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Boston butchers for great steaks

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Dear hounds,

Thanks for all your advice! I don't mind all the disagreement about the heat, marinading, etc. It gives me ideas for techniques to try. It's just so much fun to talk about the subject of meat with people who care as much as I do.

A question for Boston hounds -- where do you buy meat? I've tried Dewar's and Savenor's. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not. The prices, on the other hand, are always up there. Any other places I should try? We are in Belmont, so metro west area would be the easiest for us.

Thanks again :)

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  1. Well, I usually get my meats at Savenors, but sometimes, since they're also a wholesale provider to many leading restaurants, the very best stuff is gone.

    When I want a sure-thing, no-doubt-about-it amazing steak, I get them at:

    http://www.lobels.com

    I've tried buying online from Peter Luger and others, but this is the best (IMHO).

    1. When I want steak I usually go to McKinnon's in Davis Square, they have great prices on ribeyes and tenderloin, and mix this in with a weekend visit to The Burren. If I see a nice steak at Shaw's or Whole Foods I might buy it on a whim. I'd have to be in special state of mind to get one at Savenors or Dewars, something I haven't done yet, but I did get some kobe "steak tips" and fois gras at Savenor's a few weeks ago and they were great, of course. Can't be doing that too often.

      1. I don't really eat that much red meat, so I'm not sure if I can offer any "best of" advice, but when I do, I like to buy it from River Rock Farm in Brimfield, MA. I've always liked what I get when they come to the farmers markets in town.
        http://www.riverrockfarm.com/

        Alternatively, I've tried the bison at Wild Oats in Medford, and it was pretty good. (I know that's not what you asked, but maybe their beef would be good too.

        )

        I've only have sausages and duck from Savenor's, but their Wagyu beef looked good the last time I was at the Cambridge location.

        6 Replies
        1. re: gini

          I've never bought from them, but the steaks I've had in restaurants from River Rock have all been great.

          I'm definitely going to try them soon.

          Savenor's wagyu beef does look very good, but at $49 per pound for sirloin it should probably also come with a handie.

          1. re: gini

            We buy almost all of our beef from River Rock at the Thursday farmer's market in Brookline. Further out your way, their website says that they do two different Tuesday markets, in Newton and in Lexington. Their steaks are excellent, although you may take issue with the fact that everything's pre-packaged and wrapped in butcher paper, so you can't see what you've got till you get it home. However, we have never been disappointed with a River Rock Farm steak.

            At the end of the farmer's market season last November we did a big blow-out and stocked the freezer - although we only eat beef about once a week, so it did go a long way - and we placed another order in early March which they delivered on one of their weekly runs in to Boston restaurants and shops.

            We have also been very happy with steaks from D&R Meats at 58 (or 56?) Salem Street in the North End, but that's less convenient for a shopper from Belmont.

            1. re: Allstonian

              That's why River Rock isn't at the North Ave Bridge Farmer's Market on Thursdays anymore! I did the same thing last year at the end of the season - stocked the freezer. Everything we've had was worth the $$, steaks, ground beef, even the burgers were that good. I haven't bought from D&R but that's actually convenient for us - would you say it's comparable?

              1. re: Rubee

                I think so. Allstonian and I live in Allston -- hence the name -- so the Coolidge Corner Thursday market is much more convenient for us than D&R, but the steaks we've had from D&R are equally fine. Plus, since the steaks are cut to order at D&R, you can specify thickness or cut, which is nice. As I recall, price per pound is roughly equivalent.

                Having just gotten through our first batch of the preformed burgers from River Rock, my personal feeling is that I would probably be just as happy with a box of Bubba Burgers from BJs. The River Rock burgers are very good, of course, but I'm not convinced that they're worth the extra cost, and frankly, I'm rather unhappy with the shape, which is roughly similar to a cross-section of a meatloaf.

                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  Thanks! Will definitely check D&R out. I know what you mean about the 'cut' of the RR burgers - it's thick and oval, almost too thick. But I loved the flavor - it's the only burger that I could bring to a cookout and nobody would notice it wasn't my "usual" - (my secret ingredient to burgers tends toward the pat of jalapeno butter in the middle). And I've got to try me a Bubba Burger. Seriously, that must be a good burger to keep in the freezer - it's come up on other CH posts. :)

            2. re: gini

              I've always had excellent experiences dealing with the River Rock Farm for beef. Great local family and product.

            3. I love McKinnon's in Davis. They have some of the most tender steak tips I've ever tried!

              1 Reply
              1. re: emmie

                Nice to see another McKinnon's and steak tip fan.

              2. High quality, but pretty expensive: Savenor's (Beacon Hill and Cambridge near Dali), The Butcher Shop (South End), John Dewar & Co (Newton, and I hear there's a second one in Wellesley).

                1. The quality at Whole Foods (rib-eyes and sirloins) is quite good, though I've not noticed enough difference between their regular steaks and their dry-aged ones to justify the 30% or so premium above their already-high prices.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BobB

                    Agree about the dry-aged not being worth it.

                    1. re: BobB

                      Agreed on the whole foods. I have tried the filet, ribeyes, and the strip. All were tasty and tender, with my preference being the ribeyes.

                      1. re: BobB

                        For what it's worth, Alton Brown (I know, I know) recommends dry aging your steaks in the bottom of your fridge.

                      2. Had a visit to Dewars on my list for a long time until recently. We came to Boston for the day and stopped in to the Newton location and were very unimpressed. I was all set to buy some but the selection was pretty limited. No steaks jumped out at me at all so we left.

                        All was not lost though, after that we went to Sur la Table in the Chestnut Hill Mall and I got the 7" Global Vegetable knife i've been wanting...

                        1. I recently got $30/Lb aged prime NY strip from Dewar's and I don't know what the fuss is about. It was a decent steak, but nothing special.

                          I also just got burnt on being charged more than the price listed on their signs. For example, last week I got some veal shanks that were $11.99 according to the sign. But got charged $15.99 for them at the register. They wrap the meat, carry it to the register for you, ring you up, and put it all in a bag, so unless you explicitly ask to see the price tag, you don't really know how much you'll be charged per pound.

                          I only noticed when I got home. I called them about it and they said they'll give me the difference if I come in. Next day I came in and they did reimburse me, but guess what the sign still said for veal shanks? $11.99. You'd think they would correct the problem after I called about it.

                          I have also gotten conflicting advice from different butchers there about meat preparation. I know that they try to present a very "creme de la creme" facade, but I don't know how knowledgeable they really are.

                          Some of their products have been great. Kurobuta pork for example was wonderful 2 months ago, but they have changed suppliers since then and it isn't nearly as good now. Of course, the fact that they changed suppliers is not something they'd tell you unless you ask.

                          All this experience has been at the Wellesley location. Maybe Newton is better. I just have such a bad taste in my mouth, I don't want to go back.

                          I can't even imagine an experience like this at one of the premier fish markets (New Deal, Courthouse, or Marden's). I really wonder why we can't get our act together in Boston when it comes to meat.

                          1. When I want to treat myself, I buy a steak hand cut to order at Sulmona Meat Market on Parmenter (same as polcaris). Ground beef/pork is ground to order, so you know what is being included. They pound cutlets for you. I prefer them to Abruzzi and D&R. At most times you will have to wait your turn, but service is excellent.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: itaunas

                              I'm a big fan of Sulmona. They're fresh ground beef makes great burgers or a steak tartare. Superb veal; cut to order. Their sausages are great too.

                              For prime or waygu beef, Savenors is tough to beat. Far better than Whole Foods.

                              1. re: 9lives

                                I've found the same to be true of rack of lamb. I almost always get it at Savenors, then tried Whole Foods. While Savenors is considerably more expensve, it's also considerably better. People even commented, saying, "This lamb is okay Bob, but not as good as it usually is."

                                I'm back to Savenors full-time now. :)

                            2. If you're in Belmont, you're close to the Meat Spot in Watertown Square (on Mt. Auburn close to the Safari place). They don't always have a lot sitting out- I think many people order in advance. Not nearly as fancy as Dewars, but neither are the prices. And the guys who work there are nice and knowledgeable. Around St. Pat's day (maybe all the time, I dunno) they corn their own beef and pork spareribs. The corned ribs are great. They are Armenian, so they also supply raw meat, cleanly ground for kibbe or tartare. And their sandwiches are good too. I'm a fan, obviously.

                              1. Try Gordon and Alperin (http://www.gordonandalperin.com/) in Newton. They are a Kosher butcher, and quite expensive but also have really excellent meat, can order unusual items, and have exceptional butchering skills.

                                1. If you live near Braintree or Saugus and are the frugel type, like me, then, I'm going to suggest a very un-chowish thing here ~ Hilltop Market. They have very reasonable prices for there meat but, you have to use your eyes to be the judge on whats going to be really good. As far as chucks, blades and other braising meats, you can't go wrong. As far as strip sirlions, filet mignon (athough I think filet mig. tastes like air), and rib-eye, look for the perfect marbling of the meat. I go in for sirlions and walk out empty handed at some times but, at other times I walk out w/ a handfull beautifully marbled strips that rival whole foods beef. If you know your beef and live nearby, then I'd suggest checking out once and a while. At 2.99 - 5.99/lb, I find it worth the checking.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: slade

                                    I find Hilltop steaks bland but I'm not sure why (Costco's is wayyyy better); they're definitely the most inexpensive though.
                                    Also have tried dry aged steaks from Dewar's and it was just slightly better than the Costco ones (just shows how tasty the Costco stuff is :-)

                                  2. Totally agree about Costco's steak. They are good. And I agree about Hilltop steaks can be awefull however, I've never been disapointed with the strip steaks with decent marbling. When they are on sale for 2.99 or 3.99/lb I go check them out. I live near the hilltop in Braintree so, its easy for me to run in and check out the supply. Many times I leave empty handed.