If Cary Grant were to saunter out of Notorious and onto the streets of Asheville, Josh Wright wants to make sure he'd have somewhere to get a martini.
Wright opened the Chop Shop Butchery in 2011. Now, he's expanding his explorations in cured meats and whole-hog butchery into the space next door, the former location of Blue Water Seafood.
His new venture, Shambles, will serve entrees and snacks in a vintage bar atmosphere. “Even though it's not Chop Shop, it's an extension of what we're doing here in how it's going to be designed,” Wright says. “People will know that it's part of us.”
Butcher Tyler Cook is designing the menu, which will play up Chop Shop's charcuterie selection and whole-animal philosophy. Cured meats will issue from a chamber beneath the building, and forcemeats, such as patés and terrines, will be made in-house. “We're basically looking to emphasize that when you kill a whole animal, you get a whole animal with it,” Cook says. “You have to make that whole thing taste good.”
Accordingly, the menu will feature a snout-to-tail head cheese. “It will have bits and pieces of the whole hog in it, from the snout all the way down to the tail,” Cook says.
Other items will explore native plants. One of the sausages will feature spicebush, a plant with berries that taste similar to allspice. “It has a sweet and bitter taste to it. It's very hoppy, but then it has this dominant flavor almost of passionfruit,” Cook says, adding that the sausage will pair well with IPAs.
Wright hopes the food program will show his customers new ways to use meats from the Chop Shop. “We've had so many people like, 'Oh, I would love to try this, but I don't know how to cook it,'” he says. “We'll actually be able to show them next door.”
The cocktail program will focus on classic gin, bourbon and scotch drinks, but it will also include modern twists. “Kind of like what you would see from a real ‘30s-, ‘40s-style old Chicago bar,” Wright says. “Not trendy, but old-school classic. There's a reason those bars are referred to as classic.”
Even the bar's name is rooted in history. The original Shambles is a street in York, England. The term comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that basically means “flesh shelves,” according the street's official website. In the 19th century, the street would have been festooned with flesh since 26 butchers operated within its narrow confines.
“They would throw the scraps and stuff in the runnel, and a lot of the working class would come and get those scraps and cure them,” Wright says. “That's where different dishes and different kinds of charcuterie were born from. In a nod to that history, [we're] using the whole animal, [and] that's what we're going to call the bar.”
Wright acknowledges that whole animal butchery has transformed from a working-class necessity to an upscale trend in recent years, but he affirms that his business is rooted in economy. “Our business model depends on using the whole animal because we're paying ‘x’ number per pound,” he says. “Say if you get a 200-pound pig, if you're having to throw away a decent amount of it, then you're throwing away dollars.”
In the same way, he hopes to keep Shambles grounded. While it will feel a little swanky, he wants it to become a neighborhood place. “There's so much residential through here, and they're all really cool about supporting us,” he says. “We get so much walk-up traffic from folks.”