Hospitality duo Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton, co-owners of RGE RD. restaurant in Edmonton's 124 St. area, know the ups and downs of the food service industry. Because of the pandemic, the couple has had to re-imagine their 60-seat farm-to-table-focused restaurant to offer more take-out/curbside pick up, something that has created opportunity of its own. Still, the tumultuous year has meant change from what would be the restaurant's busiest season of holiday get-togethers, private parties and sold-out dinners. So the timing of their latest project, the RGE RD Butchery, is fortuitous.
"Opening a butcher shop in the midst of the pandemic isn't something we planned. " said executive chef Lebsack of the 4,000 square-foot butchery adjacent to the rustic-chic eatery. "It's been a tough year getting these doors open, so it means so much to us to reconnect with customers who have supported us over the past eight months. We're happy to bring much-needed comfort food to the community."
Comfort foods and a homey atmosphere are what they're after in the space, agrees Fulton. Think prepared meatloaf, on-site baked bread, soups and stocks--even a glass of wine or craft beer while you shop in the licensed space. How about a coffee or shared plate while you wait for your custom-cut meat order? "This isn't your typical, utilitarian butcher shop," said director of operations Fulton. "No, the bathrooms are far too nice for a butcher shop," laughed Lebsack.
The Butchery features prepared meats, roasts and more exotic fare--bison, elk, deer (European smoked wieners and sausages are in the works too) plus a freezer filled with convenience meals, sides and sauces. The old-world feel of the space (a former vacuum sales shop) has rustic lighting, antiques here and there and a large communal wood table and stools.
A full-wall shelf highlights artisan food products, RGE RD gear and the restaurant's own pickled vegetables, pates and sauces. There's likely a Christmas present or two among the farmers' market-style products, and goods from Alberta-based producers like Gold Forest Grains and Sylvan Star Cheese.
Though it shares some space with the restaurant, including room to hang 8,000 pounds of meat, the Butchery has its own dedicated hot kitchen and prep area, plus a custom cutting station that will be put to good use.
"Do you want a smaller roast, just enough for two? We can do that. How about a grass-fed pork schnitzel, pounded out thin for tonight's supper? We even did half or quarter-turkeys for Thanksgiving--it's whatever a customer wants," Fulton said.
Lebsack said he's excited about the coming together of supplier, his chefs and the customer--a mingling of respect and understanding about where the animals come from, how they are raised and how to utilize every part.
"There's something so rewarding about bringing our hospitality side to the retail business, providing customers with exactly the cuts of meat they want while sharing in the act of processing the animal respectfully," he said. "We care about the farming values-- the ethics of our suppliers--and we know where the beef, lamb, duck, pork, elk, bison and chicken comes from. We get an entire beef and age it 21 days on the rail. Even the ground beef is dry-aged."
Some of the Butchery's Western Canadian suppliers include Nonay Beef raised by Lakeside Farmstead in Sturgeon County, Nature's Green Acres Pork raised near Viking, AB and Paradise Hill Bison raised in Barthel, SK.
"We're excited to offer exceptional quality at a good price, and share what we know with customers--everything from how to assemble a charcuterie board, to how to cook a hanger or skirt steak," Lebsack adds, pointing to the house-prepared flavoured fats in the display case that he's been recommending. " I tell people to toss their potatoes in our rosemary and roasted garlic schmaltz. It's huge flavour right away," he said.
Fulton and Lebsack, who live and work in the central neighbourhood, say they want the Butchery to be a welcoming place for locals and RGE RD fans. "Come in and grab something for your supper on the way home from work, or get a sandwich or wrap and sit awhile--when COVID-19 allows," Fulton said.
The inviting property is also home to The Larder, a 24-seat private space boasting a state of the art audio/visual system and currently accepting bookings for small meetings, seminars and events with COVID-19 measures in place.
The Butchery by RGE RD at 12229-107 Ave, is open Tues-Fri, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. See rgerd.ca for more.