Washingtonians flock to farmers markets for fresh cuts of local meat, but when it comes to brick-and-mortar butchers, the options have long been limited. Thankfully there’s an end to the shortage in sight. Word came months ago that chef Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butchery—whose sausages and charcuterie are popular at farmers markets and the Alexandria shop Planet Wine—was looking to set up a storefront. Though plans have been delayed, Anda and Red Apron director JohnPaul Damato told us they have a spot set to open in the fall, and it’s much more than carnivores anticipated: a large, USDA-certified commissary for processing locally raised meat that will be sold on-location, to venues in the parent Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and eventually to a string of Red Apron butcheries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.
“We want to be a self-sustained restaurant group,” says Damato. “And the need for neighborhood butchers is huge. Everyone’s known it for years.”
While Anda says that he and NRG founder Michael Babin have lots of ideas still in the works, the project’s skeleton is in place. The commissary, located on Sixth Street near Rhode Island Avenue, Northeast, will have cows, pigs, chickens, and other game delivered in nearly whole form by local farmers such as Bev Eggleston of the ubiquitous Eco-Friendly Foods. The animals will then be processed in different rooms devoted to curing and smoking, and Anda will fabricate fresh cuts for individual sale and delivery to such NRG restaurants as Birch & Barley, Tallula, and Evening Star Café.
“We want to use what’s fresh, sustainable, and educate people on where the meat is from,” says Damato. “Maybe you can’t get New York Strip every week, but you’ll learn about other cuts.”
After the commissary and its small adjoining retail shop are up and running, the group hopes to quickly open another butchery location and eventually nine others in Washington. In addition to meat products, shoppers can expect pantry staples such as marinades, stocks, and spice rubs. Damato says that some may even have attached cafes with simple fare such as sausages and burgers. Anda expects to tweak each spot to fit the neighborhood, but the overall model was inspired by markets in Italy.
“[In Italy], you don’t feel like you have to buy anything,” says Anda. “In the neighborhood salumeria, the person behind the counter has so much pride in his products that he’s just happy that you’re looking at them. That’s what I’d like.”
If you are in the buying mood and six months seems too long to wait, Red Apron is rolling out an order-and-pickup program this summer. At farmers markets and Planet Wine, customers can browse through a menu of familiar Red Apron offerings such as terrines, pates, and Italian-style charcuterie, as well as sneak peeks of what’s to come in the shop: prime cuts such as beef ribeye, tenderloin, and New York strip, freshly made stocks, and lard. Orders are done online (the Web site isn't yet finished) and picked up at a farmers market or Planet Wine. Also look for more pork products come spring from heritage Ossabow pigs, items Anda calls, in true meat-lover style, “very beautiful, fatty things.”
Check out Red Apron Butchery on its Web site or on Facebook. Products are available at the Dupont Circle farmers market on Sundays and Planet Wine Shop (2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-3444).
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