The fist time I attended the Branded Butcher was per the request of my good friend, and verifiable foodie, Alette. Completely submitting to her never-failing judgment, yet again, I was not let down. Fast forward a couple years—and many, many ‘Scotch eggs’ later—and I am now presented with the opportunity to share so many of the reasons that the Branded Butcher creates a dining experience that is not soon forgotten. On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, I walked into a room exuding camaraderie and warm regards. The Branded Butcher staff welcomed me in for an interview with their head chef and culinary extraordinaire Trey Rayburn, and, once again, I left happy and full.
Food aside (only momentarily), the atmosphere the Branded Butcher creates is worth the visit alone. Rayburn explains their philosophy saying,” We try to keep our energy in here a little rock n’ roll, true to what Athens is.” Most would agree Athens, among many other things, is definitely rock n’ roll. With its wooden floors, edgy art (most of which is up for purchase) continuously on display, and exposed brick walls, the restaurant creates a ‘pub chic’ vibe that remains unmatched. The Branded Butcher’s ability to tap into this energy is just another reason it is a gem in the Athens food industry.
Another one of the defining qualities the Branded Butcher consistently exemplifies is without a doubt their fearlessness in creating eclectic dishes, derived from a variety of cultures. Chef Rayburn refers to their diverse menu, describing it as, “Modern American food; we don’t really like to limit ourselves to one type of cuisine.” Rayburn made a point to emphasize that they put their own spin on dishes, creating a uniqueness that keeps customers coming back time and time again. Rayburn says, “We consider ourselves a little out there as far as the ingredients we use, and the style of food we do,” and this is ever-so obvious.
The menu currently features a variety of dishes, but despite the changing season, Rayburn explains “the classics that are always on the menu are the Scotch egg and the grilled romaine.” Off the record, I get a Scotch egg every time I am in the restaurant, and when I am not in the restaurant, there’s a good chance I’m thinking about it. This dish consists of a poached egg, cradled within a house-made sausage, and served along with a celery root remoulade, and whiskey gastrique (simply put, a sweet-and-sour sauce). While the classics remain, the changing of seasons does yield some new dishes, such as the chicken heart bolognese, a delightful orecchiette pasta dish, which Rayburn says is, ”one of my favorite dishes we’ve ever done here.” True to the identity of the restaurant, this dish is refreshingly anomalous, incorporating grana padano (an Italian cheese similar to parmesan), mustard greens, and parsley. If that description alone is not enough, feel confident knowing Chef Rayburn’s opinion is one you can trust.
An interesting menu such as the Branded Butcher’s requires a lot of coordination and planning, which is made easier with creative-minded, driven chefs. The ingredients required for the dishes Rayburn creates are chosen largely on the basis of what local farmers have coming into season, and he is proud to say, ”Matt [chef and owner] and I both have gotten pretty good at knowing what farmers have coming into season.” On the topic of buying local, I learned that one of the Branded Butcher’s very own employees actually raises the pork featured in many of their charcuterie dishes. Rayburn further describes the concept of eating eating local so accurately saying, “The food industry in this town employs a lot of people…as a whole, we are all helping each other out.” Eat local, my friends.