You might remember Raynold Mendizabal as the guy who brought a powerful law firm to its knees as attorneys, young and old, collectively choked on the grill fumes wafting from Mendizabal's burger joint once known as Rogue States near Dupont Circle. In 2010, a D.C. Superior Court judge determined Rogue States was officially a nuisance and ordered it to cease grilling operations immediately to spare those poor barristers another awful olfactory day.
"After that, I had to sell most of it to pay for the lawyers and everything," Mendizabal says about his two-location chain, which has changed names to Black & Orange. "I have a small percent now" of the company. Mendizabal figures he shelled out $700,000 to cover legal fees, renovations to the Dupont Circle shop and other bills.
Don't feel sorry for Mendizabal, though. He's coming back strong with his latest project: a whole-animal restaurant and meat market called Urban Butcher. Located on the ground floor of a multi-story building on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Urban Butcher will offer a line of house-made charcuterie that will be second to none. Well, okay, second to Nathan Anda's offerings at Red Apron, but Anda has his own production commissary, for crying out loud.
Mendizabal's place, tentatively scheduled to open in early December, will almost be a production facility, too. Aside from a butcher shop, coffee bar and 170-seat restaurant and patio, Urban Butcher will also feature three refrigerated rooms for different steps in the curing process. One room will be dedicated to hanging and butchering whole carcasses. Another will be used for the initial salt curing, and the final room will be used for the long-term aging of meats.
"I'm not going to sell anything that I don't produce," says Mendizabal, who will also serve as executive chef at Urban Butcher. "I'm not going to sell prosciutto from anybody until I make it."
What that means is Urban Butcher will start small, at least with its charcuterie program. Mendizabal expects to have pates, rillettes, galantines and a number of salami available when he opens. He pulled out some samples this week for me to try — his chorizo, saucisson sec and finocchiona (or fennel sausage) — and I found them to be superb examples of the Spanish, French and Italian dry-cured sausage-making traditions. In other words, I could have eaten a link of each and still wanted more.
The rest of the charcuterie will debut when ready. You want lomo or bresaola? You'll have to wait till spring. You want a plate of long, thin meat ribbons sliced from an Ossabaw Island hog leg? You'll have to wait even longer, possibly a year or so from now.
"We're going to specialize in mostly heritage breeds," Mendizabal says. "We're going to be able to process whole carcasses in the back."
The remainder of the international menu at Urban Butcher will be divided into small shareable plates (beef empanadas, grilled jerk chicken wings, wild prawns in olive oil, crispy pig tails, Chinese barbecued pork ribs) and larger dinner entrees (Ethiopian goat stew berbere, lamb tagine, 48-hour ox brisket).
"We also plan to do big cuts, like serving the whole lamb or a whole pig." the chef and owner says. "The whole idea is to eat the way we used to eat 400 years ago."
That may sound strange coming from a man who was once a math and physics researcher. But that combination — a man with a scientist's mind but with primitive's appetite — apparently served him well when convincing Montgomery County authorities to approve his curing operation. Mendizabal says he already has been given the green light from the county.
"From day one, I went there myself and said, 'I want to do these. This is the knowledge,'" says Mendizabal who then handed county health authorities his "hazard analysis and critical control points," or HACCP, plan.
"It depends a lot on us to educate them. It's really up to us and to be open with them," Mendizabal says. "The health department is not our enemy. They're protecting you from us. They should force us to be precise."
Urban Butcher, 8226 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring, is tentatively scheduled to open in early December.