Douglas Avenue Chop Shop plans grand opening Saturday

03/27/2014 12:00 AM

03/26/2014 5:16 PM

The new Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, opened by Schane Gross next door to her popular downtown bar, the Anchor, knows who makes up its target demographic – and it knows how to woo them.

With meat.

On Saturday, the butcher shop will celebrate its grand opening from noon to 5 p.m. with a feast of samples of its star attractions – upscale meats and high-end cheeses.

Visitors will be able to taste some of the shop’s many varieties of handmade sausages and learn how to make them. They’ll see a new wheel of Parmesan opened and cut, then sample the results. They can taste bacon-wrapped rabbit tenderloins, fried chicken and grilled pork, and they also can sample beers that Gross and her staff say pair best with those dishes.

The grand opening, Gross said, symbolizes the beginning of a dual business that will improve the lives of Wichita home cooks and backyard grillers and at the same time improve the dining experience at the Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas.

“Everything is going to be more efficient,” Gross said “And I’ll have access to better products.”

Gross opened the butcher shop on March 5, less than a year from the day she dreamed it up.

She needed to do something with the space at 1113 E. Douglas, she said. She thought about starting a catering business but quickly rethought that idea. People are always asking to use a private space at the Anchor, so she considered turning the spot into a banquet room.

But the bank she approached for a loan liked her third idea: a high-end butcher shop that would provide an outlet for genetically unaltered, hormone-free natural meats, many of them produced in Kansas.

Gross said her idea was born last spring after she met Marshall Roth, the chef at the Ambassador Hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse. He took her for a visit to Creekstone Farms, a premium beef provider based in Arkansas City that provides the steaks for his restaurant. Gross was impressed not only by the operation, she said, but by the quality of the meat. One night, she wanted to cook dinner for her family and searched local grocery stores in vain for Creekstone Farms cuts. Perhaps she could become the Wichita provider, she thought.

She’s been engrossed for the last year in planning and building the shop, which features not only Creekstone Farm cuts such as rib-eye, strip and filet but also Heritage chickens from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Red Wattle Heritage Hogs from Wedland Farms in Barnes, and rabbit from Rare Hare Barn in Leon.

She also hired Josh Rathbun away from the Lakeside Club, where Rathbun was working for Jeremy Wade. A meat expert, Rathbun begged Gross to bring him on as head butcher. Now, he’s becoming a sausage-making expert, turning out sausages flavored with Sriracha and cilantro or infused with the Anchor’s beers.

“Being here is so stimulating to me culinarily,” he said. “This is what I want to do.”

The shop also will sell many cuts that are difficult to find in Wichita grocery stores. The case has pork belly, beef bacon, ready-to-slice prosciutto and steak cuts such as Delmonico, Denver and culotte. Gross said the chop shop’s biggest selling point so far is that it will take any special request for cuts.

The shop also has a giant case full of gourmet cheeses plus cheese knives and other cheese service items. It stocks farm-fresh eggs, tubs of chicken and pork broth, and imported butters from Europe. The shop also soon will stock various hot sauces, beer cheeses and other items infused with beer.

Gross also is developing what she calls a “meatball program,” which will allow shoppers to stop by and pick up fresh-made meatballs along with Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce.

And starting next week, shoppers will be able to stop in the chop shop for grab-and-go sandwiches made with the shops meats. They’ll be big, she said, and cost between $7 and $9. She’ll also sell sodas and chips.

Chefs next door at the Anchor are as excited about the new butcher shop as anyone, Gross said. It has a gleaming prep kitchen where the Anchor chefs are now working, which is improving the kitchen’s capabilities. Soon, using products from the Chop Shop, the Anchor will begin serving new menu items such as a brunch chicken-fried steak, a steak sandwich and a meatball grinder. Anchor diners will benefit from next door’s cheese case and will be able to order gourmet cheese platters as well.

“There’s no reason the Anchor couldn’t have the best cheese tray in Wichita now,” Gross said.

The shop isn’t as fully stocked as it will be in the coming months, Gross said, but she’s already getting thank-you notes and calls from customers appreciative for a new place to find unusual and high-quality meats – and a place that will provide custom cuts.

Customers are frequently taking pictures of the finished dishes and posting them on the shop’s Facebook page.

“It’s been great,” she said. “People have been thanking us for having great meat and especially for taking customer orders.”

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