Food & Drink

Review: JBGB’s in Remington is Upper Crust

Walk into the sister spot to the original John Brown General and Butchery in Cockeysville, and you might experience déjà vu.
The Italian sausage, fontina, and cherry pepper pizza. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

A few months after JBGB’s, the new Remington restaurant and sister spot to the original John Brown General and Butchery in Cockeysville, opened in the summer, we bellied up to the bar and perused the cocktail menu before dinner. One drink immediately stood out: the Dijon-Vu.

A gin-based concoction made with mustard—you read that right—the cleverly named cocktail is the invention of bar manager Shaun Stewart, who became “obsessed” with it after having a similar drink at an establishment in Philadelphia. He created his own using a mustard syrup he makes that includes agave, fennel, turmeric powder, and, of course, Dijon mustard. Garnished with a pickle chip and slice of sausage, it’s a shockingly refreshing drink that goes down smoothly and excites the taste buds with every sip. And yes, it’s yellow. We’ve never had anything like it. Like literally everything we tried during our trips to JBGB’s, it’s a creative idea that’s executed flawlessly.

The Dijon-Vu cocktail. —Justin Tsucalas
The bar area. —Justin Tsucalas

Walk into the butcher shop, which is open daily and serves a selection of to-go sandwiches like a classic cold cut and an eggplant po’boy for lunch, or the restaurant, which is open only for dinner Wednesdays through Sundays, and you might experience déjà vu. It’s housed in the same industrial brick building that was home to Parts & Labor, James Beard Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde’s butcher shop-and-upscale-restaurant concept that closed in 2018. While the layout of the butcher shop—with its glass cases of seafood, housemade sausages, salami, and myriad cuts of locally sourced beef, pork, and poultry—and the connected dining room and bar are essentially the same, the look and focus of the restaurant, a one-time auto repair shop, has changed. The bar was repainted, a new mural was added on the back wall, and, most importantly, a wood-fired pizza oven was installed.

“We really wanted this place to be big, inviting, and a little bit louder—just a more comfortable environment,” owner Robert Voss told us last July. “To me, a dinner table should be this last bastion of shared space where we can leave our shit at the door and have a good meal.”

The pies we tried that emerged from that new oven had perfectly charred crusts, bubbling cheese, and high-quality toppings that blended harmoniously. The sausage variety, one of six pizzas on the menu, includes fontina, white sauce, sweet Italian sausage, cherry peppers, onion, and thyme. The mushroom also has a white sauce and is topped with fontina, sweet and sour onions, and thyme. There were several people waiting at the bar to take a pizza (or three) home, but these beauties are best tasted seconds after they come out of the oven, when the crust is extra pillowy and piping hot. The pizzas are substantial in size, as well as flavor. One pie is enough for two people, though leftovers are highly likely.

The wood-fire pizza oven all aglow. —Justin Tscucalas

Meat from the butcher shop is used in several of the appetizers. Beef tartare is mixed with shallots, garlic, and Worcestershire and served with crostini. It was decadent but not overwhelmingly so. A pâté plate featured several wedges of the house-made country variety, which was rich yet subtle. It came with pickled kimchi, melons, onions, and tomatoes, all of which were pleasingly pungent.

Along with the pizza, executive chef Tyler Johnson (formerly of B&O Brasserie) offers six approachable entrees. There’s a smashed cheeseburger with two four-ounce patties and mac sauce, and a sausage of the night from the butcher shop (which comes with collard greens and ham hocks). We opted for the brick chicken, which was served with schmaltz rice in chicken jus. It was one of the freshest, juiciest, and most remarkably cooked birds we’ve ever eaten, beautiful in its simplicity and expert preparation. We also ordered the rigatoni Bolognese. The ingredients—beef and pork Bolo, Parmesan cheese, olive oil—mesh perfectly to create a dish every bit as tasty as one you’d find at a restaurant in Little Italy. After one of our dinners, we were talked into trying a slice of pastry chef Rebecca Karten’s chocolate mousse cake. After a few bites of silent bliss, all we could muster were moans of appreciation—it was that good.

The pâté plate. —Justin Tsucalas

Following another meal, we passed on dessert and instead revisited the enticing cocktail list. A special fall-inspired Old-Fashioned made with apple brandy was the perfect after-dinner drink, warming our bones and bellies. A Bae City Rollaz, made with vodka, raspberry, elderflower, pineapple, and lavender bitters, was sweet yet tart at the same time.

“When I was trying to put this menu together, I wanted to feel like we were being that side dish to the food, where you could have a cocktail that is fantastic by itself, but when you have it with a meal it brings that cocktail to a new level,” says Stewart.

At JBGB’s, just about everything is already reaching those lofty heights.