Swagyu chef expands new butcher shop brand to Poway
The pandemic led Imperial Beach native Steve Brown to switch from serving $200 Wagyu dinners to high-end meat shops
This time last year, Imperial Beach chef Steve Brown was running an Imperial Beach prix-fixe steakhouse and organizing a culinary tour where he planned to host $200 A5 Wagyu beef dinners in 11 European countries. Then the pandemic hit and shut down restaurants worldwide.
Faced with zero income and $10,000 in Wagyu inventory in the meat locker at his Cosecha SD headquarters, Brown took a tip from a fellow chef and used his Instagram account to sell all the meat in individual steak portions and take-home meal kits. Within 24 hours, he’d not only sold out, he’d collected another $20,000 in pre-orders.
That was the beginning of Swagyu Chop Shop, Brown’s new chain of gourmet beef markets. The first Swagyu store opened in late August in the former Deb’s Cookie Jar cafe at 1002 Palm Ave. in Imperial Beach. The second, a long-term pop-up shop at Isabel’s Cantina at 966 Felspar St. in Pacific Beach, opened a few months later. And the third opened Friday at 14149 Twin Peaks Road in Poway.
The shops sell four varieties of Wagyu beef from the U.S., Japan and Australia, as well as Cosecha’s own signature brand of Arrington Ranch Wagyu from Montana. Customers can buy individual portions, like a 1-pound A5 Takamori Drunken Wagyu Yamaguchi steak for $190, an 18-ounce Jack’s Creek Wagyu Australia rib-eye steak for $75 and an 8-ounce American/Japanese blend Wagyu burger patty for $18. There are also custom meat packages and dinner kits that come with seasonings and side dishes.
Brown, 40, said the butcher shop concept has succeeded beyond his expectations, with many customers driving in from outside San Diego County to pick up orders. He said the key to making the business a success has been the in-shop training his staff gives all customers so they don’t go home and burn their pricey steaks.
Once onsite dining is allowed again, Brown said he will begin serving prix-fixe Wagyu dinners at all three Swagyu locations. Next to come will be Swagyu Burgers, a chain of quick-service outlets selling Wagyu burgers with an optional side of “Nitro” fries, which are potato planks dipped in liquid nitrogen before they’re fried to give them an ultra-crispy texture. The first Swagyu Burgers will open in the same Poway strip mall as the new butcher shop in about two months.
Brown said he plans to eventually open 50 Swagyu burger stores and 20 chop shops. The next shops to open will be in North Park and coastal North County, sometime in the next six months.
Over the years, Brown has launched a number of local restaurant and bar concepts that fell through, including restaurant concepts in Chula Vista, the Gaslamp Quarter and Imperial Beach and a Barrio Logan bar. But he said the way to succeed in the turbulent industry is to never give up and keep coming up with new ideas.
“After 25 years in this industry, we’re finally exploding in the hardest time for our industry in history. It’s pretty remarkable,” he said.
For details, visit chefstevebrown.com.
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