True Blue Butcher & Table

30 Dec 2018

True Blue Butcher & Table goes beyond the counter delivering a unique, full-rounded dining experience 

The Forum 
1125 Military Cutoff Rd. 
Wilmington, NC


When Chef Bobby Zimmerman was deciding on a name for his new butcher shop and restaurant, he jotted down over two hundred and fifty ideas. After all, it doesn’t hurt to be thorough. And he didn’t want to sell himself on one name, only to regret it six months down the line. 

“I literally googled trustworthiness and True Blue came up,” Zimmerman says. “I liked it, and it also happens to be a song by one of my favorite artists, Bright Eyes. So I looked the phrase up and it turns out to have originated in 15th century Covington England. The fashionistas of the day were always looking for better material for their dresses, and some little boutique came up with a new blue linen that wouldn’t fade. The ladies would walk around, point at each other and ask “Is that true blue?” Meaning, is that the real thing, did you get it from that boutique? I liked that, because I like the question, “Is that the real thing?””

An added bit of trivia: that same no-fade blue linen became a favorite of European kitchens, used to make not only kitchen uniforms, but the famous blue butcher aprons of Spain. 

“Everyone wants a little fate in their life, and there it was,” Zimmerman says. Now this new resident of the Forum will celebrate their one-year anniversary on Jan. 12th, tables are packed even on weekdays, and Zimmerman is taking stock of his experience so far. 

“As a chef, you live in a constant state of paranoia. It’s just in your DNA. That paranoia ranges from Is Table 45 happy? to Did I remember to pay the gas bill?, Am I burning that sauce, Is this hollandaise going to break? It’s just kinda always there,” Zimmerman says. 

He has certainly taken a lot on his plate. True Blue’s kitchen is open for lunch, happy hour and dinner, with brunch on Sundays, and the butcher counter is open seven days a week from 11am-6pm. In addition, they offer catering and charcuterie plates. So, to say that everyone’s been busy is an understatement. And beginning in 2019, True Blue will also start offering monthly classes on everything from pasta making to basic butchery and hosting monthly wine and beer dinners. 

“And let’s be honest, there’s not like a switch that’s going to flip on the 12th (the one year anniversary), I know that the 13th is gonna be just as hard as the 12th, and the 11th, and the 10th. But, certainly it’ll will be reassuring.The reality is here I am, and I’m going to be here tomorrow, and we’ll get through this,” says Zimmerman.  

The menu at True Blue has already produced a few favorites among the clientele. While certainly the steaks are always popular, a few dark horses, like the cauliflower souffle with lemon and parmesan, have emerged as neighborhood staples. Zimmerman thinks of his menu as an ever-evolving thing, based on his customer’s tastes. He tries to make sure there are accommodations for all kinds of dietary preferences, and even though it is a butcher shop, there is always at least one vegan entree on the menu, because no one should have to ask for a plate of steamed veggies from the kitchen just to enjoy dinner with their friends. 

“We’re about to rollout this really awesome, vegan pot pie. And I don’t use artificial anything anywhere, so I’m not using fake meat. But, we make our own cashew cheese, and we have this really wonderful, rich vegetable broth with all these freshly harvested vegetables. We’re excited,” he says. Those details come through in all his dishes, even the simplest of appetizers, like the burrata plate. 

“Oh my goodness, it’s so good, and it’s perfect for the season,” Zimmerman says. “We’re doing a roasted plum and pork jame with toasted pistachios and homemade ham. The ham is so buttery and soft. It’s not like that big deli ham smoke flavor. It’s just really creamy and beautiful.”

But in the end, at a butcher shop, the meat is the thing. Customers who come in during the day between services will find Zimmerman behind the butcher counter, prepared to educate. 

“What’s really cool about the butcher shop experience is it is the opposite of a transactional experience. I tell people, “Hey, if you have the time, I’d like to spend a little bit and take a look at all of this.” There are very few things cut in advance, so when they come in they have options. You’re literally going to get the exact cut you want. You don’t have to select out of five or six packages. You can look, and say, “that’s the one.” And by the time you make a selection, you’re going to know why you chose that one. Not just cause it looks pretty, but that one is leaner than that one, that one is more aged,” Zimmerman says. 

“I have a story I like to tell, and it’s completely fictional, but it’s what you would call a vision,” he says. “Your uncle Joe is at the family reunion, and he’s standing at the barbeque grill. There’s kids in the pool, there’s people having drinks. Uncle Joe is grilling these pork chops, and everyone is in awe of how amazing the food is. And Uncle Joe just looks over and says “Yeah, I got these from my guy Bobby over at True Blue.” And there’s an important thing in that story, which is that he’s the hero, not me. I’m glad he mentioned me, but imagine how Uncle Joe feels in that moment. There’s a sense of pride and ownership there, and to me that’s what neighborhood is.” 

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