The Burger Bar, a partnership between Neighborhood Restaurant Group and Red Apron Butcher, will immediately stand out in a crowded hamburger market: Nathan Anda, the face and creative force behind Red Apron, plans to serve burgers with beef sourced only from Virginia steers.
“Originally, Red Apron was more of a pork-based business,” Anda says. “We did little amounts of cow in the beginning, and then as the business grew, we were working with more cows. It kind of grew into having the thunder to open up a burger restaurant.”
The burger concept just made sense from a production standpoint, Anda says. Red Apron Butcher is already breaking down cows, reserving the rib-eyes, strip steaks, tenderloins and other prime cuts for its display cases. Other cuts, such as top round and brisket, go into sandwich production. But, Anda says, that still leaves a lot of meat to be ground for burgers.
“We've always claimed a whole-animal burger because we've always been able to take the pieces we wanted and build the burger around that,” the chef says about the burger available at Red Apron shops.
The specialty at the Red Apron Burger Bar will differ from the one that's available: It will be a double-patty flat-top burger topped with American cheese, pickles, shaved onions and a house-made sauce on a challah bun (not house-made). The special sauce, Anda says, is a mayo-based condiment based on the flavors of Japanese tonkatsu sauce.
The counter-service restaurant is projecting it could sell up to 500 burgers a day, which will require a great deal of beef. But Anda and James Tracey, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s culinary director, have been developing a supply chain for a long time now. A Virginia processor has been working with cattle farmers in the state to help supply the Red Apron project. The restaurant will also source beef from Leaping Waters Farm in Alleghany Springs, Va., which raises Ancient White Park cattle exclusively on grass.
“It's all born and raised in Virginia,” Tracey says about the cattle supply.
The burgers will be built from the meat of grass-fed or grass-fed-and-grain-finished cattle only. There will be no patties with beef from grain-fed cows. The price of the burgers will reflect the provenance of the meat: A single, 3-ounce patty will cost $5.85; a double-meat burger, $8.95. Anda is still pricing out the cost of the burger with meat from the grass-fed Ancient White Park steer.
Elsewhere on the menu, Anda will sell a cotechino pork-sausage burger, a chorizo burger and a lamb burger that's a riff on a Doner kebab. Red Apron will even save the beef fat from its whole-animal butchery to deep-fry its french fries. Neighborhood Restaurant Group's beer director, Greg Engert, will curate a line of craft beers to pair with Anda's burgers.
Red Apron Burger Bar, 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW, is expected to open in mid-January.