Meat eaters gained a new spot for freshly butchered, locally sourced meats, deli sandwiches, bone broths, fermented foods, and beef tallow fries at Soko Butcher and Deli, which opened Saturday in Takoma Park.
The cozy, 1,000-square foot butcher shop and deli (7306 Carrol Avenue, Takoma) comes from chef Brad Feickert, who most recently worked at Oz in Arlington, and Chris Brown, who owns Takoma Beverage Company and Zinnia in Silver Spring. Located across the street from the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op, Soko seeks to complement the fresh and local produce with fresh, local cuts of meat.
“The butcher shop and deli has been a concept that is a proven part of almost every community. We want to be a place that people can rely on. We’re not here to convert vegans, but show people who do eat meat that they can eat it responsibly,” Feickert says.
To start, Feickert will have on hand more traditional offerings: beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. But Feickert, a classically trained chef with experience working with more exotic cuts, also aims to “get cool stuff out there… pushing the butcher shop to get crazier items to experience.” Rack of lamb will share space with specialty beef cuts like tongue, plus wild game, venison, squab, goose, and more. He also plans to offer charcuterie, and is already house-curing sandwich fillings.
On the other side of the space, a deli menu blossoms. “When we designed the shop, we included a full kitchen to ensure there were no limitations with what we could create,” Feickert notes. It’s his take on what an old-school deli might serve.
Mornings see egg and cheese sandwiches smothered in a crispy blanket of housemade bacon; the Reuben meanwhile uses housemade pastrami. Other deli sandwiches include classics like roast beef, turkey, and a BLT. And yes, there are salads, too. Nevertheless, Feickert is also playful with his offerings – the egg salad comes loaf style, sliced and married with wasabi and Dijon mustard before being slipped between a yeasty ciabatta. Soko also has double deep fryers for specialty fried chicken dinners.
Rounding out the menu are sides like hash browns, daily soups, and fries given an extra kick of umami from their preparation in beef tallow that comes from the butcher section.
Feickert and Brown know that sourcing is paramount in meeting local customer demand and scrutiny. They try to offer as many cuts of the animal as they can, with the trim finding its way to deli sandwiches.
Brown, having spent significant time in Takoma Park, knew a butcher shop might be met with some resistance in the plant-forward community. But he notes that the shop sources locally and responsibly. Feickert says that they visited some 50 local farms, ensuring that “they are taking care of the animals and the land, having an understanding what the consequences are.” Most of the farms they work with are small, sustainable, family-owned operations in Virginia.
The shop’s name comes from Brown’s time serving with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. “Soko” means market in Swahili, Brown explains. For Brown, the market or soko there was a “lifeline.”
“I would go to get all of the essential and on special occasions would stop by to visit the butchers. The animal was fresh from that day and they would use the whole animal with almost no waste.” They duo hopes to take inspiration from this kind of market.
Design firm Streetsense outfitted the petite space in classic red, white, and black deli tiling. “Takoma Park has a small-town feel, and we wanted to look like we’ve grown up with the neighborhood,” says Feikert.
They have had plenty of time to review the interior elements — pandemic and permitting delays resulted in an opening more than three years after the two began planning.
“We love Takoma Park, and we had the same vision for the space as the landlord, so it was very serendipitous. The landlord is actually vegan but reached out with the idea of a butcher shop… and I had already drawn up the business plan for the same location. It was meant to be!”
“We are hoping to be a community staple,” says Feickert.
Soko is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.