Restaurant Spotlight: Red Apron Butcher

April 3, 2013 11:35 AM0 comments

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Red Apron Butcher was recently named by Food & Wine as one of the top spots in the nation for cured meats. As of its opening last month, shoppers can now stop by Red Apron’s new Merrifield location in the Mosaic District to pick up the award-winning charcuterie, among other meats and assorted gourmet items.

The quality of Red Apron’s meats is no secret, but the range of its services may be surprising to newcomers to the expanding D.C.-area business. This is a butcher shop, where home chefs can buy healthy and ethically sourced meats to cook in their own kitchens, but a menu of sandwiches and hot dogs gives diners the opportunity to enjoy Red Apron’s products in-house.

The dining area is small, with just two tables and a bar at the back of the shop. The focus of the dining area is a large black wall striped with meaty, mouth-watering phrases like “pork cheeks” and “short ribs” against the image of a meat grinder. Cut into this hip, modern display is a window into the kitchen through which the sandwiches and hot dogs are passed to waiting diners.

Orders are placed at the front counter from a menu with just over a dozen items that covers an impressive range of tastes for its small size. Sandwiches are the most numerous menu item of the bunch, with selections divided between hot and cold creations. The Muffuletta ($8) showcases some of the deli meats available at Red Apron, with thin slices of bologna, mortadella, salami, and smoked ham layered between two slices of herby focaccia bread. Hot mustard and provolone are added to the mix, but the tangy taste of the chopped olive salad makes the biggest impact on the sandwich’s flavor.

The hot sandwich selection gets creative with deli favorites, like using spicy smoked pimento cheese for the grilled cheese sandwich and topping its meatloaf sandwich in chili aioli and sherried onions, and the Porkstrami ($8) that tops the menu is an attention-grabber. Here, pork has been substituted for beef and given the pastrami treatment for slices of meat that are fat-lined, spice-trimmed, and savory but not overwhelmingly salty. The baguette full of meat is topped with bacon-braised sauerkraut and a mustard aioli that offers the flavor of mustard without the bite.

There’s a single burger on the menu, the Red Apron Original ($8), but a burger this good doesn’t need company. It’s a simple burger; the toppings are basic and don’t overwhelm the lightly seasoned and naturally flavorful beef patty. Some cheddar cheese is melted over the meat, forming at its grill-scorched edges a delightful, crunchy lattice, and the patty is stacked on a fluffy toasted bun with shredded lettuce, red onion and tomato slices, a few sweet and crunchy pickle slices, and just a bit of thousand island-like sauce.

Of the four house hot dogs, the Haute Dog ($6) is the only basic recipe of the bunch, topped with just ketchup, mustard, and diced onion. From there, the hot dogs amp up topping combinations for interesting flavors, as is the case with The Sizzler ($8). If the baconwurst (yes, a bacon-flavored sausage) isn’t enough on its own, the buttery bun is slathered in bacon ranch sauce and the hot dog is topped in shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes.

When a sandwich or hot dog starts with quality meats, like the ones Red Apron sells, they can easily become a fun and flavorful meal. And by offering up a few of their own ready-made creations, Red Apron Butcher is showing how it’s done and highlighting its fine products in the process.

Red Apron Butcher is located at 8298 Glass Alley, Merrifield. For more information, call 703-676-3550 or visit redapronbutchery.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

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