Carnivore's Guide: Butcher Shops and Meat Markets
New boutique meat markets have opened in recent months, proving that many of us like to shop for our meat the way we shop for our clothes: in style. But behind the picturesque displays is substance, with an emphasis on local, sustainably raised meats.
Rain Shadow Meats (above right)
The atmosphere: Sleek, shiny and new—this cement-and-stainless-steel Melrose Market meat shop on Capitol Hill is a beauty. It’s also a green-minded meat eater’s paradise, featuring all local and natural meats.
What it does best: This is your stop for gourmet “foodie” ingredients, too, like caul fat for crepinettes, or the thickest frenched rib-eyes we’ve ever seen. Don’t leave without a piece of the house-made country terrine for predinner nibbles.
Ask for: Russ Flint, a former Boat Street Cafe chef who opened Rain Shadow in spring 2010.
Price check: Caul fat $5/piece, country terrine $15.99/pound
Carniceria el Paisano (above left)
The atmosphere: Cramped, busy and stacked to the rafters with fresh pork cracklings (aka chicharrónes), canned salsas, beans and other Mexican food staples. This popular White Center shop’s meat counter is crammed with options.
What it does best: Affordable cuts of meats that are great for the grill, including beef shoulder blade steaks cut so thin they cook in just seconds over hot coals. Also: fresh tamales, which regularly sell out before 3 p.m. Don’t feel like cooking? Taste the fare next door at the El Paisano Rosticeria y Cocina.
Ask for: Owner Jose Silva
Price check: Tamales $1 each or $11/dozen, thin steaks $3.99/pound
Bill the Butcher Organic Meats (left)
The atmosphere: High style. This is a boutique buying experience. Walls at the new Magnolia store are lined with jars of pickles, marinades, brand-name barbecue sauces, fancy crackers and the like.
What it does best: High-end cuts. Bill’s stocks mostly grass-fed meats, some local and sustainable meats, as well as premium Wagyu.
Ask for: Any of the butchers, who can handle your desired cut, tell you the best way to cook it and, in some cases, even recommend a wine.
Price check: $12.99/pound for Wagyu hanger steak
Cascioppo Brothers Italian Meat Market
The atmosphere: Simple, straightforward in Ballard’s northern reaches (Loyal Heights), inside the Fresh Fish Company.
What it does best: Bratwurst and Italian sausages (we especially like the hot Italian chicken ones). “Papa” Sam Cascioppo opened the shop in 1973 and made the store’s first marinated flank steak back then; the recipe is still a hit with regular customers.
Ask for: Everyone behind the counter is helpful and knowledgable, but check out the website for cool diagrams of where each cut comes from and how to cook it.
Price check: Marinated flank steak $8.99/pound, chicken Italian sausages $5.49/pound
University Seafood & Poultry
The atmosphere: Given its name, University Seafood & Poultry is oft overlooked for its meat, but this bare-bones shop on a busy U District strip pulls in plenty of carnivores, too.
What it does best: You’ll find game meats, such as venison and pheasant, on any given day—a rarity in Seattle.
Ask for: The owner, Dale Erickson, or his grandson, Andrew Erickson.
Price check: Venison shoulder roast $14.98/pound, pheasant $9.98/pound.
Butchery is not just a trade, it’s an art form. Breaking down a whole animal allows the butcher to custom-cut the meat, sometimes while you wait, to your exact specifications. So get to know the guy (or gal) behind the counter; you’ll always get the choice cuts.
The atmosphere: Petite and all about the meat. Unlike other meat shops, there’s not a whole lot else to buy at this West Seattle stop. The staff is friendly and knows its stuff, so feel free to ask how to cook your cut.
What it does best: Local meats; house-cured, nitrate-free bacon; gorgeous house-made sausages, including hard-to-find Greek loukanika (pork and lamb seasoned with orange zest, garlic and parsley) and duck chorizo. And, of course, those killer sandwiches!
Ask for: Co-owner and head butcher Joey Brewer, for questions about meat, or co-owner and chef Garrett Doherty for help with recipes.
Price check: Duck chorizo $7.50 for two, bacon $12/pound.
A&J Meats and Seafood
The atmosphere: This Queen Anne favorite with the recognizable L-shaped meat case has been in business for more than 50 years, so it’s no surprise a visit here feels like stepping back in time—in the best possible way.
What it does best: Butter-tender steaks, dry-aged for as long as 40 days.
Ask for: Rick, whose dad started the shop in the 1950s.
Price check: 40-day aged steaks $18–$19.95/pound (Prime), $16.95/pound (N.Y. Choice)
Don and Joe’s Meats
The atmosphere: Don and Joe’s Meats is one of the cornerstones of the Pike Place Market. White-coated butchers and a classic refrigerator case filled with meats neatly lined between dividers give it an old-school look. Brisk, friendly service make it the place to go if you want to be on a first-name basis with your butcher.
What it does best: Specialty items like salt pork, duck fat (for confit) and possibly the most inexpensive hanger steaks in town.
Ask for: Don, whose dad and uncle opened the shop 40 years ago.
Price check: Salt pork $4.39/pound, duck fat $7.50/pound, hanger steak $4.99/pound.
Bob’s Quality Meats
The atmosphere: Friendly and efficient, with a few spice rubs and a freezer case full of goat stew meat, ground lamb, whole ducks and more, plus a huge counter full of gorgeous meats, Bob’s in Columbia City is super old-school in a really good way.
What it does best: Local meats. Owner (and Bob’s son) James Ackley is a fourth-generation butcher with deep ties to local ranchers. He gets his beef from a farmer in Wapato, and his whole pigs are less than an hour’s drive from his shop.
Ask for: James, who works in his shop almost every day.
Price check: Delicious, tender bone-in rib-eye steaks for $12.99/pound.
Better Meat Co.
The atmosphere: Tucked in a residential area on NW 82nd Street in the Ballard/Greenwood neighborhood, this no-frills butcher shop, housed in a warehouse-type space, is the real deal.
What it does best: Having a pig roast? Better Meat Co. has the most inexpensive whole pigs in town.
Ask for: Mike Evensen or Paul Volpone.
A little known fact: In-the-know animal lovers feed their pampered pets on the cheap with Better Meat Co.’s fresh-ground, then frozen, chicken and turkey (nutrient-rich organ meats and bones included).
Published November 2010
More articles from our Meat issue
Carnivore's Guide: Bacon!
Carnivore's Guide: A Burger for every budget
Carnivore's Guide: Charcuterie
Carnivore's Guide: Chicken
Carnivore's Guide: Duck, Turkey, and Goose
Carnivore's Guide: Game: Venison, Elk, Wild Boar
Carnivore's Guide: Lamb
Carnivore's Guide: The Meatless Meats
Carnivore's Guide: Offal
Carnivore's Guide: Pork
Carnivore's Guide: Sausages
Carnivore's Guide: The Steakhouses
Carnivore's Guide: The Art of Butchering
Carnivore's Guide: Butcher Shops and Meat Markets
Carnivore's Guide: The Seattle Meat Directory