Vienna-native takes organic to a new level at his local butcher shop

From uncured bacon to dry rub and everything in between, The Organic Butcher in McLean gives well-sourced meat its moment.

Don Roden (Photo by Rey Lopez)

After living in wellness-obsessed Southern California, Don Roden realized, he says, “what I was putting in my body would have the most impact” on his health. That statement reads as obvious today, but that wasn’t true 20 years ago.

Roden, a Vienna native, then moved back to Virginia, hooked into the organic foodways and learned the art of butchering. He’s largely self-taught and opened his store, The Organic Butcher, almost 15 years ago.

Everything here is of varying degrees of local and organic, and for those choosing the 100% grass-fed rib-eye, a few things to know: It has a more intense, beefy, “mineral-rich,” flavor, says one of Roden’s butchers, Dylan Serres, and the texture can be grainy, less tender and leaner. As such, it cooks faster. Serres recommends searing it and basting it with tallow or lard to reintroduce fat. With a new butcher back from an apprenticeship in Italy, expect to see pancetta, capicola and country hams.

Photo courtesy of Rey Lopez

Sea creatures are also here; find wild-caught Maryland whole rockfish and baby Spanish rock octopus, plus local crab, day-boat scallops from New England and Chilean sea bass, which can be considered a sustainable fish from the right waters. There’s chicken in all forms, ground to whole, and a freezer case of exotics: elk, antelope, wild boar.

The rest of the store is filled with accompaniments, like vinegars, sauces, spices and $23 Haku Mizunara Whisky Barrel Aged Shoyu, plus a bit of produce (local peewee potatoes, onions, lemons), and for those living the meat-forward paleo life, there’s Bulletproof coffee products. Craft beers sold are mostly from Virginia, and there’s high-end wine from local vineyards (RdV, Early Mountain), Europe and another from Long Island, a Wolffer Estate rosé, perfectly titled Summer in a Bottle. // The Organic Butcher: 6712 Old Dominion Drive, McLean

Shopkeeper Picks

Uncured Bacon

Photo by Rey Lopez

There’s no sugar or added nitrates, just pork belly, salt and celery powder. ($15/pound)

Fifth Rib

Photo by Rey Lopez

It’s a rib attached to the lesser-valued chuck, and because of that, is sold as a cheaper cut of steak. It’s a true butcher’s cut; it’ll be hard to find this dry-aged section elsewhere. ($16/pound)

Dave’s Serious Primal Energy Bites

Photo by Rey Lopez

Don Roden shovels in these paleo-approved cassava flour bites—with cherries, a variety of nuts and dark chocolate from this Arlington company—as a snack between meals. ($2)

Steak Rub

Photo by Rey Lopez

Roden styles his own steak rub like the Canadian-style blends. “It doesn’t mask the flavor of the beef,” he says. ($11)

Pastrami Fat

Photo by Rey Lopez

New this summer, the drippings from smoking beef into pastrami are frozen solid and sold in blocks like butter. Use this smoky, meaty fat everywhere. ($11/pound)

This post originally appeared in our August 2019 issue. For more food content, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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