What do you get when you combine fine-dining cuisine with a rustic butcher shop aesthetic and a bit of Brooklyn flair? Probably something similar to Rennick Meat Market of Ashtabula, Ohio. Founded and run by Jennifer Pociask and Alex Asteínza, Rennick Meat Market describes its menu as “butcher inspired American food.” Check out our photo essay below to find out what that means and how the restaurant came to be.
Though Jennifer hails from Poland, Ohio and Alex is a born-and-raised New Yorker, they actually met while both working in a restaurant in Miami, Florida. From there, they were invited to run a restaurant on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, which they did for a year before returning to the States and settling in Brooklyn, New York. At that point, they sought to open their own restaurant but real estate and financing proved challenging.
As luck would have it, while Jennifer was visiting her father back in Ohio she came across a building for sale in Ashtabula. It had operated as a butcher’s shop from 1889 to 1962 and still featured original concrete tiles, tin ceilings, and a walk-in freezer – even the old butcher’s block, which they have since converted into the host’s podium. Alex and Jennifer fell in love with the space, as well as the developing food and art scene of Ashtabula, so they purchased the building, which included an apartment above the storefront in which they currently reside.
Part of the identity of Rennick Meat Market is to make great food and cocktails that are stylish and accessible while doing as much as they could in-house. They dry-age their own meats, cure their own pancetta, make their own pastas, vinegars, and Worcester sauce, all in an effort to know every ingredient that goes into their dishes. Alex says it’s important that their food is “made fresh in the old ways.”
While their menu was initially more traditional – featuring items like burgers, roasted chicken, and steaks – they’ve been able to branch out more with unexpected dishes like ceviche and rabbit as their customers have become more trusting of their cuisine. Some customers, Jennifer says, are in the restaurant as many as eight times a week.
Jennifer and Alex also see the value and fun of collaborating with other businesses on their block. They use chocolate from the shop next store both as a component of one of their desserts as well as a small treat that comes with the check. They also get a specially made blend of coffee from the coffee shop down the street that they affectionately call “The Butcher’s Blend.”
Alex calls Ashtabula “a town on the brink of boom.” While the past several years had seen the community fall on hard times, the emergence of a number of new restaurants and shops like Rennick Meat Market seem to be signs of a an exciting resurgence. Ever the New Yorker, he says he could see the town become like “the Hamptons of the Great Lakes."