Soko Butcher review: Takoma Park shop also sells terrific sandwiches



As I review the display case at Soko Butcher in Takoma Park, the words of Jamie Stachowski, the chef who always seems to have the final say in matters of meat, start echoing through my head. Years ago, as he was building out his own butcher shop, Stachowski told me that, no matter the time of day, your glass displays should always be stuffed with rib-eyes, bacon, sausages, chickens and so on. It’s a psychological thing: You never want customers to feel as if they’re buying the scraps that others have left behind.

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Times are different now, of course, and supply chains aren’t what they used to be and may never have been for butchers, such as Soko, dedicated to sustainable farms within a relatively tight radius of the D.C. metro area. And let’s not even get into the kind of cash demanded for quality meats these days. But still, old opinions die hard, and I can’t help but notice the limited options in Soko’s case: bulgogi meat, chuck eye roasts, bison rib-eyes and lots of sausages, including one made with pumpkin spice. (I was told it wasn’t a joke, but a decent breakfast link when dragged through a little maple syrup.)

Fortunately, I’m not here on this warm afternoon in September to buy beef steaks for a backyard cookout. I’m here to eyeball the sandwich options, and they are ample. I think it would be fair to say I’m overwhelmed by choices. The menu on the wall, the one that looks from a distance like it was jury-rigged from Scrabble tiles, lays out the riches available: I count 18 sandwiches in all, and that doesn’t even include the ones you can order for breakfast.

The chef responsible for this wealth of bread-based bites is Brad Feickert, a chef probably best known for his stint at Oz, the Australian-themed restaurant that was as much a plot point for “The Real Housewives of Potomac” as a platform to carve out a culinary identity. Feickert’s interest in Oz was understandable: He had worked in kitchens Down Under, and he clearly put in the hours to make sure the Arlington restaurant wasn’t some Crocodile Dundee cartoon, complete with peel-and-eat witchetty grub roots. The chef seems to have survived Oz without a whiff of trash culture clinging to him.

The thing is, Feickert’s résumé, prior to his work for the wizards of Oz, is filled with the kind of restaurants that historically have attracted chefs of great ambition. He worked at Volt for Bryan Voltaggio. He labored in the kitchens at Brae and Attica in Australia, forward-thinking, fine-dining establishments that have occasionally, or frequently, made appearances on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, for whatever that’s worth. This is the pathway of a chef with larger aspirations than plating kangaroo sliders and emu wraps for “Real Housewives” cultists.

Chris Brown, the guy behind Takoma Beverage Co. and Zinnia in Silver Spring, enticed Feickert to help open Soko, which the chef accepted under one condition: that they also build out a kitchen so he could craft a line of deli sandwiches, a decision that, in retrospect, was prophetic. The sandwich has been one of our primary sources of comfort these past few years. It is a symbol of our survival — creatively, economically, emotionally — under crushing pandemic conditions. Feickert couldn’t have picked a better time to enter the sando business.

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As I review the paper menu that I hijacked from Soko, it looks like, to date, I’ve tried about 15 of Feickert’s sandwiches, which says something about my nature and something about the overall deliciousness of the chef’s work. My favorites tend to be the ones that rely on the meats Soko buys from Langenfelder Pork, Roseda Farm, Seven Hills Food or some other purveyor. Folks love to talk about the primacy of bread with sandwiches, but don’t underestimate the importance of good, dry-aged beef or the pork butchered from hogs raised on a steady diet of sweet corn.

You can’t go wrong with any sandwich that starts with beef here. The Philly, Feickert’s take on a cheesesteak, mixes prime rib sliced both fresh and frozen for contrasting textures, a wild pile of beef that’s smothered with caramelized onions and housemade cheese whiz. Call it precious if you want, but it’s as slammable as anything from Jim’s Steaks. The roast beef sandwich, dubbed the Roseda Roast and smeared with a horseradish aioli, is now officially my go-to version of this classic.

You can argue all you want over whether a burger is a sandwich — personally, I place it in a separate category, with its own unique demands and techniques — but regardless, I’m glad it’s available at Soko. Feickert and his team grind their own beef for the Smashed Soko, mixing trimmings with dry-aged chuck from Roseda. The twin patties deliver a double-barrel blast of beefiness, no matter what garnishes or condiments you apply. The bavette, or flank steak, provides the chew you want from the cut and, when paired with a ramp chimichurri and horseradish aioli, also makes for an exquisite bite called the Butcher.

Feickert isn’t curing any meats in-house, at least not yet. So the Takoma (his take on an Italian hoagie) and the Montreal (a Reuben-esque stack of pastrami on rye) lean on third-party products. Don’t let this knowledge dissuade you from feasting on the chef’s interpretations, especially the Takoma, whose tower of meats and cheese is cut with, among other things, an acid-tongue trio of pickled onions, banana peppers and an olive-artichoke tapenade. I’d offer the same advice for the Nashville, Feickert’s hot chicken option, which is an honest rendition even if it doesn’t make you want to stick your head in a bucket of ice.

I’ve encountered a couple of head-scratchers at Soko. The wings, for example. They’re flabby and surprisingly comatose for finger food slathered with such potent sauces as Buffalo or chipotle mango. (I’d also love to see Feickert develop his own mumbo sauce, just to add more local color.) The Duroc, a ham and smoked pork combo on ciabatta, was likewise lifeless due to what struck me as a lethal lack of seasoning. I found far more to like with the Gobbles, a turkey sandwich with burrata, red onion, pesto and roasted red pepper mayo. I can’t remember the last time I preferred turkey over pork.

You know what the best part of this Brown-Feickert partnership is? That it may be just getting started. “There was thought that, maybe down the road, there could be a Soko restaurant,” Feickert says. “There’s still that possibility on the table right now.”

7306 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, Md., 240-588-3331;

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Nearest Metro: Takoma, with a 0.7-mile walk to the shop.

Prices: $2 to $17 for all items on the menu.

Correction: A photo caption in an earlier version of this story incorrectly described the pastrami on the Montreal sandwich as housemade. This version has been corrected.

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