Yes, many consumers have turned away from the ‘traditional’ giant slab of beef that used to anchor steakhouse menus. But the alternative may prove to be even better for producers.
Here’s how a recent restaurant review of a new D.C. area establishment in Silver Spring, Md. (which is actually “inside the Beltway”) begins:
“The Urban Butcher, the edgy new protein palace, is a combination restaurant, bar, lounge, meat shop and curing room, serving house-made charcuterie, American artisan cheeses and inventive beef, pork, chicken and seafood dishes.”
You had me at butcher.
As the review in Bethesda Magazine noted, Urban Butcher is in the vanguard of what restaurant critics are calling “next-generation steak houses,” the distinction being that the menu isn’t loaded with what the article labeled “huge slabs of beef from Midwestern feedlots in a mahogany-paneled dining room.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The brainchild of Raynold Mendizabal, a native Cuban and a mathematician-turned chef/entrepreneur, Urban Butcher’s menu includes locally sourced meats from heritage breeds and an eclectic mix of natural salamis, specialty sausages and cured hams, a selection the reviewer termed “a stark contrast to the safe, predictable and often boring restaurants in the area.”
Three things appeal to me about the restaurant itself and the trend Mr. Mendizabal seems to be helping to set.
First, I used to live in downtown Silver Spring some years ago, back when it was still considered “an emerging urban destination.” Translation: Deteriorating downtown in need of revival and less-than-stellar neighborhoods in need of renovation. Good to see that the town has apparently completed its comeback.
Second, I love the phrase “protein palace.” From women’s magazines (Women’s Health: “Protein: Your Secret Weight-Loss Weapon!”) to diet gurus (Dr. Oz: “A diet high in the right kind of protein — at the right time — can lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes and help you lose weight”) to medical authorities (WebMD: “High-protein diets can tame your hunger and help you lose weight”), we’re in the midst of a mini-version of the hype that accompanied the Atkins and South Beach Diet craze back in the 1990s. Only this time the recommendations to replace refined carbohydrates with high-protein foods are more sensible, more intuitive and ultimately, more beneficial to consumer perceptions of meat and poultry.