Patrons say walking through the doors of The Butcher Block, London’s newest restaurant and bar, brings to mind stories where you choose your own adventure.
Should they go to the right, they are welcome to sit anywhere, including near the bar–a bar that has more than 30 brews on tap–where appetizers are at the ready, and where strangers are relaxed enough to shoot the breeze – or complain, if they wish–about the sports action taking place on any one of the nine television screens.
Should they go to the left, they are seated in a spacious rustic dining area with a roaring fireplace that muffles the noise that sometimes comes from the bar side and makes for a quieter, more intimate atmosphere.
Either side is a wonderful option, said owner and frequent diner Paul Gross, but which adventure a patron chooses largely depends on their mood.
“Are you in the mood for fine dining or are you in the mood for something a little more casual?” he said. “What makes this place so unique is that we actually have both options right here in this new restaurant in Madison County.”
The restaurant’s grand opening took place last month, and a ribbon-cutting was held on Jan. 13. Gross admits this latest business venture was never a dream of his.
“It never crossed my mind to open a restaurant,” said the former county commissioner, adding it likely would have stayed that way if not for a conversation he had with a friend more than a year ago.
“We were eating at a nice, local restaurant out in Bozeman, Montana, when he mentioned how great it would be to have something like this out in London,” Gross explained. “I agreed when he said this, but then I started to think, ‘Why can’t we have something like this out in London and Madison County?’”
With plans to develop condominiums and apartments along State Route 56 in London, Gross soon envisioned an upscale restaurant and bar nearby to attract locals and out-of-towners.
“And that was how The Butcher Block came to be, or at least a quick version of events,” he joked.
Knowing he wanted the restaurant to have formal and casual options, he set about creating an eclectic menu with the help of executive chef Josh Gibson.
On the fine dining side, the menu offers steaks ($25-$45) with options for different preparations. The Standard features a steakhouse rub and is finished with garlic-rosemary butter. The Sugar & Spice is seasoned with a brown sugar spice and topped with a house-made merlot butter. Among the other dishes on the fine dining menu are the Arrabbiata Roasted Chicken ($31), Applewood Smoked Pork ($29), Ahi Tuna ($34) and Lemon Baked Norwegian Salmon ($29).
On the casual dining side, the menu includes a number of bar sandwiches, such as the All American Burger ($14), the Double Cheeseburger ($16), the BLT ($13), the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($14.50) and the Chicago and Cincinnati Dog ($9.50 each).
Appetizers include deviled eggs and shrimp, sesame cauliflower bites and glazed pork belly, to name a few. Sides range from grilled asparagus and smoked red mash to frites and pork belly mac. Salads and a few vegan options are offered, as well. The desserts on the menu at this time are candied pecan crusted chocolate torte, vanilla crème brulee, and cheesecake.
For those stopping in for an adult beverage, the restaurant boasts more than 30 beers made at breweries across Ohio, a vast selection of local and imported wines, and a range of inexpensive to very expensive bourbons and whiskeys.
In addition to the dual dining atmospheres, Gross said another thing that makes The Butcher Block unique is that it is a profit-sharing restaurant.
“Our employees take in 50 percent of the profits,” he explained.
Gross is proud to say he has 56 staff members on the payroll.
“It has been really hard for restaurants, especially ones that open during a pandemic, to find a healthy number of employees, but we have that here at The Butcher Block,” he said. “I think part of that reason is because of our profit-sharing model.”
David Kell, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said the greater community has been clamoring for a dining option like this.
“The community has been calling for more restaurants and opportunities to eat locally, and if anyone has gone inside and eaten here, they know it is a quality place,” he said.
Kell said he has had food on both the fine dining and casual dining menus and called all of the food “delicious.”
He said he cannot wait to see the impact this restaurant has on the community.
“It is already drawing people from all over the region,” he said. “I think that is a wonderful thing not just for this small business but also our community as a whole.”
The Butcher Block is located at 2280 State Rte. 56 in London. Hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The menu will be modified seasonally and can be viewed at www.ieatdrinkgather.com. Patrons can order for pick-up by calling (740) 490-7777. General Manager Jeremy McLean said service delivery options are still being “fine-tuned.”
The current seating capacity for the restaurant is 391, but it can and will be expanded when the outdoor patio on the bottom floor is open for use and the patio bar on the second floor is open for use in warmer temperatures. The restaurant also has a banquet hall for parties or additional seating. There will be live music periodically.
Gross said he is proud to bring this restaurant to the community and hopes that they enjoy it.
“There really is something here for everyone to enjoy,” he said. “And I really hope that they do.”