Kristopher Doll knows his way around a piece of meat. The Lafayette native and local chef has plenty of experience with all things salumi, evidenced by his tenures at Cleaver & Co., Cochon Butcher and several of chef/restaurateur Adolfo Garcia's restaurants.
Doll originally opened Shank Charcuterie as a stall in St. Roch Market and later moved across the street to open the butcher and deli-style restaurant. There, under the glimmer of fluorescent lights and bare-bones decor, smoked tasso, ham hocks, pork belly, rib-eye steaks, whole chickens and giant slabs of brisket fill a display case. There's no denying his curing and butchery skills anchor the St. Claude operation, but the short, creative menu proves there's more than meets the eye. The shop can feel like a well-kept secret, but its no-frills aesthetic belies the tasty, meaty snacks and dishes that come from its kitchen.
The menu features a few breakfast items (steak and eggs, omelets and a frittata), but the more substantial — and intriguing — items are served at lunch and early dinner (the shop closes at 7 p.m. most days). The business' name suggests the obvious, but it's worth noting there are few options available for vegetarians.
The long, narrow space has a 20-seat lunch counter overlooking a hooded grill where Doll prepares almost everything to order. Chimichurri potatoes are pressed flat on the grill, emblazoned with char marks and dusted with herbs. Brussels sprouts are given a hearty nudge with thick slabs of bacon and melted Parmesan. Steamed boudin links come two per order and are served with a spicy Creole mustard dipping sauce. The links' rice-heavy filling gets a touch of heat from bird's eye chilies and vinegar, a nice addition that helps balance some of the heavier bits of pork.
In addition to the diminutive menu, Doll's creativity is on display in daily specials. On one visit, an excellent lamb neck ragu arrived sopping in crimson juices dotted with sprigs of oregano. The thick strips of meat with deliciously crispy, fatty edges were draped over thick, creamy white beans and topped with nibs of salty feta cheese, giving the dish a warm, Mediterranean feel.
Across the menu, Doll incorporates international influences, from Southeast Asian-inspired grilled chicken thighs bathed in a chili, lime and garlic sauce to his take on Argentina's choripan sandwich. Here, the chef creates a dish that falls somewhere between East Coast Italian comfort fare and the South American standby, folding a fat sausage link into French bread and draping it in a thick tomato and red pepper sauce as well as a blanket of melted mozzarella.
The excellent burger features a giant patty with caramelized, crispy edges, a cheddar-heavy pimiento cheese spread and briny bread-and-butter pickles on toasted French bread. It's big enough for two people.
Specialty meat restaurants have been in vogue in past several years, with artisan butchers, Cajun-inspired meat markets and barbecue joints opening up left and right. Doll's butchery operation is one of the quirkiest and most interesting in the city.