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Aug 21, 2008 09:47 AM

Oppenheimer meats to close

What a disappointment, another landmark of the old Upper West Side bites the dust after 40+ years.

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  1. It's a terrible loss. I lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and Oppenheimer's is the only place I bought meat the entire time. If I still lived there I would be very upset.

    1. There has been a for rent sign in the window for weeks. They told me that they had an offer from the landlord that was too good to refuse- but that they are looking to re-locate in the neighborhood- so hopeful they're jost moving, not disappearing,

      1. It seems like they are only going to be on-line. I've been shopping there for over 20 years.

        1. This is an immense, an immeasurable, loss. Harry Oppenheimer was a butcher's butcher and beneath his deliberately irascible exterior he was a charmer, a rogue, and a purveyor of twinkle and wit as well as superlative meat. I was initially wary of his successor, Robert Pence, but Pence, while totally different, is no less extraordinary a guy, the only butcher I know of in NYC with both an academic background in his trade (he went to Cornell) and a restaurant meat buyer's and chef's eye on where his product is headed when it leaves the store. It was easy to mistake Oppenheimer's and Pence as just another high end butcher selling prime meats, but to do so would be to miss out on the range of service and degree of dedication that made the place unique. Over the years, Bob and I experimented with the best variants on ingredients for Turducken, he helped me seek out lamb that tastes like lamb (as it does, say, in England or France, rather than generic beefy meat as it does in the USA). He has bought and butchered whole animals for me and kept the parts I couldn't handle in my home freezer in his store freezer until I needed them. We staked out and sought the best maple syrup from a marvelous ex-New Yorker in Vermont, the best free-range chicken farmers in upstate NY, sources for heirloom turkeys (and the answer to the question whether they were a step forward or back). We traded recipes and took risks; he made the best court bouillon in any fish market in the city (and that defines how the cooked shellfish will taste when it has been steamed). He had the good sense to bring in the displaced fishsellers from Jake's when it closed, and he had and has a vision that is probably just too good and too high to be successful even in food-crazed NYC. The loss is up there with the closing of Paprikas Weiss and the demise of the Yorkville Hungarian food community -- a one-way street that offers no turning back. A watershed. It leaves, really, only the Lobel brothers upholding classic butchering in NYC, at prices that are roughly double what Bob's were (and though they still offer extraordinary meat for those who can afford it, it's not the same sort of cook's butcher shop that Harry and Robert crafted in their very different styles.

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