WHEN CHEFS BECAME rock stars, butchers became, well, wait, what profession is cooler than a rock star? Today, butchers play the hero of the local food movement by providing the actual handiwork behind nose-to-tail cookery.
There’s no butcher shop in Northern Virginia that better epitomizes the reign of meat-as-king and local-as-creed than the new location of The Whole Ox (it moved from The Plains last fall). Instead of drab florescent lighting and minimal decor, the shop is styled with Edison bulb chandeliers, tin ceilings painted matte black and a stuffed deer head named Pierre.
Rows of pickled produce, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, gooseberry vinegar, local cheese, grass-fed butter and percentage- stamped chocolate greet customers before the meat case is even in sight.
Besides sourcing artisanal products, The Whole Ox makes its own pepper jam and works with local Lone Oak Coffee Co. for a custom blend of whole beans. Aperitifs, bitters and wines, helpfully labeled with notes like “rich and bloody” and “dense and dirty,” are sold by the bottle—and by the glass. The back of the shop features high-top tables and an open kitchen with bar seating.
Now open, Thursday through Saturday nights, the shop turns into the Butcher Bar with Mediterranean-inspired small plates, plus plenty of meat-based snacks. It’s another way, says Amanda Luhowiak, who owns the shop with her husband, Derek, “to use up all the little bits and pieces and make sure we’re utilizing everything and there’s very little waste.” Lunch is an option, too: A daily rotating selection of soups and sandwiches are packaged to-go.
The freezer case is everything you’d want to hide away with on these cool and rainy spring days: soups, stocks, broths and ready-mades of chicken pot pie, mac and cheese and boozy caramel bread pudding. Of course there are multiple types of sausages, but also meatballs, beef shank, skirt steak and luxurious duck fat. The display case labels each cut—rib-eye, skirt steak, porterhouse—with its originating farm, a nod to quality control. This is today’s butcher shop. // The Whole Ox, 8357 W. Main St., Marshall
( April 2016 )