The Muffaletta sandwich at Red Apron Butchery.
With bologna, mortadella, salami, smoked ham, provolone, hot mustard and olive salad on focaccia.

There’s something admirable about doing one thing and doing it well. Nathan Anda was already known as one of D.C.’s most talented meat artisans when he and his partners opened Red Apron Butchery‘s first bricks and mortar location early this year inside Union Market. The space might have been used merely as a permanent retail market for the cured and tubed Red Apron goods that had previously been peddled at local farmers markets and through the brand’s Frank food cart. It would have been a hit.

Fortunately, Anda had bigger intentions.

If there’s one thing I love more than a great sandwich joint, it’s a great sandwich joint that also has a tight beer program. And if the place also happens to make some of the best charcuterie and sausage in the entire city, all the better. D.C. sandwich heads are increasingly spoiled for choice, but Red Apron Butchery is one of a small but growing number of local outlets that hits all three points of this glorious, gluttonous triumvirate. The wood-paneled space comprises a small eat-in bar area with two long communal tables and a gleaming steel and glass case featuring a galaxy of different sausages, pâtés, rillettes and raw cuts both common and exotic. On tap is a neatly curated slate of rotating craft beers, a couple wines and cocktails (yes, also on tap). Recent beer highlights include harder-to-find brews from Allagash, The Bruery and Dogfish Head.

Red Apron’s butcher-driven sandwich menu, the hands-down, top-to-bottom best in Northeast D.C., is anchored by the much ballyhooed Porkstrami: pork sirloin prepared pastrami-style, sliced thin and served with house-made sauerkraut and mustard on a sturdy baguette. The Chicago-style Italian Beef, regrettably no longer offered on the regular menu, was a faithful rendition of the Windy City classic. A meatball sub has also earned rave reviews, but it’s the Muffaletta that I recently crowned my current favorite sandwich in D.C. Served hot and crispy off a grill press with spicy mustard in addition to the usual array of cured meats and olive salad, it’s not exactly a traditional preparation. It would be blasphemous to suggest these tweaks are an improvement on the standard, but the Red Apron version is, in its own right, something special.

Washington Post food critic Tim Carman has called Red Apron “a candy store for meat lovers,” and I won’t try to improve on that description. If great beer, sandwiches and world-class, environmentally-responsible meat products don’t get you excited, there’s no reason to spend your time reading this blog. But if you do love these things, there’s now one less reason not to spend your time at Red Apron. Union Market, the ever-evolving upscale indoor marketplace, has introduced The Roadie, a new weekday shuttle that delivers hungry lunchtimers from Union Station to the market’s front door. Better still, in addition to a Mosaic District outpost that opened this spring, a Penn Quarter location is now in the works. (It should be noted that the Virginia location offers a slightly expanded menu.)

The scarcity of good sandwich joints in the eastern quadrants is a real thing. Not only is Red Apron clearly tops among the few bright spots in its immediate vicinity, its sandwiches are on par with the best anywhere in the District. Since my family’s recent relocation from Adams Morgan to Capitol Hill, not a weekend has passed that I have not made the now much shorter trip to the market for a sandwich and a beer_there is no better meal in the world_and it is with great appreciation that I salute Red Apron Butchery as the latest addition to the world-renowned, uber-exclusive EAS Sandwich Map. Welcome, and thank you for all you do.

Union Market is located at 1309 5th Street NE, Washington, D.C.

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November 1, 2013