When it comes to New York butchers, the LaFrieda guys get a lot of love. But DeBragga & Spitler has been an institution in the Meatpacking District since the mid-1930s, when it moved to Washington Street. It can still be found in the shadow of what is now the High Line, but as the Wall Street Journal reported in May, this, the largest meat purveyor left in the area, is moving on, leaving just seven meat companies to carry the flag for a neighborhood that got its name from some 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants that called it home in the 1900s. DeBragga is heading to Jersey City, where they plan to move into a renovated warehouse in October.
New Yorkers have a funny relationship with their city. There's a need to raze and create, but also a desire to hold onto places that represent their past. "Build!" a voice seems to call out. "Remember!" cries another. So it is that New Yorkers lament their losses, recount the city's lost treasures like Ebinger's Blackout Cake. Sometimes they make their last visits to Gino's, or crowd the bar to raise their last glass at Elaine's. Sometimes places slip off into the night, only a note on the door left to jar suprised regulars. That spirit, those needs, are no less prevalent when it comes to culinary institutions as cultural ones. Indeed, there's a new TV show, Appetite City, dedicated to remembering them. But paying homage is a little more difficult when the culinary institution is one that most people haven't been able to experience firsthand.
So it is with DeBragga leaving the Meatpacking District for Jersey. At this point, the neighborhood has long been untethered from its original appellation, and the move is a happy one for the company. They're still going to be providing hundreds of restaurants in New York (and more still in Connecticut, New Jersey, and also the Caribbean) with meat. And they still consider themselves New York's butcher — when asked, their representative noted, "Heck, yeah! Think, New York Giants! Where do they live? The Meadowlands!"
But before the move actually happens this fall, it's worth taking a moment to look at and celebrate the place that the company and the white coat-clad, bundled butchers have called home for some 80 years. On a snowy day earlier this year, DeBragga's partners Marc Sarrazin (president) and George Faison (chief operating officer) were kind enough to open their doors talk a little bit some of the changes they've seen with what chefs and restaurateurs have been looking for over the years when it comes to meat, and to just give a peak at what goes on inside.