The Barred Owl Butcher and Table takes the nose-to-tail philosophy to the next level. The items on the menu are influenced by Italian and Spanish traditions and are as beautiful as they are tasty and locally sourced.

Fried rabbit torchon with pimiento cheese grits and braised collard greens. Most ingredients are sourced from local producers.

By Daniel Pliska

The Whole Story
Experience the nose-to-tail concept at Barred Owl Butcher and Table.

In the world of restaurants, there exists a specific concept known as “nose-to-tail.” This type of restaurant focuses on whole-animal butchery of locally raised farm stock. The animals are brought to the butcher whole, then broken down and fabricated in many ways with the aim of utilizing the entire carcass in their menus.

In Columbia, Barred Owl Butcher and Table is committed to the nose-to-tail philosophy. The restaurant and butcher shop are owned by Ben Parks, Joshua Smith, and Brandy Hughes. Each of them focuses on separate roles in the operation of the business. Ben Parks, whom I first became acquainted with when he taught culinary arts at Hickman High School in 2006, is the chef and runs the kitchen. Joshua oversees the butcher shop and produces all the portion cuts and charcuterie items for the restaurant. Brandy is the general manager and runs the front-of-the-house operations.

The Barred Owl team is committed to the concepts of sustainability, seasonality, and using as much of the animal as possible through the butchering process. That philosophy is reflected on its frequently changing menu in dishes such as, confit rabbit with braised fennel and carrots.

Chef Ben defines the restaurant’s cuisine: “Our food is seasonal, farm-to-table fare that borrows heavily from Southern, Spanish, and Italian flavors. Our style of charcuterie is based on the Italian and Spanish traditions, so our menu flavors tend to go in that direction.”

Barred Owl purchases the farm stock from area producers. The pork is from Sullivan Farms (Fayette), Wagyu beef from Lage Farms (Jefferson City), lamb from Brooks Farm (Laddonia), poultry from Buttonwood Farm (California), duck from Hedge Holler Harvest (Mexico), and rabbit from Brandon Baumhoer (Jefferson City). And Barred Owl occasionally procures animals from other farmers.

Wagyu beef pastrami and pork capocolla.

Ben is proud that the restaurant is certified to make dry-cured salamis and that they all find their way onto the menu and butcher shop. When I visited, there was a butcher board with Genoa salami, jalapeño cheese curd hot link, lomo embuchado, chicken liver paté, and fried turkey boudin with baguette and accompaniments. The menu also includes many familiar items such as sandwiches, burgers, chops, and meatloaf—all served with imaginative twists. Some other dishes that I appreciate are cassoulet (a rich French-style braised bean and sausage dish with duck-leg confit and pork belly) and potato gnocchi with a buttermilk braised pork ragu.

Barred Owl’s Butcher Shop offers a wide array of meat, plus cheeses, breads, and condiments.

Along with the food, which is served in a dining room featuring a warm, comforting, farm-style decor, the beverage program offers many types of wines, beers, and specialty hand-crafted cocktails, along with unique bottled sodas such as Bundaberg Ginger Beer and Boylan’s Black Cherry Soda. Popular cocktails include The Cold Black Heart (like a spicy grapefruit margarita) and the Manhattan Fashioned (an old- fashioned with a large frozen Manhattan cube that melts, combining the flavors). All the drinks can be summarized from their statement on Barred Owls’ website: “Our cocktail program is grounded in the same from-scratch ingredient-first ethos as our menu.”

Scotch eggs made with Merquez sausage are served atop shishito peppers and harissa yogurt. Diners appreciate the excellent cuisine and warm atmosphere of Barred Owl.

The restaurant’s name, according to Ben, was inspired by the hoot from the barred owl, which sounds like “Who cooks for you?” If you are interested in dining in a nose-to-tail restaurant that excels in that philosophy, then let the team from Barred Owl do the cooking.

Chef Daniel Pliska is a certified executive chef and author. He teaches culinary arts at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield.

All photos courtesy of The Barred Owl Butcher and Table.

Enjoy more articles by Daniel Pliska here.

Article originally published in the March/April 2024 issue of Missouri Life.