It’s not easy to get back into the groove. I’ve had a month-ish off from writing reviews and boy are my takes tired. Seriously, I’m out of practice, so apologies up front if this bores you to tears.
Livegrass Butcher + Bistro has been a long time coming. But there was a pandemic (you might have missed it) and restaurants were closed for a bit, so rather than opening its doors a few months ago, this stylish new Edmond eatery is serving customers starting June 30.
There are a few things that set Livegrass apart from the already packed OKC-metro dining scene, starting with owners Mark and Susan Goss. You might wonder why “butcher” gets top billing in the name and that’s because, at its heart, Livegrass is about the ingredients. The Goss family owns Pecan Valley Ranch near Henryetta, OK and they’re putting their reputation on the line by serving customers meat they’ve raised themselves in accordance with humane, organic principles.
Mark (and Executive Chef Josh Valentine) are fond of saying the animals have happy lives and one bad day. Believe you me, when the opportunity arises to visit the ranch myself, I will. Maybe I can convince them to cut me a tri-tip.
Valentine, of course, is a big name in Oklahoma’s culinary circles. He’s a graduate of the Coach House training program, owner of the short-lived Divine Swine, a contestant on “Top Chef,” etc. Over the last year, whenever I’d run into him, he’d bend my ear about Livegrass and the incredible ingredients he was cooking.
Well, I got to try a few of those dishes with my friends and I’m happy to say that Josh wasn’t blowing any smoke (unless you count the smoke he’s using on the meats).
The trio of salads on the Livegrass menu are winners all. Farm salad ($7 small, $10 large) uses local greens and vegetables with some housemade farmer’s cheese and a tarragon ranch dressing. It’s delicious, but I have to warn you: it’ll make just about every salad you’ve made at home seem quite sad in comparison.
The Livegrass chipotle caesar salad ($7 small, $10 large) uses crisp pieces of romaine with a slathering of tangy, spicy dressing and cornbread croutons, in keeping with the “contemporary Oklahoma cuisine” theme. But it was the Three Sisters Salad ($9 small, $12 large) that really blew me away. A mix of black-eyed peas, zucchini, and hominy is tossed in a lovely heirloom tomato vinaigrette that, honestly, I could drink. Finding a salad that is both refreshing and filling is a feat, but Livegrass nailed it.
Now, I’d trust Josh Valentine to cook me a yak, but let’s not think too hard about which protein “Chef Porkbelly” is most fond of. Needless to say, I recommend you try the Okie Pig ($14) and Porchetta Banh Mi ($14) sandwiches.
Valentine makes one of the best porchettas I’ve ever had and when you slice it thin and pile it on a baguette with head cheese and pickled veggies, you’re in for a truly wonderful experience. It’s the kind of sandwich that redefines what sandwiches can be.
The Okie Pig is basically a porcine orgy in your mouth. Sliced roasted pork, smoked ham, bacon jam, chow chow (from Valentine’s grandma’s recipe), and a surprisingly savory barbecue sauce that I’d like to spend a lot more time with. Josh said it’s really just smoked vegetables cooked down, but it’s the rare barbecue sauce I want more of. Usually, barbecue sauce is so sickly sweet that it’s the last thing I want on my smoked meats, but this savory, smoky, rich drizzle of veg is a puzzle my mouth is desperate to solve.
Two of my friends got the same sandwich, which is a moral failing, especially at a new restaurant, but if you try The Southern third-pound burger ($16), I think you’ll forgive them. It’s a juicy beef patty, of course, but made with a more aged beef. Remember, these folks own the farm they’re getting the meat from. They can keep a cow going longer, because they’re not trying to sell it off. And it’s not spending its last days in a feedlot, scarfing down corn to put on weight. They’re raising it for the meat they want to serve, and that’s meat you want to eat.
On top of the burger is housemade bacon, more of that chow chow, and melty pimento cheese. It’s smoky and juicy and yowza. This thing is cartoon-eyes-popping-out-of-an-amorous-wolf’s-face good.
Livegrass is just getting started, and I mean that in both good and bad ways. There are still a few hiccups to iron out on the supply chain and making sure all the recipes are dialed in, but they’re starting in great shape. When social distancing eases up (WEAR A MASK!), we’ll see more items come to the menu for dinner—we’re talking steaks and pork chops and roasted chickens. But I won’t be keeping my distance from this food. These burgers and sandwiches are too good, and this concept has too much promise, for me to stay away for long.