America’s 25 Best Butcher Shops (Slideshow)
October 24, 2013
Old-school or new-school, these butchers are doing it right
25) Vincent’s Meat Market, The Bronx, N.Y.
Since 1954, Vincent’s has been the place to go in the Bronx for meat. Old-school to the max, it stands out from the other shops on Little Italy’s Arthur Avenue thanks to a commitment to not only providing the freshest, highest-quality meat, but also to customer service. If you want something you don’t see in the counter, just ask for it and they’ll cut it to order. The staff is also incredibly knowledgeable, and can help with tips, tricks, and recipes. The poultry is antibiotic-free and all-natural, their offerings are less expensive than what you find in the supermarket because they cut out the middleman, and they offer free delivery.
24) Schaller & Weber, New York City
One of the country’s most renowned German butcher shops, Schaller & Weber, located in Manhattan’s Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side, is one of the only holdovers from when this part of town was a working-class German neighborhood. They’re best known for their housemade smoked meats and sausages, but their butcher case is equally legendary. Since 1937 they’ve supplied the neighborhood with the freshest, highest-quality meat, and today it’s still run by the Schaller family. If you’re a fan of sausage and pork (and German food in general), no trip to New York is complete without a visit here.
23) Japan Premium Beef, New York City
There’s no butcher shop in America quite like the small, gleaming Japan Premium Beef, located in New York’s NoHo neighborhood. Opened in May 2009, the shop specializes in Oregon Washugyu beef, which is a hybrid between Japanese Black Wagyu and American Black Angus. The cows are treated the same way Wagyu cows are in Japan (which includes a 10-stage feeding process), and the end result is tender, flavorful, well-marbled beef with fat that’s much higher in monounsaturates than what you’ll find elsewhere. Butcher Eiichi Yamamoto has more than 15 years experience, and will break out an imported Japanese slicer should you have a hankering for some shabu-shabu. They also specialize in Kurobuta pork and Long Island duck breast. It’s not cheap by anyone’s standards, but if you’re looking for a Kobe-style rib-eye, you won’t find anywhere else that comes close.
22) Huntington Meats, Los Angeles
The counter at Huntington Meats, located at the LA Farmers' Market, is a wonder to behold. There's just about every cut of meat you can imagine, along with more than 30 homemade sausages. Their beef comes from Harris Ranch, which raises hormone-free, 80 percent grass-fed cattle, and their fresh-ground beef, made with Prime chuck, is used by Mozza’s Nancy Silverton. They offer classes on cutting beef and making sausages, sell amazing beef jerky as well as stocks (and bones to make your own), and they’ve been making their own pet food for more than 25 years.
21) Ottomanelli’s, New York City
No discussion about butchery in New York is complete without a mention of the Ottomanelli family, who’s now in their fifth generation of selling meat. Since 1900 the family has operated butcher shops in the city, and today there are three, providing meat to customers as well as their three family-owned restaurants. Their shops sell grass-fed beef, USDA Prime beef, natural lamb and veal, buffalo, blue ribbon Amish turkeys, steak burgers, and spiral-cut hams, all available for purchase online, cut by butchers who have been doing it for generations.
20) Gartner’s Country Meat Market, Portland, Ore.
For more than 50 years, Gartner’s has been selling some of Portland’s highest-quality meat. Jack Gartner opened the shop in 1959, and was an area legend until he passed away in 2009. Today it’s run by his daughter, Sheri, and she hasn’t skipped a beat: all meats are still sliced by hand to order, and they’ll fulfill just about any request, even selling entire sides of beef if you ask for it. Their smoked sausages, jerky, ham, and bacon are widely regarded as Portland’s finest, and their online ordering system makes ordering in advance a piece of cake.
19) Giovanni Esposito & Sons, New York City
This shop is located on an inauspicious corner in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, and the Esposito family has been cutting meat for more than 100 years. A shop where time really stands still, the fluorescent-lit Esposito’s specializes in pork, and word is that they sell more than 10,000 pounds of their Italian sausage to area restaurants per week. With 24 hours’ notice, they’ll be able to procure you just about any kind of meat product imaginable, from a pig’s head to a lamb heart, and the just-gruff-enough butchers, in white coats, will be more than happy to walk you through all the different cuts of meat they have on hand. There’s no other butcher shop that’s quite like Esposito’s.
18) Bill The Butcher, Seattle
Bill the Butcher has six locations in the Seattle area, and the Seattle meat scene would be a very different place without them. They work with only local farmers and ranchers who raise beef, pork, and poultry without any hormones or steroids, as well as open-pastured, organic, and natural grass-fed beef. They’re all about sustainable farming practices, and their butchers have no problem giving you cooking tips. These shops are no-frills, no-pretense, and all about the meat.
17) The Organic Butcher, McLean and Charlottesville, Va.
Don Roden and Ryan Ford’s aim was to bring the traditional neighborhood butcher shop back to Northern Virginia when they opened The Organic Butcher in 2006, and they've done exactly that, and more. While not everything sold at the store is certified organic — it’s incredibly laborious to get officially certified — it is all local, farm-raised, and humanely raised. The shops are absolutely brimming with gorgeous meat: beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, venison, wild boar, ducks, sustainable seafood, and housemade sausages and meatloaf. Artisanal products, breads, cheeses, and wine are also for sale, and butchers behind the counter are knowledgeable about all things meat.
16) Olivier’s Butchery, San Francisco
This old-fashioned French boucherie is the brainchild of Olivier Cordier, who receives whole animals and breaks them down in the traditional French way, creating cuts that you almost never come across outside of France: Paleron, Jumeaux Nerveux, Surpise, Macreuse, Souris, and the like. American cuts are also available, as well as lamb, veal, rabbit, poultry, and sausages. You’re encouraged to call in your order in advance because they use the whole animal and don’t always have everything you’ll need in stock, but that’s exactly the way it is at the finest French boucheries. Olivier’s is unlike any other butcher shop in America, and San Franciscans are lucky to have it.
15) Harvey’s Guss Meat Company, Los Angeles
Speaking of unique butcher shops, one of Los Angeles’ finest is also one of its most elusive. How so? Harvey’s, which was founded in 1939 and is still run by founder Abraham Gussman’s son Harvey (who started working there in 1955), primarily provides meat to restaurants, so if you want to buy meat from him there’s a couple of things you need to know. One, you need to call in your order at least 24 hours in advance. Two, you only have from 7 a.m. to noon, Tuesday to Friday, to pick it up. And when you do, don’t expect for anything to be whitewashed. After you’re buzzed in, Harvey will hand you your order from a small office next door to a large cutting room. No display cases, no frills. So why do folks (as well as some of the city’s best restaurants) swear by Gussman? Quality. His beef is Black Angus from the Midwest, dry-aged on-premises for usually four weeks. He can also get you just about anything you want, from a goose to sweetbreads to Kurobuta pork cheeks. Dropping into Harvey’s is like being a part of a club, or an underground butchery operation. And it’s a club you’ll want to be a part of.
14) Porter Road Butcher, Nashville, Tenn.
Local, grass-fed meats are what it’s all about at Nashville’s finest butcher shop, which has two locations. Beef, pork, and poultry are pasture-raised with no antibiotics, and all beef is dry-aged for at least 14 days, pork is processed on-premises just two days after being slaughtered, chickens are butchered to order, and lambs come from a local Tennessee farm. All their sources are listed on their website, and because both the founders were classically trained in culinary school, they also run one of the city’s best catering companies.
13) Gepperth’s Market, Chicago
For more than 100 years, cozy Gepperth’s has been consistently selling some of the finest meat and sausages in the Windy City. Gepperth’s is the kind of neighborhood butcher shop where you can chat with the countermen and expect to be treated well, and when you place a special order you know that it’ll be handled correctly. Most of the butchers have been working there for decades, and you can tell: this is some high-quality meat, treated with the respect it deserves by some of the country’s most talented butchers.
12) Savenor’s Butcher and Market, Boston
Savenor’s Market has been the go-to butcher shop in Boston and Cambridge since 1939. Perhaps best known for being Julia Child’s butcher shop of choice, this place has a selection of items that is mind-boggling: local, Prime, and grass-fed beef in every cut imaginable, Colorado lamb, house-smoked hams and whole suckling pigs, duck, pleasant, goose, fats, bones, and exotic meats including elk, antelope, python, sweetbreads, and even traditionally made haggis. They also make some incredible sandwiches to order, and stock plenty of local gourmet products, including a wide selection of cheeses.
11) Revival Market, Houston
This neighborhood butcher shop is one of the few in the country that’s vertically integrated, raising their own heritage-breed, all-natural pork, lamb, and chicken for sale in the market. Their butcher case is always stocked with all the traditional cuts (beef is also pasture-raised and antibiotic-free), but there’s a lot more than just meat here, and the vast majority is sourced from within 150 miles: vegetables, breads, dry goods, dairy products, and cheeses from almost three dozen farms, ranchers, and food artisans throughout the greater Houston-Gulf region. They also make an astonishing variety of foods, from roast chickens, gnocchi, and side dishes to vinegars, jams, and jellies, in-house, and host frequent butchery demos and other events, including themed meals at their café, which itself is a great restaurant.
10) Avedano's Holly Park Market, San Francisco
Every week, Avedano’s receives a side of grass-fed beef, two heritage breed pigs, and several whole grass-fed lambs from local ranches, and they’re all butchered in-house using a hand saw, a meat cleaver, and a boning knife. They also receive fresh wild and sustainable seafood six days a week. Along with a traditional display case (if you don’t see what you want just ask and they’ll get it for you), they also offer pre-packed Meat Boxes in several varieties. For example, The Griller includes dry-aged, bone-in steak, tri-tip, flat-iron steak, pork ribs, sausage, 3 pounds of marinated chicken, ground beef, and spice rub. Now that’s a party! There’s also a wide selection of dry goods, cheeses, charcuterie, and pantry staples from all the finest small-production local purveyors, as well as insanely good panini (like the Lambwich, with pulled lamb, pesto, pecorino, arugula, and sweet peppers) and daily-rotating take-home dinners. Classes on butchery and sausage-making are also offered monthly. Run by Tia Harrison, Melanie Eisemann, and Angela Wilson, the shop opened in 2007 in the space that has butcher shop roots going back to 1901.
9) Saugatuck Craft Butchery, Westport, Conn.
Saugatuck’s founders, Ryan and Katherine Fibiger, source only whole, pasture-raised animals and break them down on the premises. All their beef, pork, lamb, and poultry are antibiotic-, hormone-, and steroid-free, and the goal is to connect the community with the source of the food. Therefore, all farms are located within 150 miles of the shop, steer and lamb are grass-fed in season, animals are fed grain from a local farm co-op and grass that’s never treated with pesticides and herbicides, and — oh, yeah — it all tastes really good. They also make a wide variety of burger grinds and unique sausages (including pulled pork, Pizza Pizza!, and potatis korv); teach classes on butchery, sausage-making, and knife skills; and serve a rotating menu of sandwiches, salads, and burgers.
8) Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, New York City
Located inside the bustling Chelsea Market, Dickson’s sells beef, lamb, goat, pork, and poultry hand-picked by Jake Dickson himself from a few upstate farms. All meats are humanely raised, small-scale, sustainable, antibiotic-free, and spend no time in feedlots, and they're stunningly gorgeous in the display case (seriously, this place could be a meat museum). Unique cuts include royal short rib, zabuton, bistec norteño, and culotte roast, but the awesomeness of Dickson’s doesn’t stop there. They also happen to make some of the best beef jerky you’ll ever eat, along with bacon, ham, sausage, charcuterie, rotisserie chicken, dog food, and the market’s best sandwiches (which is saying a lot). The butcher block is on-view from the small shop, and it’s clear that these guys really know what they’re doing. They’re more than happy to answer all your questions, but if you want really in-depth info, you should attend one of their classes, which range from jerky-making to a "tour of the whole hog."
7) Publican Quality Meats, Chicago
Paul Kahan is nothing short of a Chicago legend. He’s given the city four of its finest restaurants, The Publican, Big Star, avec, and Blackbird, and has also opened up one of its finest butcher shops, Publican Quality Meats. Beef is sourced whole-animal from four local farms and you can request any part of it that you want (either corn-fed or grass-fed); and the same deal with pork and lamb: only the finest, and whichever cut you want, it’s yours for the taking. Chicken and duck are also available; chickens get a signature marinade and ducks are aged with a little brandy, a brilliant touch. All of Kahan’s breads and charcuterie are also made here, and there’s a wide variety of sausages, including Cotechino, Morteau, Blood, and Toulouse. And if there’s anything else your little heart may desire, there’s a market selling nearly 200 boutique retail items including olive oils, spices, cheeses, beer, and wine, and a café selling coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads.
6) The Swinery, Seattle
Seattle’s first sustainable butcher shop, The Swinery purchases only whole animals from within 300 miles of the shop, and butchers them using only old-fashioned techniques into unique cuts like pork porterhouse, fresh coppa roast, and pork souvlaki kebabs. But they’re not just butchered: they’re brined, aged, hung, and turned into sausages, charcuterie, and world-class bacon. They’re also taken to the grill out back, where they’re serving some of Seattle’s finest burgers, along with crazy-good sandwiches, bacon dogs, fries smothered in bacon and blue cheese béchamel, and chicharrones.
5) Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, Kingston and Brooklyn, N.Y.
Joshua and Jessica Applestone are renowned in the world of butchery, and have done more to spread the gospel of local, grass-fed, pasture-raised meats than just about anyone else since opening their shop in 2004. From their shop in upstate New York (and their newer one in Park Slope, Brooklyn), they sell locally sourced (from within 50 miles of the Kingston shop), antibiotic- and hormone-free meat raised on a pesticide-free, vegetarian, grass-based diet, purchased whole and butchered nose-to-tail. Along with just about any type of cut you want, they also sell some ridiculously good bacon, rotisserie chicken, homemade ham, cheeses, a wide variety of sausages, and heat-and-eat items like shepherd’s pie and Texas chili, along with dog food and reduced stock. They also have a world-class training program that’s spawned some of the country’s top butchers. Above all, Fleisher’s is a neighborhood butcher shop where you can drop in, browse, chat with the butchers about the different cuts, and be a part of a community, and that’s exactly what the Applestones set out to create, by carrying on the legacy of Joshua’s great-grandfather, Wolf Fleisher, who opened the original Fleisher’s not far away from the Brooklyn shop in 1901.
4) The Meat Hook, Brooklyn, N.Y.
In 2009, Tom Mylan, Brent Young, and Ben Turley, former butchers from Brooklyn’s renowned Marlow & Daughters, struck out on their own and opened The Meat Hook. Committed to rewarding the hard work of their farmers, every month they visit the farms to hand-pick which animals will be slaughtered, broken down whole, and sold nose-to-tail. Beef is 100 percent grass-fed, raised without hormones or antibiotics, allowed to graze on 1,000 acres of land, and dry-aged before being sold. Lambs are slightly older than what you’d usually find for better marbling and flavor (without being at all gamey thanks to the breed). Free-range and pastured heritage pigs are predominantly 100 percent Berkshires, bought when they’re at least 200 pounds for the best marbling from small family-owned upstate pig farms. Nearly 50 different types of sausages are also produced here, in varieties ranging from "Classics" like toasted fennel and garlic, agrodolce, and red wine and rosemary to "Trashy" options like French onion, baked potato, and chicken Parm, as well as a host of charcuterie, cold cuts, and other ways of making sure nothing goes to waste. Their classes are also indispensable for anyone who’s interested in the craft.
3) The Local Butcher Shop, Berkeley, Calif.
The Local Butcher Shop was opened in August 2011 in Berkeley by Chez Panisse alum Aaron Rocchino, and has since become the town’s go-to spot for all things meat. The secret to its success is the fact that almost all of its butchers are also trained chefs, able to not only offer cooking tips and tricks but in-depth knowledge about everything they sell (they can also whip up restaurant-quality pâtés, sausages, deli meats, soups, sauces, stews, and sandwiches). The animals are bought whole and intact, so literally any part of it, if you want it, just ask for it. Beef, pork, and lamb all come from two local farms each, and they’re some of the country’s finest, focused entirely on animal welfare and all-natural practices that allow the animals to live happy lives and eat only real, natural food with no hormones or pesticides. Classes include lessons in sausage-making as well as harder-to-find ones like holiday cooking, pork-leg butchery, and stock-making, and their daily rotating sandwich is consistently outrageously delicious.
2) The Butcher and Larder, Chicago
Every visit to Chicago’s first sustainable whole-animal butcher shop, The Butcher and Larder, is an adventure. Opened eight years ago by Rob and Allie Levitt, the shop sources all its meat from small, Midwestern family farms, and really showcases the finest the country’s heartland has to offer. Like all shops that purchase their animals whole, not every cut is available every day, but it’s cut to order and they’ll be able to get you any part of the animal you need as long as you call ahead. But at this shop, it’s best to leave yourself in Rob’s hands. Give him an idea of what you’re looking for and he’ll give you a tour of the case, proudly showcasing what’s available. Housemade sausages and charcuterie also change daily. You’ll most likely leave with something exciting and delicious, and can be assured that it’s going to be hormone- and antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, and of the highest quality possible.
1) Lindy & Grundy, Los Angeles
What makes Lindy & Grundy America’s best butcher shop? In short, its owners, Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, also known as Lindy and Grundy. They’ve forged close relationships with the area’s finest farmers, and source all their meats from within 150 miles of Los Angeles, except for the lamb, which comes from Santa Rosa, Calif. They hand-select the meat, use the entire carcass, and nothing goes to waste. (Want a pig spleen? All yours.) All beef, pork, lamb, and chicken are 100 percent pastured, hormone- and antibiotic-free, raised organically, and allowed to graze throughout their lives, leading to happy animals and delicious meat. They could simply butcher the meat, put it in the display case, and call it a day, but Posada and Nakamura go above and beyond, rotating through about 25 different types of sausages weekly, making stocks, rillettes, dog food, and specialty burger grinds, and a cherrywood smoker wafts the smell of smoking bacon and guanciale out into the street all day long. They also offer a world-class apprenticeship program and some of the West Coast’s best butchery classes (they’ll even teach you how to roast the perfect Thanksgiving turkey), they deliver your order right to your house, and also sell a daily-rotating sandwich that’s always a sellout. And guiding it all are Posada and Nakamura, who somehow also have the time to give each customer individualized attention. There’s no other butcher shop quite like Lindy & Grundy, and it’s America’s best.