Meat. It's an American passion. A birthright. A way of life. Forget presidents on the dollar bill. E Pluribus Unum? No. There should just be the mounted head of a heifer smack in the center, a stream of butcher paper flowing out either side of its mouth with the phrase, "Beef, it's what's for dinner," written on it. Indeed, Americans love meat and have a carnivorous bloodlust for all kinds of it, as exhibited on backyard grills and at college tailgates. But love for meat isn't just on this primal level, and at steakouses and barbecue joints. America's flirtation with a higher plane of carnivorism has become a torrid love affair. Leading the coast-to-coast charge, chefs are embracing the use of whole animals in indulgent nose-to-tail menus, creating a new class of "meaty" restaurants.
Locally sourced meat was the number one trend of 2011, according to a survey of 1,500 chefs by the National Restaurant Association. Sustainability ranks third. Hyper-local, in part defined as “doing your own butchering,” is fifth. Now, farmers are rushing to fill growing local demand for meat from responsibly raised, heritage breed animals.
A wave of small shop openings has made the term “rock star butcher” seem obsolete. National tours like Cochon 555 and Lamb Jam crisscross the country, drawing revelers into grandly staged, almost lascivious celebrations of lard. Online communities like Charcutepalooza bring together hundreds of novice meat enthusiasts who are trying their hand at butchery and meat curing, while blogs including Cured Meats, Sausage Debauchery, Wright Food, Honest Food, and Eat the Pig detail the exploits of neighborhood charcutiers. Perhaps most tellingly, supermarket chains are selling more premium meats, evidence that corporations have taken note of the trend.
Who are the chefs leading this movement? Which of the country's restaurants are demonstrating at-the-front-of-the-trend dedication to local sustainable farms, utilization of whole animals, and in-house charcuterie programs? The Daily Meal polled leading cooks, butchers, farmers, and meat curers for input on a list of the 10 Meatiest Restaurants in America, based on these criteria. Find out who made the... cut.