Off the Block Kitchen & Meats opened in Sayville in December as a boutique butcher shop and small restaurant with counter service. By January, the rib eye you ordered in the market was pan-seared, plated and graciously served to you by a newly trained server in the dining room: Meat hook to steak knife in just over a month.
The restaurant sits at the corner of a residential neighborhood, in a building that chef-owner Stephen Rizzo, 26, and his father, a contractor, renovated from top to bottom.
Today, Off the Block wears a barn-meets-butcher shop aesthetic, with white tiles and red pendant lighting.
Park in the small lot, walk through the door and head straight back toward the chalkboards that hang above display cases. Here, admire meat counters stocked with grass-fed as well as grain-finished beef, an array of heritage pork cuts, whole chickens, sausages and more. Put your weekly meat order in right here.
To the left of the entrance, a counter bar parallels a no-frills open kitchen, where Rizzo works in front of a fryer, four burners, a flat-top grill and an area for prep. Past the bar resides the 20-plus seat dining room, framed by reclaimed wood panels, plate glass windows and low lighting.
As proof Off the Block is a hit, the restaurant is busy on weekends as well as traditionally slow nights, such as a recent Monday when the dining room was full. And there’s a line out the door most Tuesdays, when a beer and a burger is $12 to $15 for the special burger. Otherwise, the cost is closer to $20.
Those burgers are lookers, including the all-American burger, a double cheeseburger, a blend of 80/20 chuck that’s ground every day. Or up the flavor with the “5-cut’’ burger, a high-end blend of short rib, top, round, trim and hanger. Topped with sauteed mushrooms, tomato demi-glace and melted Swiss on brioche, it’s the kind of burger that can create a frenzy on Instagram.
Since when is a humble hash special? When it’s on the menu here, lately served with fresh peas that still had bite, earthy morels and diced potatoes the texture of home fries. Garnished with the runny yolk of a fried egg, it’s a brunch dish that’s occasionally offered during dinner.
Meat serves as a condiment for the littleneck clam starter, with thin-shaved nubs of pastrami atop shellfish and a peppering of chives. Served with a trio of toast for the broth, the bowl delivers a clean scent of the sea and yuzu’s citrus perfume.
For the restaurant’s most ornate sandwich, order what’s on the menu as the “pastruben,’’ a mountain of corned beef and pastrami, along with all the condiments that you’d find on either sandwich, which includes ’kraut, Swiss cheese, arugula and a take on horseradish that’s doctored with honey and Dijon.
The brisket sandwich with red cabbage slaw has potential, though it needs a shot of acid in the slaw. The porchetta earns my kudos, pork shrouded with crispy skin, seasoned with garlic and rosemary, atop brioche layered with spinach and tomato confit.
No matter what sandwich you choose, opt for the hand-cut, skin-on fries as a side, since they’re perfectly salty and crisp with a soft interior.
Perhaps the most decadent dish is a butcher shop item cooked to order, a range of Berkshire pork and USDA Prime beef that’s dry-aged for more than a month, in house. This order isn’t listed on the menu, but Rizzo will do it gladly. But be aware there’s a 50 percent upcharge from the butcher shop price. (A 16-ounce rib eye that’s $26 in the case is $39 at the restaurant.)
Though a conservative wine list doesn’t offer the most satiating pairing with these cuts, I’d suggest a craft beer with that Berkshire chop or rib eye. It will be worth it.