So it comes as no surprise that his latest venture — Local Pig — at 2618 Guinotte Avenue will be a modern butcher shop slated to open in January — the kind of place where ordering whole hogs is the reason for its existence.
“Nobody else has done it yet. It’s like the pop-up restaurant. I know it’s out there in other cities like San Francisco and Brooklyn; it’s just not here yet,” Pope says.
“Matt and I met the old-fashioned way … Craigslist,” Pope jokes.
The duo had initially planned to collaborate on a restaurant, but the butcher-shop idea started to dominate the conversation. After considering locations in Waldo and the West Plaza, the pair drove down to see a building a block and a half from Knuckleheads Saloon in the East Bottoms.
“I always used to come down to Seattle Fish, and I’d see this cool little spot that was always empty,” Pope says.
The space, which Pope believes was last a pre-Prohibition saloon (faded lettering on the exterior brick reads, “Saloon. ED J. Smith. Prop.”), is 1,600 square feet with a fresh coat of white paint. Blue painter’s tape has been laid out on the brushed concrete floor to mark off where the glass display case will hold the shop’s meats. A wall will have an oversized, chalkboard menu listing the contents of the deli case, while an opposite wall will feature a butcher’s diagram of a pig with the dotted lines to represent the different cuts.
“People will have to want to come down here, and we need to make the shop inviting, a destination for them,” Pope says.
The Local Pig will have herb boxes in the front windows during the winter months, but the partners will work a small garden plot in the back in the spring and summer. The garden is part of what attracted Kafka to the butcher-shop concept. The process engineer, who works for Children’s Mercy, grew up on a farm in South Dakota. There, he was helping grow corn and green beans and raise livestock. In the back of the Guinotte Avenue shop, he’ll be planting peppers, tomatoes and herbs.
“I’m trying to get back to my roots. It’s not only about knowing where your food comes from, but I believe that the food you grow yourself tastes different,” Kafka says.
The vegetables and herbs will be used for the sausages, but they also will be turned into chutney, mustards and house-made pickles.
“It’s about things that complement the meat, something you might get a quart of when you pick up a few sausages,” Pope says.
The meat will be sourced locally when possible, but Kafka and Pope both stressed that whatever they sell, they’ll be able to tell people exactly where and how the animal was raised. That’s why they’re considering Duroc pork from a family farm in Minnesota and lamb from Colorado.
“We’re going to use quality products to make fun and interesting sausage,” Pope says.
The sausage lineup will be seasonal, like a restaurant menu, with six to eight choices in the case at any time. Pope and his butcher, Phil Cline, 25, have already been experimenting with lamb and feta sausage, pork and black garlic links, summer sausage with fresh corn and ramp sausage (which Pope first made at R Bar) in the spring. The plan is to initially make everything fresh, but there is a freezer on-site. In addition to sausage, Local Pig will sell chops, prime cuts of meat, and Canadian bacon.
“We’d love to have the product turn over to where it’s always fresh, but that will depend on what happens with the shop,” Pope says.
Cline, who worked with Pope at the American and Extra Virgin, is just back from a six-week apprenticeship in Italy. Cline worked under Dario Cecchini — made famous in Bill Buford’s Heat — at his Panzano butcher shop and three restaurants.
“It was 16 and 17 hours days. But every day I got to try something new, just walk up to the case and sample some salumi,” Cline says.
He and Pope will be leading whole-hog butchering classes once the Local Pig has opened, similar to the classes that Pope teaches now at the Art Institutes International-Kansas City. They’ll also be making charcuterie and pate. The partners, Pope and Kafka, are considering a sausage-of-the-month club or subscription service for sausage. If the shop in the East Bottoms proves popular, they could envision a retail outlet in Waldo or the West Plaza with their initial location serving as the production center.
Still, they recognize that people first need to find them. Even though it’s less than five minutes from downtown, the area around them is mostly industrial. Their neighbors are warehouse facilities and automotive scrap yards.
“It’s like the Justus Drugstore or Krizman’s [Sausage]. It’s the mystique of an area you haven’t been to,” Kafka says.
This is a moment familiar to Pope, who last worked in the West Bottoms — an area where you only went to eat at the Golden Ox until three years ago.
“The East Bottoms is like the West Bottoms was,” Pope says, “we just need to get people here.”