Meat and Fish
I've nearly consumed all the meat in my freezer and I've decided that I will purchase these items from a butcher from now on. I'm seeking recommendations for meat and fish purveyors in the loop or near north area of the city. I am willing to travel a little further if necessary. While quality is a big issue for me, I also am seeking places that offer great meats for braising or stews. I realize some outlets may not be fully organic and this is fine. Due to the proliferation of places in the stockyard area and my lack of experience with any, I'm hoping you can fill in the blanks. Thanks in advance.
I am really not familiar with any butcher shops or fish mongers in the Loop itself (Wells to Wabash, Lake to Van Buren), really doubt there are any. I am not going to comment on the near north, though I am sure folks will tell of the wonderful (if pricey) offerings at Fox & Obel.
I am a bit troubled by your reference to the "proliferation of places in the stockyard area" as that is NOWHERE NEAR the Loop or North Side at all. My family grew up "back of the yards" and that is a touchy subject -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_St...
I know there are more than few places that still sell wholesale meat & fish in the greater "Fulton St. Market" (also sometimes called the "the Randolph St. meatpacking district" but this a "near west side" area, though Realtors worry that "near west side" means ghetto to too many potential loft buyers...
The vast majority of places that sell meat in that area cater to smaller "greasy spoon" restaurants and/or sell wholesale exclusively. That may be changing, but generally places that serve a mostly retail customer based have standards much more accommodating of the home cook.
My apologies I used the wrong verbiage. I was thinking about the places along Lake Street near Halsted and slightly west but posted something different.
Fox and Obel has its merits but I don't shop there. I can't justify the mark up and will only consider it if I'm seeking a rare item that can't be found elsewhere or one I need at the last minute.
Is Rubino's still around?
735 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661
And I Always see these trucks delivering:
Isaacson & Stein Fish Co. Has a retail store with hours that are odd.
800 W. Fulton Market, Chicago
Tel: (312) 421-2444
Although I would think there's something closer to the "stockyards area" for a butcher:
Gepperth's Meat Market
1964 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
But, for stew and braising, I'd stick to the choice grade stuff avail at most hispanic grocers. Better grade than Jewel / Dominick's or the other "big" grocers here, and much cheaper. If you have not looked for braising /stew cuts at places like certi-savers, or hispanic grocers, it may be something you'd do very well with if you would try. I know that I and plenty of folks I know get these cuts from these places. If you've been buying them at the big grocers, then you've been getting ripped off.
There are a few butcher's on Randolph Street that sell retail, although honestly you can get as good if not better deals at Costco. Costco is a good place for good quality low cost meat. They also have a good price on frozen shrimp. I've never tried their fish, but it looks of good quality, just in big portions.
If you are willing to travel a little, H-Mart in Niles has a huge seafood selection and a decent meat selection - especially if you are looking for good braising options (short ribs, pot roast, etc).
I'd say Paulina Meat Market has the best selection around, but its inconvenient for me to get to.
Isaacson and Stein has a good selection, decent quality if you pick around, and excellent pricing, but they close around 4 pm on weekdays and have limited Saturday hours.
Gepperth's (Gordeaux's pick) is quite good. I go there when I want a particular excellent cut for a special event. For example, I got an amazing Prime rib roast from them for New Year's Eve. Their overall quality is very high.
Whole Paycheck, er, Foods, has pretty nice beef and seafood (I think they have a South Loop location, and also on Dearborn & Huron). In general, they are my preferred seafood store - I am rather demanding about my seafood, having lived in Seattle for a very long time. Although some people like Dirk's on Clybourne, I think Whole Foods' seafood is actually better priced (??!!) for a superior product, albeit less selection.
Green City Market (Lincoln Park, on Clark just north of La Salle) is a place you can get beef direct from the grower, although you'll have to wait until May for the market to start up again.
However, at Green City Market, I got some good beef from Heartland (organic), and just saw that Heartland's website lists some Chicago stores that carry their products. I know you said organic isn't necessary, it's just that what I had was good. At least one store is near the Loop:
Joseph Baumgartner Co.
935 W Randolph
Don't know anything personally about the above place. Here is the link to sites that sell Heartland retail (a few other Chicago locations, too):
My own experience with Costco is that their products haven't come close to the above recommendations (except I like the Kirkland-branded Australian rib rack). I've only tried other cuts at Costco twice, and found them to be a bit tough and with nerves in the muscle fiber despite looking Ok, so I gave up.
Hope this helps...
IMHO, Costco has excellent meat but doesn't fabricate cuts very well. I've bought filet mignon there that looked like they just sliced the whole tenderloin without removing the membrane or chain meat. The best way to get a great steak there is to buy a sub-primal, trim and fabricate your own steaks.
I believe Paulina will be my place with intermittent stops at Gepperth's when necessary. What do you recommend from Isaacson's and what should I stay away from?
As for Costco, the only meat I ever purchased there was salmon when I had not developed the palate I have now. It was good and the price wasn't bad but now I'm more particular.
Glad to hear the feedback about Green City Market. I saw the stand for Heartland but wasn't sure how the meat tasted. I will definitely give them a try.
While we're on the subject of good food, is Stanley's my only option for good produce in this area that won't break the bank?
"What do you recommend from Isaacson's and what should I stay away from?"
This will surely change on a daily basis. Find some pointers on the web about picking fresh fish. You can't really go to a fishmonger with a preconceived notion about what you're going to buy unless you're thinking about getting farmed fish, and then, when you get there, that idea might be thrown out the window if it doesn't look great. If you go to any fishmonger with the intent of buying monkfish, and the monkfish is not very fresh, and you still buy it, you have only yourself to blame.
Rule number one: If fish smells "fishy" I NEVER buy it.
Stanley's is a GREAT option for in season produce.
If you ever get to the burbs, I'm a big fan of H-Mart and Jerry's Fresh Market in Niles and Michaels Fresh Market in Naperville.
I go to Stanley's a lot and pick through the selection. Its a little inconsistent, but the prices are excellent for the city. I usually need to stop by Whole Foods afterwards to pick up whatever else I need.
In the past few weeks I have purchased a pork belly for braising and a pork butt for roasting at Peoria Packing at 1300 W Lake Street. They also have a grocery department with reasonably decent produce at attractive prices. I think the 8 pound butt and 8 pound shoulder each produced 8-10 servings at a cost of about $9 each (1.19/pound). If you are easily offended by mounds of pig heads, this is not the place to go. If you want a decent pork belly at a very attractive price, this place is a grand slam.
I think Fox and Obel does a fine job with both meat and fish. We've gotten great stuff there. Of course, they are not *only* a butcher or a fish market, but much much more. www.fox-obel.com
We get most of our special-occasion meats from Zier's, in Wilmette. I'm sure that's further than you'd like to travel, but just in case you're ever in the area. www.ziersprime.com Otherwise, we always got good quality at Gepperth's when we lived in the city.