Four great old-school butchers in Chicago
Butchering may be hot now, but these guys have been here all along.
Romanian Kosher Sausage Company
7200 N Clark St, 773-761-4141
It’s been more than 50 years since Romanian Kosher opened its doors, and the last 45 of those have been on the corner where the butcher still stands. In that time, manager Mark Shainwald has seen butcher shops of Romanian’s kind slip from “on nearly every corner” to being “few and far between.” “We buy from the slaughterhouse and bone our own meat,” he says. “Most people don’t do that anymore—they buy boxed meat.” After being boned and cleaned, a lot of the meat that comes into Romanian gets turned into one of its prized deli meats (bologna, salami, pastrami) or sausages (Polish, breakfast, hot dogs). Being a kosher butcher shop, there’s no pork involved. But that doesn’t stop people from asking for it. “We used to have a dark turkey product. People would come in and say ‘give me some of that ham.’”
Peoria Packing Butcher Shop
1300 W Lake St, 312-738-1800
Shoppers don’t come to Peoria Packing expecting some quaint little Euro-style butcher shop; they come to experience a strong-stomached carnivore’s dream, a massive meat locker where customers bundle up for the cold and slip on plastic gloves to do their own hunting and gathering. In 1993, when the shop opened, this retail arm of Peoria Packing was only a few feet from the site where the animals met their fate. Since then, the slaughterhouse has been moved to Kankakee, with whole pigs and cows trucked in to the processing plant on Lake Street to become various cuts intended for wholesale and retail. “We’ve been a staple for various ethnic communities since we opened,” says CEO Harry Katsiavelos. “Jamaicans come for the goat and cow’s foot, Asians for pork belly and offal such as hearts, livers and tongues. Many Polish use the hams and pork bellies, Greeks specifically use the boneless pork loin, while Mexicans buy the pork butt and skirt steak.” Something they all look for (and find): prices considerably lower than your typical grocery store.
Blue Ribbon Meat Market
426 N Austin Blvd, Oak Park, 708-524-9766
Russ and Ron Savino were born to be butchers—literally. Their father, Dominic, was a meat man by trade since he was old enough to stuff sausage casings, and when he opened his namesake butcher shop in 1969 (changing the name to Blue Ribbon when he moved a few blocks to its current location in ’79), his boys learned by his side. They eventually took over when Dominic retired in the early ’90s, so now they’re the ones West Siders make pilgrimages to for the lamb and green onion sausage, pork ribs cleaned and trimmed to order and steaks cut to throwback specifications like two or three fingers thick. “Any meat you can imagine, we sell it here, from the tail to the nose and everything in between,” Russ boasts. “And if you don’t see what you need, all you gotta do is ask.”
Holzkopf Meat Market
6155 N Broadway, 773-764-0714
Mark Holzkopf started his butchering career at Dominick’s, graduating from a three-year apprenticing program in the 1980s. Dominick’s, Holzkopf is quick to point out, started as a small butcher shop/deli—so they know how to teach a guy how to cut meat. Perhaps inspired by his trainer, Holzkopf opened his eponymous shop a little over three years ago. (He took over an existing butcher shop, also named after the owner; obviously, Holzkopf had to change that.) From what Holzkopf has seen lately, butchering “is a growing trade right now, because people want to see where their meat comes from.” So Holzkopf shows them: He makes sure that customers can see him cutting their meat, and makes sure to let them know the meatloaf, sausages and stuffed pork chops are all made in-house. “We cut meat,” he says. But “we sell trust.”