Quality Products, Lofty Values and a Nod to History
Great coffee, a friendly smile and the best cuts of meat you have ever seen are all things you will find when you walk into 1907 Meat Co. on Main Street in Stillwater. The butcher shop and restaurant exudes sophistication and friendliness and has an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in town.
1907 is a whole-animal butcher, meaning they purchase, break down and use the entire animal. After the soft opening last October, 1907 officially opened to the public on November 16, the same date Oklahoma became a state—in 1907. So, how did the nearly lost art of whole-animal butchering find its way to Stillwater?
Owner Adam Gribben worked as an electrical engineer while living in Dallas. During the hours he spent traveling for work, he read and studied books about commercial meat production. After much research and deliberation, he decided he wanted to do something different within the industry. He decided to head to Stillwater, the agriculture center of Oklahoma, and open a butcher shop. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to help out the farmers,” Gribben said. It can be difficult for small family farms to compete with the major corporations in the meat business, but Gribben is helping to ease that burden by purchasing his beef, pork, lamb and chicken directly from Oklahoma farmers. He wanted to give the farmers a marketplace to sell their products while being fairly compensated.
“I want to help farmers get paid more than they are now,” he said. Helping the Oklahoma farming community is just one of the three major focuses of 1907. Aside from building relationships with local farmers, the business also strives to educate its customers and provide them with the highest-quality cuts of meat, while ensuring that the animals are raised in a humane, open environment. “Good for the farmer, good for the customer, good for the animal,” Gribben said. If the product does not meet all three of these standards, he doesn’t buy it. Each farmer is interviewed before any order is placed. “We want to make sure our farmers really care about their animals,” said Sally Asher, the company’s communications coordinator. “We make sure they’re being taken care of, are well fed and have plenty of room to run around and move.” Another extremely important aspect of Gribben’s business is honesty. “We will always tell the truth” to our customers and partners, Gribben vowed. In his opinion, honesty, authenticity and transparency are the most important aspects of building brand integrity. 1907 wants to develop relationships with the customers and local farmers. Gribben stated that the best way to establish this relationship is to create communication built on trust. Butcher shops like 1907 are rare. The art of cutting meat has been lost in the commercialization of the industry. Gribben searched across the country to find professional butchers that would help start the business. Butcher Chad Smith was immediately hooked when he heard about Gribben’s idea to open 1907. Smith grew up working in his grandfather’s butcher shop in Massachusetts and later trained under a professional butcher at a Sprouts in Arizona. He said that having a butcher shop that buys locally and tells the stories of the farmers helps to fill an educational void that comes with commercial meat production.
“Something like this really puts a spotlight on that connection” between the source of the meat and how it ends up at a family’s table, Smith said.
One of 1907’s first major partners was the University of Oklahoma. The school is part of the Real Food Challenge and commits to purchasing 20% of the food served on campus from local sources.
OU reached out to Gribben in October 2015, before 1907 was even constructed, and committed to purchasing meat for the challenge through 1907, Asher explained. Starting in January 2016, 1907 began sending beef and pork to OU weekly. The meat is labeled so the students know the meat came from 1907 and local farmers.
Gribben also partnered with Oklahoma State University to help design his butcher facilities, as well as to help break down the animals when they arrive in Stillwater. The animals are delivered to the Food and Agricultural Products Center on OSU’s campus. Students and faculty then prepare the animals for delivery to 1907 to be further broken down. This helps the students to gain hands-on experience with meat production, as well as increased volume in the processing center.
Because 1907 is a whole-animal butcher, customers can order just about any cut of meat. This includes less-familiar cuts such as oxtail or beef tongue. The shop will also create custom sausage blends upon request or make some burger patties for your next cookout. 1907 is also careful to dry-age all of its beef for 14–21 days to allow the meat to develop a richer, more intense flavor.
But 1907 is not just a butcher. Chef Matt Buechele has developed a menu that highlights the beautiful selection of meat 1907 offers. Stop by in the morning for house-made biscuits with bacon and sausage gravy. Order the short rib hash during their weekend brunch. Or, if you really want something special, head to 1907 during the Friday lunch hours to sample one of the incredible burgers.
Chef Buechele is good about utilizing the same cuts of meat in his dishes that 1907 sells to customers. This process helps customers to visualize how certain cuts of meat can be prepared. Gribben said the kitchen has become a test site for the butchers, as well. For example, “When we make a jalapeño cheddar sausage link, it [is] tested and approved by a high-talent chef,” Gribben said. The 1907 website also shares recipes using some of the rarer cuts. You’ll find braised oxtail, slow-cooked beef tongue tacos, merguez sausage pasta and more.
“People come in and don’t always know how to cook something, so they don’t buy it,” Gribben said. This is one of the reasons the short rib hash—beef short ribs over breakfast potatoes, cheese, peppers and two eggs—was placed on the brunch menu. “No one was buying short ribs, so [Chef Buechele] created the short rib hash,” he said. Now the ribs are one of the most purchased cuts.
Yet meat is not the only locally sourced product 1907 brings to the restaurant. The coffee and kombucha are also made in Oklahoma. “We buy coffee from Fair Fellow in Tulsa and kombucha from Big Oak Kombucha in Oklahoma City,” Asher said. She also said that the nitrochino—Fair Fellow nitro brew with maple syrup, vanilla and milk—is one of 1907’s most popular menu items. “People sometimes come in just to order coffee,” she said. Bear Creek Farms in Stillwater also provides some greens for the lunch menu, as well as fresh flowers for the tables.
However, one place you will not see 1907 is at farmers’ markets. “We don’t want to take away business from those farmers who need to sell their products at the markets,” Gribben said.
But, keep an eye out. 1907 is launching burger boxes that will allow customers to purchase burger patties similar to the ones available on Burger Friday.
Gribben also plans to renovate the north side of the building, currently a storage area, into an expanded restaurant, kitchen and meat lockers. He will also be adding outdoor seating to accommodate the increasing traffic. A liquor license and cooking classes are also in the works.
1907 is quickly becoming one of the most popular restaurants in Stillwater. The spectacular menu and farm-to-table mind-set of the company sets them apart from the crowd and provides a unique spot for OSU students and Stillwater residents to grab a bite to eat or a stellar cut of meat.
“Know your food, know your farmer,” Gribben said. And if you don’t know your farmer, “know your butcher.”