Cut and Dried: A Primer

The Central Texas meat market roundup

Smitty's Market
Smitty's Market (Photo By John Anderson)

Independent Meat Markets

These companies are our local stalwarts of the old-style butcher shops, the kind of shops that used to be in every neighborhood before the advent of the supermarket, which brought us the convenience of one-stop shopping, later hours, slightly cheaper pricing, and mediocrity of product. Couple that with families cooking less at home, smaller families, less demand for larger cuts of raw meat, the proliferation of prepared to-go foods, and a decline in knowledgeable butchers, and you have a crisis when it comes to getting quality meats. Not so with these folks, and every smart shopper should patronize these great meat markets to get real meat.

The Meat Shop

948 Peyton Gin, 837-6331

Tuesday, 8am-noon; Wednesday-Thursday, 8am-4pm; Friday, 8am-5pm; Saturday, 7am-noon
The Meat Shop has one of the finest reputations of the independents and serves the best beef available, the best, according to some sources, to be found in the entire country. So good that it's used by the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and by Charlie Trotter's restaurants in the Northeast. All of the beef used by the Meat Shop is all-natural, grass-fed from Harrell Ranch near Decker Lake. They have two herds. One is pure-blooded Wagyu (the breed responsible for Kobe beef), and this is sold as superprime grade. The other herd is Wagyu and Angus, which is sold as prime grade. The meat is dry-aged for 21 to 28 days and then cut to order. The Meat Shop carries a few chicken and pork products, but the concentration is on the excellent beef. They do make a line of sausages and periodically have smoked racks of beef ribs for sale, but the ultimate steak is king here.

Johnny G's Butcher Block

11600 Manchaca, 280-6514

Monday-Saturday, 9am-6pm

Johnny Gustafson started this shop some 16 years ago, when it was originally on Ben White, and even though it's now owned by Grover Swift, Johnny G. his own self still comes to work on a regular basis. Their beef is all Texas-grown, preaged, and cut from sides and box cuts. They're known for their excellent steaks, but they also carry pork, fresh chickens, cabrito, 12 types of homemade sausage, and fantastic jerky that always sells out. Rib eyes are the most popular, and the favorite of Grover and Johnny G.

Cooper's Meat Market

1600 W. 38th #12, 467-6742

Monday, noon-6pm; Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30am-6pm

Cooper's opened two years ago and features grain-fed, hormone-free, all-natural Midwest prime beef that has been wet-aged 30 days, all cut to order, using primal cuts. They offer an incredible range of products, from all kinds of seafood and poultry to specialty meats such as buffalo, venison, and elk. You'll also find a large assortment of casseroles, sandwiches, soups, and the complete line of New Braunfels Smokehouse products. Premarinated fajita meat and tenderloin are the most popular, while rib eyes are Lee's favorite.

Long Horn Meat Co.

2411 E. MLK, 476-5223

Monday-Friday, 8am-5:30pm; Saturday, 8am-4pm; Sunday, 9am-1pm
Started in 1980, Long Horn comes from a long family lineage in the butcher's trade: a great-grandfather's recipe (obtained at the Coney Island World's Fair before the turn of the last century) is used for the fresh barbecue sausage. They do 15% retail business, while the rest is commercial. Texas choice carcass beef is used for steaks, while primal box cuts are used for specialty cuts. They can cut to order until 3pm, and later if it's a boneless cut. Bone-in rib eye is the owner's fave.

Lone Star Food Service

1403 E. Sixth, 478-3161

Opened in 1952, Lone Star does predominantly wholesale and institutional sales, but after nagging from friends and customers, they decided to offer steak packs over their Web site so that retail customers can get restaurant-quality meat. They are one of two companies in Texas that offer "high choice" Certified Angus Beef. See Web site for details on ordering.

Henry's Butcher Block

1702-A N. Mays, Round Rock, 512/310-7007

Tuesday-Friday, 8am-6pm; Saturday, 8am-3pm
Henry has been a meat cutter since he was 14 years old, and his shop is spotlessly clean and inspected daily by the USDA. HBB features only Strube Ranch (Pittsburgh, Texas) Wagyu beef, in superprime and prime grades. Henry gets in whole sides, dry ages them for two weeks (but will custom-age longer upon request), and cuts to order. His pork is Pederson all-natural from Texas, and the poultry is Buddy's all-natural from Seguin. He does custom deer processing for the local hunters and will soon offer all-natural wild game products from a supplier in the Hill Country. HBB makes five different styles of fresh sausage, with no nitrates. On Saturdays he smokes Wagyu beef and pork ribs and jerky, but they go fast, so order ahead or get there before they vanish. These guys have a great all-natural program going and put out incredible product.

Cedar Park Meat Market

700 N. Bell, Cedar Park, 512/258-0550

Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm
CPMM has a unique concept that has worked well for the last 26 years. They process about 1,500 deer in November and December, and the rest of the time they do custom processing for their customers. You make an order for a quarter, half, side, or a whole for $2.20 a pound or so, then they butcher and pack it anyway you like for 35 cents a pound more. All of the carcasses come from local sources and are choice, grain-fed. David can get anything a customer wants, including prime grade, and has sample packs available so that you can judge the quality for yourself before spending $300 to $500 on a huge meat order.

Taylor Meat Co.

Hwy. 79 West & Loop 277, Taylor; 512/365-6358

Monday-Friday, 6am-5:30pm; Saturday, 7am-12:30pm

Started in 1947, TMC offers an old-style, full-service meat counter, selling fresh, local, grass-fed and grain-finished, carcass-cut choice steaks, as well as specialty cuts from box primals, and they cut to order. They make 20 different types of sausages (processed and ethnic) and do a lot of custom beef and hog processing for local ranchers. Rib eyes are the most popular steak, and the fave of the owners.

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