By Emily G. Peters
Situated in Old Town Pasadena, Meat District Co.’s roots go further down (under, that is). Founded by an Australian businessman, for the last few years the restaurant spotlighted a menu of dry-aged, grass-fed ribs, burgers and steaks. Between the ambiance, location and socially-aware ingredients it seemed Meat District Co. had the makings of a winner—but it struggled.
“The previous owner was struggling with basic management principles—I saw so much that would drive me wild,” recalled Agasi Gukasyan, who until this spring had been bartending at the restaurant. His love of hospitality drove him to take a big leap. “I could see he was trying to get out of it—so I asked him to sell it to me and my mom, Anoush Ketsoyan.”
It was a daring move for Gukasyan, who at age 24 had never ventured into entrepreneurship. But he wasted no time in working to turn Meat District Co. around.
“I had to clean house and start all over: new menu, new concepts, new staff, new vendors. My goal was to get people to forget any negative experiences they may have had here before,” Gukasyan explained. With new executive chef Patrick Dickinson by his side to reimagine the menu, Gukasyan made authenticity—and a strong sense of ethics—his guiding lights.
“When you say that you serve the best food, you should be able to deliver on that,” he said. “The first day I took over I said that we must sell what we advertise.”
So what does Meat District Co. advertise? A more hands-on dining experience, for one. There’s a dry-aging room in the middle of the floor where the restaurant’s charcuterie, cheeses and choicest cuts are displayed. You can even point to the steak you want before it goes on the fire, prepared in an open kitchen where you can see the action.
But perhaps more than anything, elevated ingredients were central to Gukasyan’s reinvention of the restaurant, with the young owner even bringing in world-renowned cheesemaker Rodolphe Le Meunier to source Meat District Co.’s butter and dairy products. For Gukasyan, the end result is a menu worth revisiting.
“Our beef cuts are hand-picked and grass-fed—a little gamier and melt-in-your-mouth tender. One recommendation would be our hanger steak. It’s the cut that butchers would keep behind for themselves and a steal at $24, with a flavor that beats out ‘fancier’ cuts on quality and taste. And you haven’t had butter until you’ve tasted our Normandy butter,” he said.
Now that the grand re-opening has come and gone, Gukasyan, Dickinson and team can settle into their new identity in Old Town. It’s a new path for the young restaurateur, but he’s eager to show Pasadena a new side to Meat District Co.
“We’re not taking shortcuts. I’m on the floor every day as a new owner. Patrick and Robert, my chefs, are kickin’ butt in the kitchen,” said Gukasyan. “If I could say anything to Pasadena, it would be to come give us a second chance. We’re here and happy to serve you.”
Meat District Co.is located at 69 N. Raymond Ave. in Old Town Pasadena. For more information, contact the Meat District Co. team at meatdistrictco.com | (626) 765-9902 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook @meatdistrictcoPRG and Instagram @meatdistrictco.