Thirsty Bernie Sports Bar & Grill in Arlington (2163 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington; 703-248-9300) has quickly won fans for its stacked-meat sandwiches and house-made bratwursts. The he-man menu is the creation of chef Jamie Stachowski, whose charcuterie was one of the best things about Restaurant Kolumbia. When he and his wife, Carolyn, closed that K Street eatery a year ago, Stachowski—who claims to have worked in 27 restaurants since he was 14—was a man without a kitchen. So what did the burly chef do? He holed up in his garage and made meat.
Stachowski’s “lab,” as he calls it, attests to his passion for charcuterie, an age-old process of preserving meats. On a recent visit, a gallon of beef’s blood sat on a shelf—“Always have to have beef’s blood on hand,” he says—and two salt-cured venison legs in white cloth hung from the rafters among hockey sticks and fishing poles. When his meat grinder roared to life, the power caused the lights to flicker. All around him, in plastic boxes and industrial-size refrigerators, duck prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami were hung to dry.
Stachowski has been experimenting with curing and butchering since 1973, when he was ten years old and living on his family’s farm near Buffalo. He says slaughtering chickens with his grandfather was a life-changing event: “I’m a regular guy, but the minute that went down, I wanted to be the throat cutter.”
Thirsty Bernie is not the only place diners can check Stachowski’s skill at curing meats. His country pâté is on the menu at Redwood in Bethesda, his handmade sausages at Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar.
This article appeared in the September, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.
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