Our Favorite Butchers

Butchers, like firemen, are notoriously hot. Whole pin-up calendars have been devoted to pictures of hunky guys in aprons. But that’s not how we choose our butchers. We go for the real meat—the sustainably farmed, humanely raised and slaughtered, heritage, no-hormone, quality product—and for guys behind the counter knowledgeable enough to tell us where the meat came from and how to cook it. Here are some of our favorite shops across the country.

ATLANTA AREA

Star Provisions co-owner Anne Quatrano sells a lot of American wagyu beef, even as hamburger. She also carries much leaner grass-fed beef and organic quail and squab. You can get Smart Chicken, processed in freezing air (the French style) rather than cold water (the U.S. style). Heritage pork, particularly from berkshire or kurobuta pigs, is also selling well right now. Star Provisions, Atlanta,
(404) 365-0410, www.starprovisions.com

Shields Market, an old-school establishment in Decatur, features USDA Prime beef and all-natural chickens. Shields also makes its own Italian sausage. Shields Market, Atlanta, (404) 377-0204

BOSTON AREA

Julia Child always liked Savenor’s Market, a specialty food market and butcher shop with locations in Beacon Hill and Cambridge. Owner Ronnie Savenor still runs the place, offering everything from beautiful marbled steaks to kangaroo and rattlesnake meat. Savenor’s Market, Boston, (617) 723-6328, Cambridge, (617) 576-6328, www.savenorsmarket.com

Never mind that their two retail shops aren’t particularly convenient for city dwellers. Plenty of restaurants and retail customers still seek out John Dewar & Co. for top-quality meats. John Dewar & Co., Newton Centre, (617) 964-3577, Wellesley, (781) 235-8322, www.johndewarinc.com

With its blood-red ceiling, gleaming windows, and enormous wooden butcher block, The Butcher Shop looks more like a Paris café than a Boston boucherie. The brainchild of local chef Barbara Lynch, the Butcher Shop stocks meats from small farms and house-made charcuterie, sausages, and condiments. At night it morphs into a wine bar that serves small plates of chef-prepared snacks. The Butcher Shop, Boston, (617) 423-4800, www.thebutchershopboston.com

CHICAGO AREA

Germans populated Chicago’s North Side in the 1940s when Paulina Meat Market opened its doors just over a mile from Wrigley Field. The immigrants may have moved on, but the shop still bustles with more than a dozen butchers and sausage makers offering silky homemade bologna, veal bratwurst, lamb sticks, and garlicky salamis. Paulina Market, Chicago, (773) 248-6272, www.paulinameatmarket.com

With a name like Moo & Oink, you’d expect that this market, with three locations on the South and West sides as well as one in Hazel Crest, goes whole hog and whole cow. It specializes in fully cleaned chitterlings—the pig’s large intestine historically reserved in the colonial era for slaves. Moo & Oink also smokes its own meats, proffering meaty ham hocks, rich beef ribs, and other choice parts. Moo & Oink, Chicago, (773) 493-7100, (773) 962-8200, (773) 473-4800, Hazel Crest, (708) 206-0308 www.moo-oink.com

An old-timer in trendy Lincoln Park, Gepperth’s Meat Market has seen vegetarians come and go (currently there’s a raw-food restaurant down the block). Yet carnivores continue to flock to the family-owned Gepperth’s for its neighborly service and sweet, juicy New York strips. The roster of homemade sausages ranges from English bangers to Cajun andouille. Gepperth’s Meat Market, Chicago, (773) 549-3883, www.gepperthsmarket.com

DALLAS AREA

Although the Kuby’s Sausage House family has been butchering since 1728 in Germany, Kuby’s Italian sausage rules. That’s because Karl Kuby Jr. has rules: Use only romano cheese. Use the Boston butt of the pork shoulder. Add fennel and a thicker grind of pepper. He also makes great venison sausage. Kuby’s Sausage House, Dallas, (214) 363-2231

Started 110 years ago by one of Texas’ many Czech immigrant families, Rudolph’s Market and Sausage Factory sells Czech and German products like klobase and jaternice, plus traditional smoked frankfurters. Rudolph’s makes its own fresh Italian sausages, summer sausage, and East Texas hot links, stocks pheasant and duck in season, and (this is Texas) carries USDA Choice beef aged from 20 to 28 days. Rudolph’s Market and Sausage Factory, Dallas, (214) 741-1874, www.rudolphsmarket.com

LOS ANGELES AREA

A great Old World butcher with a twist: European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen makes a range of South African specialties, including biltong (a jerky of beef, ostrich, or turkey mixed with spices), droewors (a dried beef sausage), and boerewors (with fresh beef). Other sausages feature chicken, lamb, and veal. They’re all made fresh daily without preservatives. European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen, Beverly Hills, (310) 276-1331

Strategically positioned in the farmer’s market at 3rd and Fairfax, The Huntington Meats has a big selection of homemade pork or chicken sausages, including Jamaican, Sicilian, Cajun, and Portuguese styles, bangers, bratwurst, and a spicy number called Santa Fe. Owner Dan Vance says Huntington uses only leg meat with no skin for its chicken sausages (ask for samples). All the beef is Harris Ranch USDA Prime. The Huntington Meats, Los Angeles, (323) 938-5383, www.huntingtonmeats.com

“We break it all here,” says Bob Fleming of Alexander’s Meats inside Howie’s Ranch Market in San Gabriel. He means that everything—beef, lamb, fish—can be cut to order. Alexander’s Meats, San Gabriel, (626) 286-8871

MIAMI AREA

The Butcher Shop carries USDA Prime meat, including angus beef, as well as veal, lamb, pork, and seafood. The Butcher Shop also stocks a variety of Cuban delicacies like café con leche and Cuban sandwiches. The Butcher Shop, Miami, (305) 253-9525

Laurenzo’s Italian Market looks like it stopped in time circa 1960. The store carries U.S. organic chicken, grass-fed beef from Uruguay, and lamb from Australia. The butchers have made their own Italian sausage for the past 50 years and today also make varieties like veal, chicken, wine and cheese, turkey, and Middle Eastern lamb merguez. Offal fans can find everything from lamb’s head to chicken feet. Laurenzo’s Italian Market, North Miami Beach, (305) 945-6381, www.laurenzosmarket.com

MICHIGAN

Downtown Detroit’s 43-acre Eastern Market hosts some 28 meateries, in addition to dozens of other food shops. Customers seeking Eid lambs line up at Berry & Sons Islamic Slaughter House, fans of corned beef go for Broadway Market’s sandwiches, Detroit Sausage Co. doles out Italian sausage, and Wolverine Packing stocks whole lambs and pigs. For top cuts, shop at Fairway Packing, which sells piedmontese and kobe beef and berkshire pork. Eastern Market, Detroit, (586) 393-8800, www.easternmarket.org

Chelsea Market, outside Ann Arbor, is known for its “hanging beef” (cut from whole carcasses). Head butcher Jeff Flintoft also prepares his own smoked whitefish pate and garlicky Italian sausage. Bonus: Zingerman’s breads on sale. Chelsea Market, Chelsea, (734) 475-7600

In tiny Three Oaks, Michigan, 75 miles east of Chicago, the 1875-vintage Drier’s Meat Market is a national historic site. Immortalized in poetry by patron Carl Sandburg, it makes a subtly spiced all-beef ring bologna worthy of the trek. The 100-year-old smokehouse has been run by the Drier family since 1913. Drier’s Meat Market, Three Oaks, (888) 521-3999, www.driers.com

NEW YORK AREA

O. Ottomanelli’s & Sons has been in the quality meat business since 1935. This West Village institution is now run by the sons, who offer organic and grass-fed all-natural beef aged from 14 to 36 days. The butchers visit New York–area markets five days a week and source from all over the country for such game as razorback wild boar. They make their own antibiotic-, chemical-, and hormone-free sausages. Try the lamb sausage and the specialty milk-fed veal roast stuffed with prosciutto and wrapped with pancetta. O. Ottomanelli’s & Sons, New York, (212) 675-4217, www.wildgamemeatsrus.com

For Italian sweet and hot sausage, come to Faicco’s Pork Store, a butcher shop and Italian American deli in the West Village. They’ve got limited cuts of beef, pork chops, chopped meat, and pork braciola (slivers of seasoned pork, rolled and tied). Faicco’s Pork Store, New York, (212) 243-1974

Tucked into the Art Deco bar of the restaurant of the same name is the kosher French butcher shop Le Marais. For 10 years butcher Dominique Courbe has offered items one doesn’t expect to find in a kosher shop: beef jerky, salami, duck and sometimes venison patés, and merguez sausages. It’s all homemade and all pork free. Le Marais, New York, (212) 869-0900, www.lemarais.net

Walk into Florence Prime Meat Market and you won’t see any meat. It’s all in the locker, dry-aging. Ask for a steak, and it’s cut to order while you wait. Florence Prime Meat Market, New York, (212) 242-6531

Biancardi’s Meat is a grand, well-stocked butcher shop in the Italian tradition, with house-made sausages, tripe, ground veal, rabbit, and quail. The neighborhood of good Italian shops is perfect for the blitz before dinner parties. Biancardi’s Meat, Bronx, (718) 733-4058

The pressed-tin ceilings of Staubitz Market are original, the 60-year-old display case is in perfect condition, and the meat is still cut by hand. The selection includes spring lamb, wild turkey, partridge, and organic veal. Staubitz Market, Brooklyn, (718) 624-0014, www.staubitz.com

L. Simchick Prime Meats & Fresh Poultry crams an impressive selection into only about 400 square feet in a building that’s housed a butcher shop for the last 120 years. Leonard Simchick opened his shop in 1992, and now it’s the neighborhood place for private chefs and serious home cooks. L. Simchick Prime Meats & Fresh Poultry, New York, (212) 888-2299

PHILADELPHIA AREA

Using every part of the beast is the goal at D’Angelo Bros. Meat Market. And what an array of beasts: ostrich, alligator, rattlesnake; even eland, an African antelope now farmed in Texas. There’s also organic beef, heirloom pork, lamb and fresh rabbit. D’Angelo Bros., Philadelphia, (215) 923-5637, www.dangelobros.com

A fixture at Reading Terminal Market since 1916, Godshall’s Poultry has free-range whole turkeys from local farms in Lancaster and Bucks counties, with other product coming from Delaware. They do Italian mild and hot turkey sausages, too. Godshall’s Poultry, Philadelphia, (215) 922-7589

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

A week after a sign in the shop window at Drewes Bros. Meats announced its closure in 1998, Josh and Isaac Epple took over the century-old establishment. The store offers organic chickens and Niman Ranch beef and pork, plus fish and assorted groceries. Drewes Bros. Meats, San Francisco, (415) 821-0515, www.drewesbros.com

The butchers at Berkeley Bowl stock pork, beef, and lamb from Niman Ranch, and, at Thanksgiving, organic free-range Willie Bird turkeys. Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley, (510) 843-6929, www.berkeleybowl.com

Enzo’s Meat & Poultry is the classic Northern California butcher shop with a conscience: meat from farms where the cows eat grass and the chickens frolic freely. Enzo’s Meat & Poultry, Oakland,
(510) 547-5839, www.rockridgemarkethall.com/enzos/index_enzo.html

Bryan’s Quality Meats in tony Laurel Heights has a comprehensive selection, and the store offers marinated, ready-to-cook cuts, too. Bryan’s Quality Meats, San Francisco, (415) 752-0179

Golden Gate Meat Company in the Ferry Building has a wide variety of beef, poultry, lamb, and veal. They also make their own smoked meats and can special order pretty much anything you want, if it’s not there already. Golden Gate Meat Company, San Francisco (415) 983-7800, www.goldengatemeatcompany.com/retail.shtml

SEATTLE

A & J Meats & Seafood is widely praised for its turkeys, its homemade, preservative-free kielbasa, its sweet Maui-style beef jerky, and its on-site dry-aging of grass-fed, corn-finished beef. Owner Rick Friar’s father started the business in 1951, and A & J still turns out entrées like chicken puff pastry, lasagna, meat loaf, chicken pot pie, and prime rib. Everything’s cut to order. A & J Meats & Seafood, Seattle,
(206) 284-3885

After 36 years in business, Don Kuzaro Jr. knows what his customers like and don’t like. So Don & Joe’s Meats doesn’t carry grass-fed beef, because Kuzaro’s customers don’t think it tastes as good as its grain-fed or grain-finished cousins. But he can assure you that his Misty Isle Farms beef has no hormones, antibiotics, or “growth proponents.” Besides a big selection of lamb, veal, and pork, Don & Joe’s carries free-range chickens and turkeys, plus quail and the occasional wild boar or alligator. Don & Joe’s Meats, Seattle, (206) 682-7670

The best lamb sausages in town come from Steve Shulman at Leschi Food Mart. “We do most of our lamb sausages on an 80-20 meat-fat ratio, which is the same as lean ground beef,” says Shulman. “And we keep the recipes simple.” Leschi sausages include a hot Mexican-style link, a pork-and-veal bratwurst, and, for breakfast, links made with real applesauce and a patty sausage that features pineapple. Leschi also makes smoked sausages and resmokes hams, turkey breasts, and bacon on-site. Leschi Food Mart, Seattle, (206) 322-0700, www.leschimart.com

Bavarian Meat Delicatessen specializes in Old World–style German sausages, but it’s famed for its pork-and-veal meat loaf. Bavarian doesn’t stock whole cuts of meat; it makes 43 products on-site from pork, veal, and beef including landjäger, a semidry fermented pepperoni that Germans like to take on backpacking trips. Bavarian Meat Delicatessen, Seattle, (206) 441-0942

NATIONAL

At the northern end of California’s Sacramento River Valley, Big Bluff Ranch specializes in hormone-free, pastured cattle and sheep raised as humanely as possible. “There is no place on our ranch for whips, cattle prods, or abusive behavior,” the ranchers say, and they even shepherd their herds with a dog. You can purchase dressed, packaged half lambs for $123, a whole lamb for $230, or a 30-pound “medium package” of beef for $195, but get a group of friends to go in with you because delivery costs ($1 per pound, minimum $150) can add up. Big Bluff Ranch, (530) 529-2291, www.bigbluffranch.com

Lasater Grasslands Beef raises its cattle via a “100 percent environmentally sustainable process” that shuns hormones and low-level antibiotics. Lasater also gives feedlots a pass and grazes its herds on 30,000 acres of short-grass Colorado prairie. The company says this gives its beef two to six times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids found in feedlot cattle. Beef is dry-aged 14 to 21 days for tenderness. Lasater Grasslands Beef, (866) 454-2333, www.lgbeef.com

Lobel’s ships everything fresh, never frozen, and even covers Alaska and Hawaii for an extra $10. Most of the beef is corn-fed, but Lobel’s also sells antibiotic- and hormone-free wagyu beef, and it seeks out New England Heritage Breed Conservancy farms in New York state that raise and sell meat from endangered cattle breeds, animals that are sustainably raised, grass-fed, and hormone- and antibiotic-free. They sell all-natural duck, lamb, chicken, and turkey, too. Lobel’s, (877) 783-4512, www.lobels.com

-Andrew Sessa, Elaine Glusac, Jessica Battilana, and Paul D. Kretkowski

Photograph by Dennis Pasco